Year of Requirement Part 4
P.E. was separated into girls’ and boys’. Like I mentioned before, Classes 1 and 2 had their class together and classes 3 and 4 had their class together, but we were Class 5, so we had P.E. by ourselves. In American Suburbia, we had Girls’ P.E. in junior high school and co-ed P.E. in high school, and I really didn’t think it was that big a deal to have separate P.E. classes from the boys.
The first few P.E. classes, we had what was called a “sports test.” It was basically a physical aptitude test, where they timed you on 50 m sprints and a longer run (1500 m for the boys and 1000 m for the girls) and counted your pull-pus (for guys) and half-pull-ups (lame pull-up on low bar with your feet extended in front of you) and so on and so-forth. I did very badly on everything but the flexibility test (there’s a joke there somewhere).
Then, P.E. classes proper began. The guys did track. The girls...marched. No, seriously. We marched. We practiced doing “about face” and “march forth” and counting off. I was thinking maybe I was in North Korea or some other communist country where military exercises were part of the required curriculum. Or maybe I’d entered some kind of time warp into 50 years prior when they’d been part of the required curriculum in Japan as well. The P.E. teacher yelled at us if we were out of line. This happened a lot when we tried to run in formation, or turn in formation. I guess the final goal was something along the lines of this:
There is generally a fragment of truth in every stereotype. The amount of truth in lack of individuality stereotype of Japan was, so far, proving itself in its entirety in a P.E. class for 15 year-old girls.
What was really different was swimming. In Suburbia, swimming was what you did in winter because the school grounds were covered with two feet of snow and you couldn’t play soccer. In Japan, it was what you did in the hottest days of summer because if you tried to do anything else, you’d die of heat stroke (the gymnasium didn’t even have fans). Which was fine, I guess, but remember what I said about not having locker rooms? The elaborate technique involved in getting ready was off the charts. It involved towels stitched into elastic waist skirts. The one my mom made for me was chucked long ago, but I think I have one that I made for the Pumpkin Princess...
The big thing we had to do was swim 500 meters nonstop. I did this fairly easily, and when I finished, the PE teacher said “your swimming would be great for when the ship you were on sank.” Whatever that was supposed to mean.
I never managed better than a “3” (of 5) in P.E. It brought down my GPA.