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out on a limb


V o l u m e   1 5   I s s u e  9




Gym Teachers and other Lesbian Phenomenon

Maybe it's indigenous to lesbians, but haven't ALL of us, at one time or another, been in love with our gym teacher? I had this discussion just the other day with Terry Foxx, and we both agreed that gym teachers had to be the recipients of the Most-Likely-To-Have-Been-The-Object-of-The-Most -Numerous-Crushes Trophy. If there was a Lesbian Peoples' Choice Award, gym teachers would have to reinforce their mantles or (in Cajun Country) their bookcase shelves.

My first gym teacher was Miss Kane. We even had a song that the whole high school sang to her at assemblies and the like: "we're congregating for our friend Miss Kane ..." (sung with feeling, please). Miss Kane was never one to acknowledge the love focused upon her by the hearts of 500 young Catholic school girls...but I feel mighty certain that she would have passed the lesbian litmus test.

She was a strong woman, a good role model. She could play every sport--well. She was short and stocky, with close-cropped hair and no wedding ring. Of course, there are those who might have called her a spinster...a woman who had dedicated herself to the education of girls... poppycock! We all know for sure nowadays that women "in the life" hid behind that old maid designation like a badge of honor. I'd bet you that Miss Kane was a card carrying sister.

Later in life, when I, myself, was a teacher (not a gym teacher, however) I found myself still drawn back to the gymnasium or envying those tan, muscular creatures who could come to school dressed in gym shorts and polo shirts. They got to run around with whistles and clip boards-I got to stand in my minuscule classroom and erase boards.

I had one particular favorite friend who was herself a gym teacher. Actually, I had a whole gym teacher period that I went through (another story). This one certain gym teacher was my buddy, my pal, my cohort...and my deepest love-not that she would have noticed.

Her name was Ms. Fen to all the students. She was an energetic, smart, entertaining type of teacher who was loved by all the kids...and by several faculty members. Somehow, we had become co-sponsors of the Camping Club at the school where we both taught and this gave us endless opportunities to be alone together in the woods...as long as we didn't mind 20 student chaperones! She taught me how to backpack...how to ride a motorcycle...how to pitch a tent. She gave me a guided tour of the United States of America.

But she wouldn't give me her heart. Hearts and gym teachers-a recipe for disaster. All my life, I had admired strong women as role models. I read every biography of a woman I could get my hands on-from Joan of Arc to Marie Curie. I lusted after Nancy Drew and devoured all her adventures. I imagined myself with Gidget in Hawaii. Something told me I was not like a lot of other girls-something told me I was different. My mother called my "difference" independence.; my dad called me his tomboy. And more often than not, I fell asleep dreaming of kissing my best friend, Diane.

I never outgrew my childhood fantasies; in fact, the most exciting times of my life were spent in the company of other girls and later, of women. I was enamored with all my P.E. teachers and cared more about my pitching arm than my hairdo. When other girls were experimenting with makeup, I was sliding into home plate, under the watchful eye of some female coach or gym teacher.

Ah youth. Anything was possible and my teachers encouraged my independent thinking and my self-confidence. Not surprisingly, my attractions were always to girls who were strong and athletic, like my gym teachers.

Actually, my"first" was a P.E. major. We were in college and she was big into volleyball. I was big into cheering on the team. We fell in love one summer and spent endless hours trying to figure things out. We did-sort of-but we didn't last too long. Later, I met Ms. Fen-who was universally admired by all students-and I spent a number of years, not to mention hiking hundreds of miles, in an attempt to win her favor. It never happened. But I continued my quest for a gym teacher for several more years before finally deciding that I liked softer women who didn't get quite so upset when their team lost the championship game by 1 point. Those serious players were always so hard to comfort. I discovered that I preferred women with strength and moderation of spirit.

So why do we all fall in love with our gym teachers? This is a great mystery-like the pyramids or Atlantis. I think it has something to do with guts and courage even when in great pain. Perhaps it's the gym shorts or the Nikes. But I suspect it's the confidence and the command of the body...the fluid movements, the grace. Gym teachers: a breed all their own.

So next time you pass by a playing field where girls are engaged in some sports, check out the coach. See if she's anything like your old gym teacher. Or check out those women basketball coaches on the sidelines at the Sweet Sixteen Tournament. Now that's entertainment!

Till this very day, the smell of tennis shoes and the crisp clean look of white tennis shorts bring me back to days of yore when gym teachers were my passion...it seems like only yesterday.

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