green gym shorts and the pinstriped spotted frog…..
Sever. Morbid. Obesity.
I remember the first time I read those words. I was a freshman in high school. I was terrified of needing to fill the required year of gym class. I was already wearing a 4XL or larger by then and no way were the cool, sporty, kelly green shorts gonna come in my size. I couldn’t even get the white t-shirts with the small Green Devil mascot in the left breast corner to come in a size to cover my girth. A problem that would present itself throughout my life…
Instead of the standard gym outfit my parents drove me to the” fat” store at the mall, where my mom bought me the only pair of shorts that I could fit into, which happened to be a very light grey with pinstripes. We stopped at Walgreens where we picked up a small box of “rit” kelly green dye powder. Surely no one would notice I looked like a big fucking giant pinstriped spotted frog in gym class. Did I mention I also had to wear a white button down oxford, yep only white shirt I could find. So there I am in all my glory odd man out standing in gym class with the nerds, jocks and brainiacks praying no one noticed me or even cared enough to notice me.
Believe it or not I did well in gym class I was tall and moved well for my size. I loved basketball, flag football, dodge ball, softball and many of the other activities we did. My gym teacher was one of the most compassionate, kindest teachers I had throughout school. Mr. Ellis did not cater to my weight and always made me at least try to do an activity but would not stand for one word to be uttered in his class from anyone making fun of me. I remember once a kid that was new to the school and joined our gym class well after the year began, and Mr. Ellis plucked him out of the gym class one day so fast no one even knew what happened. As we left that day, this boy came up to me who I barely knew with puffy red swollen eyes, his head down as he muttered the words “I am so sorry” I never knew what was said that day but it didn’t matter because as the year progressed I felt safe in gym class and at times I actually felt normal.
After holiday break we were going to start the gymnastics portion of the year. I dreaded it. I thought my head would seriously pop right off if I tried to maneuver my big ass over the top of it. I tried but it was useless. Mr. Ellis pulled me aside and said he was sorry but I needed to get a Dr.’s excuse so that he did not have to lower my grade for not participating. I went to the doctor, which is a whole other topic of fear and humiliation I will write about at some point. This doctor had seen me before and quickly wrote the note and off I went with my ticket out of gymnastics!
It was sealed in a butter cream frosting color envelope with an embossed logo of the name of the practice on it. I ran my fingers over the raised letters tracing each one thinking I should read what it said…when I flipped over the small folded piece of paper this is what I saw….
To Whom it may concern,
Lori suffers from severe morbid obesity. Please excuse her from gymnastics.
I can still see the writing; I can tell you exactly what if felt like to read those words. Hopeless. In that moment the fierce realization that I was in a hopeless situation in 9th grade as someone, a Dr. no less, had just used my name and morbidity in the same sentence. It changed my perception of who I was, and took me down a darker rode that I could have ever imagined. There is a little light in the end of the tunnel as far as gym class goes. At the end of the school year, at the awards ceremony along with all the jocks, nerds and brainiacks and in front of the whole school Mr. Ellis proudly announced that the female gym student of the year was Lori Hiltenbeitel aka: the big fucking giant pinstriped spotted frog.