There are more and more openly gay athletes, which is a good thing, because it allows the rest of us to fantasize on a whole new level. Now a gay guy can not only imagine having sex with an Olympic swimmer or gymnast, but marrying him. And of course, not every gay male child hates taking gym. But still, yesterday I watched a group of kids running around a track, and the demographics were clear: the frontrunners tended to be taller and more graceful, while, towards the back, there were the chubbier kids, the stoners-in-training, and the kids, gay or straight, who just didn’t want to be there. For those kids, especially the boys, I’d like to offer some hard-won tips, for nabbing what is eternally referred to as a gym excuse.
1. Break something. In 7th grade, I broke my arm rather dramatically going over the high jump. My arm healed in about three weeks, but I wore a variety of slings, in different prints and solids, for at least six months. My gym teacher felt so guilty about my fracture that he never pressured me to return. Even now, when I’m on a deadline, I sometimes dream of telling my editor, “But my arm still hurts.”
2. Hide. At my high school, at the far end of the track, there was a pile of enormous, foam-filled mats, for cushioning the landings of pole vaulters. At the beginning of each session, our gym class would be commanded to do a few warm-up laps. Clever students could drop out of sight, behind the mountain of mats, and stay there, for the rest of the class, rejoining the athletes for their final cool-down laps.
3. Claim that your sister is having her period, and you need to support her, as a gesture of feminist equality. At certain more politically sensitive schools, this might work.
4. Forgery. Don’t try to fake a doctor’s note, because you most likely don’t own the correct stationery. But nowadays, why not email the coach a note from your Mom or Dad, concerning your asthma, shin splints or recovery from the flu. Never go too exotic: very few people under 40 have fibromyalgia.
5. Play left field. In my experience, during a game of what I think is called baseball, almost no one ever hits the ball into left field, so you can just stand out there, making a mental list of what you might wear to school the next day. The phrase “coming out of left field” is probably derived from the fact that the people who play left field tend to come out.