On Running, High School Horror Stories and Being “The Funny One.”
“They” were my teachers, family and friends.
The “Funny One”
Remember, October 1998?
Britney Spears’ iconic music video as a midriff-baring Catholic high school student with knee-high socks had taken the world by storm.
In a high school far-far away on the opposite side of the world (Dubai), I, too, was sporting knee-high socks. Sans: Posse of gyrating, synchronized dancers in dangerously short skirts marching through the hallway.
No, Sir. I was participating in a public speaking competition with some of the best speakers from my grade. Each girl had to memorize and deliver a five-minute speech without flashcards. The competition was tight.
One of the girls was doing an excerpt from Gandhi’s famous speeches and another something equally noble, like a brief history on Mother Theresa’s life.
I, on the other hand, had chosen to write my own piece that year. A candid story about tearing my ligament with amusing, glorious, self-deprecating detail. It was terribly risky pitting my “Dear Diary” teen drivel against the words of political enigma Gandhi. Who does that? Still, I hoped the panel of judges would consider me a worthy contender on the basis of authenticity.
When I finished my piece, I knew I’d nailed it. There’s nothing sweeter and more reassuring than a crowd erupting into laughter after you deliver the punchline of a joke. I could feel it in my bones. I was going to win.
Minutes later it was official. I’d won first place and the auditorium burst into applause. My friends stood up from their chairs clapping, whistling and cheering wildly. It was one of those perfect life moments where everything goes into slow-motion.
My classmates and juniors surrounded me for congratulatory high-fives and hugs. From the corner of my eye, I noticed one of my girlfriends was trying to make her way through the swarm of students. I navigated my way towards her with a big goofy smile.
She clutched her stomach, keeled over laughing and said: “You know how you look big in real life? Man! You look even BIGGER on stage!” [spreads arms wide open]
<insert glass shattering>
My face fell flat like a big ol’ scoop of Rocky Road ice cream onto the hot summer sidewalk. Splat! I made a feeble attempt at laughing along with her as I awkwardly tucked a chunk of my unstyled, frizzy hair behind my ears.
Once the initial shock wore off, for reasons beyond me, I started laughing hysterically. The universe had seen my gleeful state and immediately diffused it with a mean-spirited Booyah! I guess … it was funny. If you find making babies cry and kicking puppies funny …
“You look big in real life….
[echo: big in real life ... big in real life ... big in real life]
But you look even BIGGER on stage.”
[echo: BIGGER on stage...BIGGER on stage...BIGGER on stage...]
Later that night, I remember cupping my round face in my palms as I soaped myself in the shower. She’s right. I don’t have any cheekbones. Then as I proceeded to soap my curvy hips and thick thighs I thought, “Yikes. My thighs are HUGE. Especially from this angle.”
When I stepped out of the shower I looked at myself in the foggy mirror. I sucked in my cheeks and pinched the back of my non-existent triceps to see what I would look if I were skinny.
With concave cheeks and makeshift plastic surgery on my arm fat, I looked in the mirror and said the first line of my winning speech.
I look like an idiot. Not hot.
I’ll just have to be the “funny one.”
“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.” – Reba McEntire
Thirteen Years Later
My eyes flutter open to the familiar refrain of the Marimba ringtone on my iPhone. Clumsy fingers hastily enter the wrong passcode in an effort to silence the wailing alarm clock upsetting the delicate hush of a Saturday morning. I pry loose the arm pinned under my soft supple stomach and push the hair away from my face.
“Some day a man will push the hair out of my face,“ I think to myself. Tickled by this surprising romantic sentiment, (eyes still closed) my face breaks into a smile. Oh …silly Tina! The newly rescued arm reaches up for the cool-tiled window ledge with the grace of an elephant trunk trying to grasp a tiny teacup in the dark. The hand knocks over some books, a water bottle and a hair clip before retrieving my glasses.
Freshly bespectacled and with no hair marring my vision, I glance up at the ceiling. Irridescent pearly pink light. Mmmm. I smile again. I arch my back, elongate my arms and legs and go into a long delicious stretch that lasts a minute.
“It’s a beautiful day for a run!” I announce as I leap out of bed.
The Yellow T-shirt
For most of my high school years, I wore clothes three times my actual size. An open-heart surgery of my wardrobe would have revealed five oversized men’s plaid shirts and four pairs of knee-length shorts in an assortment of colours: black, navy, beige and denim. I wore knock-off Dr. Martens and the whole ensemble screamed, Overweight Kurt Cobain-wannabe.
Somewhere along the way I bloomed in a woman, but in the back corners of my mind I’m still that girl who thinks she is “even BIGGER on stage.” So I shirk away from displaying the curves of my body. I don’t wear anything sleeveless or short. I can’t even wear cap-sleeves without my skin crawling.
This can prove to be quite the predicament when you are training for a half-marathon in the summer.
For the most part my running gear reflects my 12th grade wardrobe: giant tent-sized shirts with running capris.
But not this Saturday morning. I was feeling good about myself. I was happy. I looked down at my thighs and thought, “Six kilometers and counting, Baby! Let’s show ‘em what we’re made of, Thunder Thighs.”
I slipped into a fitted yellow T-shirt and smiled at the reflection in the mirror.
[deep breath + slow exhale]
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Love these girls singing a cover of Pink’s song. **clean version**
“Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than perfect.”
So … my global SheLoves sisters:
- How have your insecurities stopped you from fulfilling your destiny?
Dear SheLoves Half-Marathon Bravehearts,
- What preconceived notions have stopped you from running in the past?
- How has running affected your self-image? How do you feel now?
Positive or negative, I want to hear your thoughts! Share-share, please.
Love you more than Upside-down Banana Toffee Cake, (<- Recipe)