Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Picked Last for Gym

cakmpls and writingortyping got me thinking, and what started out a comment got long, so it got moved over here instead. cakmpls was talking about sharing or not sharing one's SAT scores as an adult, and writingortyping was talking about being picked last in gym class (over on her non-lj blog).

The only important thing to me about my score on the SAT was that I wanted to beat my dad's score. Most of the schools in the Midwest accept ACT scores, and I think at least one of the ones I applied to required them. I didn't have a "competition" with anyone at my school -- we just weren't really like that -- and with the SAT I could compete with my dad. They hadn't done the major recentering of the test yet, but I still wonder about the drift from the time he took it until the time I did. I'm very good at standardized tests. I'm also very good at recognizing how very little they mean, so I can definitely sympathize with cakmpls's general policy of not sharing. It's a lot harder when you have a very high score, because if you say you had some average score, fewer people would mistake a point of data for a point of pride. (If you say you learned to read in kindergarten or first grade, nobody takes it as anything but a data point, but I had to wonder about commenting that I'd learned to read at 2 in one of yesterday's posts. I don't think it makes me a better or smarter person than someone who learned to read much later, but I've learned to worry about people seeing things that way.)

writingortyping said that something like 80% of people she knows claim to be the kid who was always picked last in gym, and that certainly not everybody could have been picked last. I opined that it was something like bragging about high school class rank or SAT scores: if you went around saying, "I was always picked first in gym in high school," it's a pretty lame boast. It makes it sound like you still think high school gym is important to your life. As much as high school jocks get petted and praised in our culture, washed-up ex-high school jocks are not similarly respected -- at least, not in any circle I've ever been in or seen. I've heard people say things like, "I was the captain of my high school football team," merely offering a point of information, not bragging, and get responses like, "Goody for you." So if I had been picked first all the time, I'd probably keep my mouth shut about it.

(I was not picked dead last, usually. I was never picked first, but I was also not generally enough of a disaster to be the last person picked. Ralston High had much bigger disasters than me. I've never liked team sports, unless you count floor hockey, which rocks because you get to hit people with sticks. I am much better at things I can be bothered to pay attention to, especially with the elbowing-and-checking component, but no one paid enough attention to notice that I was much better at it than I was at other sports, so I didn't get picked any sooner.)

I'm extremely ambivalent about things that are "very good for your age." Age-appropriateness was often used as a bludgeoning weapon when I was a kid: what you are doing right now is very good for your age, so don't you dare try to do more or better. What you're doing now is very good for your age, so I don't have to treat you with any respect, just a patronizing tolerance. One of my friends was once explaining that one of the problems with only children* is that we end up with no sense of age-appropriateness, that we want to be able to do everything just plain well rather than well for one of the kids. I hope she has given up on getting me to see this as a bad thing. When I was saying this to someone close to me recently, he told me, "mrissas are not age-appropriate," and it is perfectly true. I don't see the point to wanting to be a good writer for a 26-year-old, any more than I want to be a good writer for a girl or anything else obnoxious like that. I just want to be a good writer. I don't see why this should have been less true 10 or 20 years ago. I was still a writer then -- more fundamentally than I was a 6-year-old or a 16-year-old, I think, because I'm still a writer and have stopped being those other things.

On the other hand, Roo's current inability to play toccatas and fugues does not indicate that the kid is not very musical. Sometimes age-appropriateness really is, well, appropriate. Doing well in sports in high school is a good thing for people that age who value athletics. Doing well on the SAT is a good thing for people that age who value vocabulary and other similar test elements. I would never scorn Robin's crookedly drawn letters ("Is -- izzat an I?") because they weren't mechaieh's calligraphy. It's a balance, I guess. It's about timing and perspective.

*I have never once tried to explain to her the problems with people with siblings, but she has explained to me the problems with only children on more than one occasion. It's charming.
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