A Bad Ass, Not A Fat Ass

During my morning run today, as I effortlessly cruised up a shaded hill singing out loud to one of my favorite running songs (The White Stripes Seven Nation Army), I hit an unmistakeable smell that caused me to come to a crashing halt. This smell immediately brought back a flood of painful memories. This happens when I run every spring and it is single handedly, at least to me, the worst smell in the entire world.

Fresh cut grass.

I unapologetically LOATHE the smell of freshly cut grass. To be clearer, the scent alone makes me want to crawl into the fetal position and rock myself in a corner. Makes me get a searing knot in the pit of my stomach alluding to an ill-timed bowel movement. Makes me nervously sweat in all the awkward places. The fact that you can even buy sh*t scented as fresh cut grass?? I. DIE.
Not me.
I’d rather have a box of pears.

Why this irrational hatred?

Because the smell of freshly cut grass symbolizes everything I hated about being a fat kid in elementary school.

Here’s why.

When spring hit and our daily PE class opened the roll up gym doors allowing sunshine and smells of warmer weather like freshly cut grass in – most kids got excited. I got depressed. The dreaded opened door meant the first thing we had to do before we got to our daily scheduled activity (juggling colorful scarves…square dancing to the theme song of Dallas…blissfully bouncing the ball on top of the parachute) was to complete my worst nightmare. When we walked single file into the gym and those doors were open…I knew. The immediate lump in my throat gave way to my greatest fear.

We. Were. Running.

Keep in mind this was early 80s. School fashion was mandated by a strict dress code. I was either in a dress or jeans. Shorts weren’t allowed at the time. And y’all. Please. It was Texas, so it was hot as balls. The biggest kicker to all of this? I was a super sweet little girl who MAY have been a bit chunky. And by “may” I mean the only store that sold clothes I could fit into was the Sears in Grand Prairie under the label “Pretty Plus.” So not only was I running in blazing temps, but it was either in a dress where my thighs would painfully rub together and blister, or in jeans, where my thighs would painfully rub together and blister. Get it? Rubbing. Blistering.

So take that super fun activity and factor in two additional challenges:
1) The course
2) The pacer

Let’s start with the course so you can visualize the terror that lay ahead of me. Here it is – in all its menacing glory. My elementary (marked with the yellow X), sat atop an extremely large hill with a huge empty field behind it. The perimeter of that field was the running course. See friends, we weren’t just casually cantering around an evenly surfaced track. This course was an unbalanced bumpy trek that felt as if 75% of it was agonizingly uphill. And always against the wind. No matter what. This sh*t was legit.

Townley Elementary. Where all my running nightmares began.

Second challenge: The Pacer. As if the terrorizing terrain wasn’t enough to physically endure, enter the emotional terror of the pacer. Our PE teachers would always ask for a volunteer. This was where my internal dread shifted to utter panic. The pacer’s sole job, in my opinion, was to instill fear and self loathing. The teachers would start everyone but the pacer on the designated course. When the last person reached the bottom of the hill – the pacer (whom I referred to as Satan) was off like a flash. That kid’s main motivation was to catch up and pass as many people, nay, victims, as possible. And the teacher always ALWAYS chose the skinniest fastest little boy whose hand was jumping in the air with anticipation of being chosen. I’m looking at you Jason, Chris, Jared, Cameron, my twin brother Andy. Y’all couldn’t WAIT to tear your skinny little asses down that hill and start counting casualties. You passed gleefully with no remorse. You were fueled at the prospect of being the last one to go, first one to finish. So that left me, chubby little Amy, running for her life and the life of her thighs in her own version of American Horror Story.

You may be thinking “So what?” So what if the pacer passes you and you finish last? Other than slight embarrassment, no big deal, right? Oh no, my friend. Because here was the catch. If the pacer passed you, you had to complete ANOTHER LAP OF THIS F’ING TORTURE TRAIL. This was how it normally went down: ALL the skinny kids did NOT get passed. Therefore, at the point of pacer finish, one of two things would happen.
1) The finishers all sat on the curb while the three remaining fat kids (thank God I wasn’t the ONLY one) who were ALREADY completely exhausted to the point of vomiting and tears completed a second lap. This second lap was a degrading parade of ‘unfit’ to my bored spectators who yelled things like, “Come on! Hurry up!” or “What’s taking so long?!” or “Stop walking, start running!” OR my absolute favorite “Is she crying?!” Lol. It. Was. Humiliating. The other possible scenario…
2) If you finished your lap and were NOT passed by the pacer (which was every f’ing kid minus the three chubs), you could head straight back into the gym and start that day’s activity: plastic bowling, goofy races on wheeled carts or, as mentioned earlier, the beloved parachute. Everyone adored the parachute!!!! Friends joining around a spectrum of circled happiness with music playing! Peers bouncing multiple balls on top of the treasured rainbow mountain. Or, the BEST of all, everyone diving underneath the parachute into a darkly colorful dreamy state of being.

But not for those that got passed.

I vividly remember jogging by the open gym door and seeing all my friends plunging under the parachute whilst I started my second lap.


That’s what the smell of fresh cut grass takes me back to and it’s an immediate agonizing jump. I picture that not so little but younger girl struggling and embarrassed. The girl who hated running because it made her feel worthless and shamed. The girl that cried on the second lap hoping that nobody would notice. But the beauty of getting older is that (hopefully) you’ve had time and experience to work through all your sh*t. You find moments that make you proud of yourself and you realize that’s the good stuff. You really do learn what is important. Don’t get me wrong – I will forever be a little cookadoodle crazy train when it comes to weight issues. That smell will always be a trigger. But y’all don’t need to worry about that little chubby girl. She’s okay. That little one evolved. I know this because now, I run. By choice. I actually started in my late twenties. To date I’ve completed three half marathons and two marathons. I typically run about 4 miles a day, 6 days a week. Fun fact: my favorite venue is outdoors [cue Alanis Morissette song]. So anything, and I mean anything, is possible. It’s taken years, y’all. Years. But now, instead of a fat ass, I kinda feel like a bad ass.
The best part? I go at my own pace.

12 Comments on “A Bad Ass, Not A Fat Ass

  1. I could not be more proud of my bad-ass daughter. You not only knock down every obstacle you confront, you obliterate it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are, and forever will be a badass. 😘

    I don’t run, not ever. You’d beat and probably most everyone you know in a race today. That, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My school didn’t have the pacer (thank god), but we did have the presidential physical fitness and came with a public weigh in. What a presidential way to demoralize half the student body? Why on earth do our public schools still do these things? Is this so everyone gets the pleasure of walking to school barefoot uphill in snow?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol! Girl! Don’t even get me started on the ridiculousness of that test. Why a freaking arm hang denotes physical fitness is BEYOND me. C’mon!!!


  4. While I was once a skinny, fast, red headed pacer terror, I look back now at how awful that was, and I wish I could give my old friend a hug! Times sure have changed since the late 70’s and early 80’s … I can’t believe they allowed that back in the day. You are amazing Amy, and an inspiration. Glad you are doing so well. I have no doubt you would lap me today!!!

    Take care and say hi to Andy when you see him next!!!



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