Of all the levels of hell Dante forgot, and he forgot a few, middle school gym class is probably the worst. Think about it. At a time when most kids are beginning to develop their biggest insecurities about their bodies and social status, you put them all in a hot and smelly petrie dish and encourage them to engage in activities that weed out the strong from the week, the cool from the nerds, and so on. There's no better example of this than dodgeball, where you have two captains rank kids in order of best to worst under the guise of "team selection" and then encourage them to line up on opposing sides of the gym and throw balls at each other as hard as they can.

I wasn't particularly fast or strong but I did ok at dodgeball. I had good reflexes so, as long as I was paying attention, I could stay in the game for a respectable amount of time by catching balls thrown at me (the thrower would be out of the game like a jerk). Also, because this was back in the days when people didn't care about children and we played with the same hard rubber balls used for kickball, being able to catch had the added bonus of not leaving gym class with giant welts on your body. Anyway, this ability, combined with my average popularity and cuteness levels, overcame my family's relatively modest means and I was usually picked somewhere in the middle. I was absolutely ok with this because I instinctively knew that middle school is not the place to stand out.

That brings us to one day in the 7th grade, when I did the opposite of not stand out. We had already been playing for a bit and the game was close. I was the last of my friends who were in and, as would usually happen in that case, I started to get a bit distracted by their shenanigans in the gym bleachers. Before I knew it, wham, a ball came hurtling into my stomach, knocking on my ass. Not the worst thing in the world, no. The worst thing is what happened when I hit the ground.

I farted.

We're not talking a cute little toot, either. It was loud and deep and rumbling, the kind of fart that would make you think I had been suffering from some kind of intestinal distress all day. Of course I was mortified because, although most people are taught that to fart in public is rude, for girls it is different. We are taught that to engage in the entirely human function of allowing gas (let alone waste!) to escape from one's body is shameful and, horror of horrors, not feminine. We internalize this to the extent that I know at least one fully grown, accomplished woman who denies ever farting and has driven to a (lol) gas station in order to avoid taking a shit when her husband is in the house.


Anyway, my faux pas may have been less remarkable if not for one of my classmates (Melody, a mean girl if the term had existed then), who promptly pointed at me, laughed, and proclaimed, "Oh my god, girlwonder just farted like a boy." I could feel my face getting red. Others joined in the laughter, so she continued, "I don't even think I've ever heard my dad fart that loud." Now, for someone who had always edged into the category of tomboy but was feeling the pressure to conform and be like all the other girls, this was hitting a nerve. So I stood up and, at the top of my lungs, pulled out the ultimate in awful middle school insults.

"Fuck you, slut."

I was sent to the principals office, still in my gym clothes, and it was all downhill from there. By the next year, I had fallen in with the bad kids, was ditching school most days, smoking, drinking, you name it. My mom likes to blame my dad refusing to let me go to Catholic school for my downfall but I know better. And I still occasionally fart.