Sunday, 13 May 2012

Suzy takes on the world - Part Five - Weighty Matters

Suzy steeled herself for the ordeal that she anticipated was ahead.  She was as nervous as hell, but steely determination had won out.


Suzy pushed open the door and marched in.


Some boys, mainly sixth-formers were doing weight training, or just standing about talking.  The air in the small gym area reeked of male testostorene and stale sweat.


A big man, whom Suzy vaguely recognised as Mr Keele, Head of Sports at her school, abruptly ended his conversation with one of his charges and advanced towards Suzy.


"Can I help you?" Mr Keele asked, although his tone did not suggest that he wanted to help at all.  There was an undercurrent of hostility in his voice.  He was also using his large, muscular body to block Suzy from proceeding any further into this exclusively male club.


Unperturbed, Suzy said "I've come to join the after school weight training class".


Mr Keele's eyes narrowed "Is this some kind of joke?  Cos if it is, I don't find it funny!"


"I'm serious" Suzy told him.


"Serious?  Look, young lady, this after school club is for boys only, so why don't you save us all a lot of time and bother, turn yourself around and go and sign up for something else, like hockey or netball?"


Mr Keele was intimidating.  Suzy had heard that before he became a teacher he had been a Sergeant-Major in the army with a reputation for breaking recruits.  He certainly had the voice and physique of one.


A small part of Suzy wanted to do as Mr Keele had suggested.  But Suzy was not timid or cowardly.


"That's interesting Mr Keele, because I've read the advertisement for the gym club, several times in fact, and nowhere does it say that it is for boys only" Suzy said "And even if it did, that's unfair discrimination".


Mr Keele was sorely tempted to give this scrap of a girl the same treatment he would have given an insubordinate recruit, back in the day, but stopped himself.  Treating a boy like that was one thing, but not a girl.  All she would have to do was turn on the waterworks and all sympathy would gravitate towards her, and he would be a villain and a bully.


Besides, she was right.  It was not a boys' only class and if he tried to make it so, he would be breaking the Sex Equality and Anti-Discrimination act that the government had recently passed.  He could end up in front of a disciplinary board at best or get his P45 at worst.


Mr Keele was simply bewildered with the ways that the world had changed.  In his own childhood, some thirty-five years past, the roles of the sexes had been simple.  Men went out and earned the money and made the decisions.  Women stayed at home, kept house and kids and made herself pretty for when the man came home.  Now it was all "Women must be allowed to have careers and be independent" and "men must be better fathers and get in touch with their feminine side".  Madness, in Mr Keele's opinion.


He was aware that everything had gone quiet and that everybody was looking at him.  The sixth form boys and this tiresome girl who had something to prove.  Mr Keele felt frustrated and uncomfortable about having to give in to this puny girl.  He turned back to the crowd of boys, put on his best parade ground voice and yelled "WHAT ARE YOU LOT STARING AT?  WHO TOLD YOU YOU COULD STOP?"


It had the desired effect.  The boys jumped six feet in the air and immediately tried to make themselves look like they were exercising.  Mr Keele felt better, more in control.  He turned to the girl and forced himself to smile "Ok, Missie, let's see what you can do"


SIX MONTHS LATER


Mr Keele smiled with indulgent pride at the sight of his best pupil pumping iron.  He wouldn't in his wildest dreams have thought it possible that Suzy had not only survived but emerged at the top of her class in a totally masculine environment.


Mr Keele had not made it easy for her.  He was hard on most people, but he had been especially tough on Suzy, hoping to break the girl, to dissuade her from carrying on with what Mr Keele regarded as folly.  But Suzy had refused to break and she had put up with whatever Mr Keele had thrown at her.


Eventually, Mr Keele's professionalism took over as he recognised that, unlike most of his class who larked around at the slightest opportunity, Suzy was serious about weight training.  He eased off on her, slightly.  He  became more the teacher than the sergeant major he had once been. He even, in his own time, researched competitions that Suzy could enter.


He had been astonished to learn that weight training was a growing sport amongst women and girls.  There were plenty of competitions that Suzy could enter.  He had entered her for a local contest for girls aged between 10 and 15. Suzy had done well.  Although she did not win any of the top prizes, as she up against girls who were older than her and had been doing this for longer, the judges did give her a special commendation for effort.


Over time, Suzy's confidence - and her muscles - grew and within a few more contests she was winning second or third place, beating older girls.


Mr Keele was very proud of Suzy and ashamed at how he had treated her when she had first arrived at his class.  She was the only one who had actually won anything.  Mr Keele despaired of the boys.  They had the ability and potential to do what Suzy had done, but not the consistent application.  They messed about too much and allowed themselves to get distracted.


Suzy was his star pupil.  But Mr Keele realised with sadness that he would have to let her go.  His small gym class was already becoming too limited for Suzy to progress.  After class had finished, he took Suzy aside and handed her a card.


Slightly bewildered, the well toned and muscled girl glanced at the card "Cheryl's - Ladies Only Gym and Fitness Centre".


"I can't do any more for you lass" Mr Keele admitted, with tears in his eyes "Go and see Cheryl.  She's got a bigger gym and better facilities than this place can offer you".


Suzy felt tearful herself at the prospect of leaving this gym, and Mr Keele behind, but knew he was talking sense.  To her surprise, she gave him a hug before turning and walking away.











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