Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Ask, I Answer, Take 13

By popular demand, today's edition of "You Ask, I Answer" will address the "ping-pong ball" story that I referenced in Thursday's edition.

As I mentioned on Thursday, because I am nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other, and because my left eye is lazy, my brain primarily processes signals from only my right eye.  This leads to a significant lack of depth perception, and to a great number of embarrassing stories and moments.  The story that continues to hold the place of honor in family lore involves a public school, seventh grade, junior high school physical education class, a ping-pong table, and some visiting missionaries.

Besides my impaired vision, you should also know that I have extremely pale skin, which has been diagnosed as being hypersensitive.  What that means is that anything leaves a mark.  In seventh grade, the hypersensitivity was at it's peak, and if I simply scratched my skin, even lightly, it would raise a bright red welt for all the world to see.

Someone, somewhere along the way, at the junior high school I attended, decided that since they had ping-pong tables, ping-pong would be the perfect activity to pair with the wrestling unit for their physical education classes.  On a given day, half of the class would be wrestling, while the other half would play ping-pong.
One spring day, the phys ed period fell near the end of my school day, and I was assigned to play ping-pong.  I'd never played before, but thankfully the friend I was assigned to rally with had a bit more experience than I did.  It seemed to be going well.  I wasn't missing too many (for me anyway!), which seemed a small miracle in light of the challenges that my limited depth perception provides for hand/eye coordination.  And then it happened.  She returned the ball, hard, and I missed.  It connected solidly with the left side of my neck, stinging painfully, and immediately raising a bright red, perfectly round welt.

The school day ended, and I walked home, bursting into the house, nursing my wound, and expecting that my parents would be home and ready to offer sympathy.  Instead, what I encountered was my parents, sitting at the dining room table, chatting with long-time friends of theirs, a missionary couple visiting from Ukraine.  Missionaries who tended to be conservative, but also loved to tease.

I displayed my wounded neck, expecting the usual mixture of laughter over my unique misfortunes, and sympathy over the large and still painful welt.  Instead, before my mom could express sympathy, one of the missionaries piped up, "It looks like a hickey!  Lisa's got a hickey!"  The table exploded into laughter.

I was a naive seventh grader, only recently exposed to the vagaries of public school after years of being taught at home, and was embarrassed to have to ask what a hickey was.  Once it was explained, my mortification was complete, since kissing was not something that had ever crossed my radar, and since I took myself a bit too seriously in that pre-teen manner, and was sure that these people's teasing would be taken seriously by someone.

The welt lasted for several days, brusising slightly.  I wore higher collared shirts, hoodies and did whatever I could to conceal my injury for the next several days, certain that if a missionary could think it looked like hickey, then the junior high students who loved to bully and torment me could also make that inference.  I was nothing short of horrified at the particular turn this had taken and couldn't imagine that there would ever be a day I'd find this spectacular occurence of my clumsyness to be humorous.

A decade and a half or so later, I chuckle good-naturedly every time one of my brothers brings it up.  It comes up shockingly often, given that in the last sixteen years, I haven't gotten any less clumsy, or any less likely to be hit in the head or face by flying objects of any shape and form.  I still blame my depth perception, and my brothers will take every opportunity to share some of the more spectacular incidents of my injuries, including the ping-pong ball!  I feel sympathy for the sheltered and mortified pre-teen that I was, but mostly I'm just amused by the incident, and even by my own embarrassment!  I've even been known to tell the story myself, when the moment calls for some levity, or for proof that my lack of decent depth perception really can have some hilariously disastrous results!