I’ve never been diagnosed with any sort of inner ear disorder. Truthfully, I’ve never discussed that possibility with a medical professional, so that could be why I remain undiagnosed but I like to think that there is nothing medically wrong with me. I just fall. A lot.
There is a very real and unsettling fear that comes along with adolescence. First off all there are those bodily changes that occur, the outline of which can be found in books borrowed from public health office and secondly there are the atmospheric changes in the social strata. Ugly ducklings become swans, and suddenly running fast means something more than winning a game of tag. But thirdly and most crucially there is the fact that we grow. Grow so fast that over a period of thee to four years a person’s height can pretty much double. A cute and somewhat pudgy little kid can become a tangle of lanky elbows and knees, with their head reaching as high as a doorway. Sure, our doctors, our mother, and puppets on television tell us that if we eat right and drink our milk we’ll grow big and tall. Our bones will be healthy and our muscles strong. Sure, I suppose our bodies must have some sort of road map ingrained in its core; it knows what its doing. As a person, however, you have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. Things you used to be able to do (ie. walk, sit stand) are now impossible to perform without falling over. Add in the fact that the tones of voice of the male sex resembles a squawk at time, teenagers are really just hormonally charged ostriches. Each looking to plunk their acne riddled faces into the sand.
I was/ still am one of them.
I’m not hugely tall. Average by any means. Not too tall and not short. I’m not overly lanky, and my kneecaps are regulation issue. But that doesn’t mean I was well equipped to handle my pubescent ages. My skin got blotchy and my voice wavered on the verge of cracking (it still hasn’t) for far too long. Most cruelly of all is the fact that I grew faster than my sense of coordination could keep up with. Like Jack’s proverbial beanstalk my head soared for the clouds, but just like the fairy tell I was destined to come crashing down. Again, and again, and again. Just as my pants were always a little too short, and my social calendar a little too empty, my high school experience was spent looking, conversely, down or up at the world around me. But like any eighties movie, or 90s television series, this episode of my life had a very important message to instill on me. An just like every after school special, you’re going to have to wait till the very end to find out what that is. Plus, I haven’t exactly thought that far ahead.
I always secretly blamed my shoes. They were too big, too clunky, and just not right. I could have easily blamed the extra button sewn into the inside seam of my sweater, as they had the exact same amount of influence, but the shoes seamed like an easy scapegoat. They were right there at the scene of the crime. Where everything went wrong. Where it all started. The shoes, it seemed were at ground zero, and everyone knows that a shoddy foundation can cause the downfall of any skyscraper, it became easy to shift the blame onto them. My innocent patsies. The unsuspecting rubes. I would go a tumbling down the hill, after fetching my pail of water, and once I hit the bottom I would look down on them from on high and say “Stupid things.” Jamming a knife into their often-supple leather lined heart. It was not me that caused the tumble; it was the shoe. The sole was loose. The grip was not good. The laces tripped me.
I had a thousand of them.
Like any athlete ( perhaps the only time I can use that expression) I could also blame the condition. Weather played a huge part in my attempts to save face. The ground was slick. It was icy. There wind blew a leaf into my eye and I was momentarily discombobulated and lost my balance. If the incident occurred indoors there was always something unseen to trip on. A marble? A spot of water? Maybe the floor was slanted. It was never my fault. And like so many other things I felt I had hid so well during my teen years, I was convinced I had everyone fooled. I was not a klutz, an oaf, uncoordinated or a spaz. I was the innocent victim of fate, or coincidence, or happenstance. It’s not that I was always falling down, things were always making me fall down.
But they weren’t. It was me.
My body grew too fast for the rest of me to catch up. While I was not the most balanced youth (physically, mentally, or intellectually) but I got by. Sure, I scraped a knee and got my head stuck between a set of banister railings every now and then, but I felt I had a good enough handle on things. Then my changing body (shudder) decided to sell my self-awareness down the river and I grew at a speed and to a proportion to which I was woefully unprepared. Suddenly my legs made up 98% of my body. My arms were so long I began a one man mission to make ¾ length sleeves fashionable for men (I failed.) Walking, or even standing for any period of time was precarious. I could keel over at any second. A slight breeze would knock me ass of teakettle and there was very little I could do. My brother suggested a helmet, but that solved very little. I had learned to take a fall quite well. I never lost a tooth or received a concussion. I became a pro at the mid-air spin. I could fall what looked to be face-first onto a stone patio and land, like the opposite of a cat, on my back. A wide expanse of bone and hump, my back became a landing pad. A cushion that l kept the slightly more attractive parts of me safe from harm. There was, sadly, no protection my stalwart and broad attribute could provide for my public image. I could fall at home, and my parents who became so accustomed to it would hardly look up from their books or Prairie Farm Report when the house shook and shudder as I bit it time and time again. Fragile things were taken from precarious perches, and wrapped in bubble wrap until I left the house. But when I became tipsy (without the aid of alcohol) in public, people took notice.
Falling in public is its own special gift. Bruises to your corporeal form can come and go but the real scars come from falling in front of your entire grade 12 art class. A lasting ache comes from tripping up the stairs with attractive strangers following being. Never mind a deep purple thigh or hip, an ego is far more tender after slipping and falling while a capacity bus rolls to a stop. I’ve been falling for years, so I like to think I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the matter.
In grade school I fell while running, I tripped while walking, and I keeled over while standing.
And I’ve been doing ever since.