Back when I was around 10 or 11, I took gymnastics. The place had quite a good reputation and was in this huge warehouse, all concrete and metal girders, tumbling mats. The sorts of materials that made it echoey. Acoustics like a cathedral.
A few months into my training, we got a visit from a girl who was on the National Team and it was a BIG deal. All us little girls were attempting to impress her, trying harder than we ever had before. I mean, there was a possibility she could be in the next Olympics!
In all my rotations around the various equipment, she was always somewhere else, helping some other little girl. Not that I minded all that much; I couldn’t do bars yet, and was only okay and floor and vault. It was when I rotated onto the beam that I finally had my chance and I was so excited as beam was my best.
So I get in line and find out we’re practicing handstand with slow splits on the medium height beam. She’s spotting each girl from behind, hands on their waists to keep them steady and I *know* I can do better than all of them. This was my forte - balance, flexibility, strength.
I was going to do the best handstand slow split, not just in that class, but that she had ever seen. She was going to recommend me to the best gymnastics coaches based on that one move alone, that’s how good it was going to be.
Finally, it was my turn. Jumped up, quite elegantly, walked down the beam with grace and balance. This was going very well. Did the initial handstand and it was perfect. Straight back, shoulders away from the ears and nary a wobble.
She settled her hands on my waist to spot me for the splits and I was determined to show that I didn’t need it. Tightened my stomach muscles as much as I could, clenched my butt and slowly, with perfect control, started the splits.
And slowly, with perfect control, came a squeaky whistle, like air being carefully released from a balloon.
“Don’t worry,” she told me, “we all fart sometimes.”
So I continued the movement, determined to be as professional as she was despite the fact that I was literally “whistling” in her face.
The whistle continued, a slow, controlled and seemingly endless release. And her hands started shaking.... and her voice.
“H-h-h-hold on. Slow and steadyyyyyyy”
At that, I decided to just get it over and done with, whipped my legs open to full splits, and my god, that nicely controlled, *soft* whistle turned into the start of Gerwhin’s Rhapsody in Blue instantly.
I mean, this was epic. Movie sound engineers would’ve given anything to record this. It was the Wilhelm scream of farts, and the acoustics of the gym only magnified it. It wailed, it had vibrato. That thing supplied its own applause it was so powerful. Trumpeters would weep to produce sound like that. Armies could be called to war. Kings and queens announced. Clouds would part.
Nothing like that should have come out of an 11 year old girl, let alone directly into the face of one of the best gymnasts in the country.
But I stayed on. I kept my balance. I held that split handstand with a desperation to impress, as if somehow, by staying there, I wouldn’t lose what little dignity I had left.
The National Team gymnast was on the floor, not just crying, but doing that choking laugh that people do when they can’t actually get enough breath to make noise. Every adult - coaches and parents - every teenager and every child had heard it. Apparently, it could be heard outside the main doors. All were laughing, and I was frozen, upside down, in the the echo of just how musically powerful my ass was.
After what felt like forever, the girl I had so wanted to impress waved a hand vaguely in my direction and managed to force out the word “down.”
So I put my legs back together, did the most perfect dismount I could manage, hit the floor with a thud, and as my legs straightened, my ass decided to give one last, decidedly unmusical honk just as I put my arms up and back in the traditional girl gymnast ending to a routine.
And that was the day I quit gymnastics.