Art of Being Clumsy

Mandi Hayes-Spencer Email

Growing up, my nickname was Gracie. Not because I was actually graceful, no. It was a sarcastic nickname, lovingly bestowed upon me by my very own mother.


Where a ballerina is graceful and can twirl with beauty and ease, I would twirl into the wall and fall down, knocking out three or four teeth in the process.

My life has been a series of one clumsy mishap after the other. I have a tendency to get myself into things that most people only see happen on television or read in books. What my mom thought was a phase during my youth seems to only get worse with time. I am a walking disaster.

When I was 8 years old, my mom decided it would be fun if I tried gymnastics. We went out and bought Mary Lou Retton everything. I had Mary Lou leotards, Mary Lou tights and, the worst, a Mary Lou hair-do. Basically, I was decked out in the Mary Lou gold standard of gymnastic wear. I had the look. But, did I have the talent?

Not even close.

About 10 minutes into my first class, while the teacher was grading our basic abilities, I quickly learned that it was not my niche’. My front rolls were crooked, my cartwheel resembled what it would look like if you threw a frog across the room and while trying my very first split, I fell forward onto my face, loosening a front tooth.

Needless to say, my Mary Lou duds were retired after that first day.

At 10 years old, my friends and I were playing “Mrs. America.” Tying a beach towel over our clothes and pretending they were sequenced evening gowns, we would parade up and down a flower ledge, waving and smiling to a panel of judges that consisted of two other 10 year olds.

It was all very sophisticated.

Wrapped in my Scooby Doo beach towel finery, I began my descent down the runway. Two steps in and I was already tangled in my dress. Down I went, cracking my forehead on the corner of the “runway”, splitting my forehead wide open.

Since Mrs. America does not typically need to be removed from competition to get stitches, I lost. I don’t need to tell you how disappointing it was.

At 12, I entered the arm wrestling event during track and field. I knew better but thought I’d give it a go anyways. I was a 65 pound, card carrying member of the Lollipop Guild. I was 100 pounds lighter and 10 inches shorter then everyone else in my grade.

I did make it to the final match. I managed to hold my challenger off for quite awhile before there was an audible crack, a small pause in breathing, and a scream. I had become the only human being on earth to ever break a bone during an arm wrestling contest.

As a side note, I’ll let you know that I think my opponent took growth hormones, maybe even experimented with steroids. She was extremely overdeveloped for her age and only came in first because I was injured. Not breaking something before round two was a first for me, so I counted my second place finish as a win.

My senior year of high school I knocked myself unconscious trying to do a backflip in the student union. I received a knot on my head the size of a baseball and was dizzy for 3 days due to a concussion. To this very day, I have a tender spot on my head that serves as a reminder of that happy incident.

In parenting class that very same year, before the invention of the crying baby doll, we were given eggs to care for as children. Mine was returned practically crushed. I left my egg baby on top of the car one morning. As I pulled out, my child was thrown to the concrete and mangled. Luckily, this was not a good indication of my actual ability to parent a child.

These crazy little anticdotes aren’t even the tip of the iceburg. I was the cause of hysterical laughter in emergency rooms the world over. My mom had our health insurance provider numbers on speed dial. And, my dad knew that if my mom was calling him at work, I was probably somewhere getting stitched up or being fitted for a full body cast.

Try as I may, I always end up broken and battered where everyone else comes out unscathed. Fortunately, I was blessed with a good sense of humor. Not many people can fall out of a chair and get a bruise on their rear end shaped like a map of the United States. Yes, that really happened.

You may call me clumsy but I consider myself “colorful.” This color may manifest itself in shades of black and blue. But, every scar has a story and I am my very own walking manuscript.

My son, God love him, is my little Gracie Jr. Since the school dress code states that I can’t send him to school in a football helmet, I’m left hoping he doesn’t injure anything vital. But, if you see the terrible twosome of this mother/son team walking down the street, it would be advisable to get out of our way.

Until next week, remember: If you need me, dial 911. The paramedic will take a message and I will get back with you as soon as the doctor reads my X-rays.

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Mandi Hayes-Spencer is a columnist for The Greenup County Beacon and author of the upcoming series The Crantz Chronicles. She lives in Flatwoods, Kentucky with her husband and son.