Every now and then I'll wind up in a conversation with someone regarding the horrors of junior high school gym class. This chat will invariably lead to me saying,
"... and the worst part is, the boys all had to swim naked,"
to which the recipient of that comment will stare blankly at me in disbelief as if I had just told them I was really a convicted murderer but am pretty sure I'm through with that phase of my life now.
I find the response to my gym class confession both amusing and disturbing. Amusing, because of the way it stops people dead in their tracks, which causes me to imagine how their minds are trying to process the image of thirty 12 year old boys running around naked in the public school's pool center. And disturbing, because to date, I've never met anyone else (besides the kids who went to that school) who has ever said, "oh yeah, me too," which forces me to question the practice of that particular Phy-Ed policy in the first place.
The oddest thing about swimming nude at our junior high school was that we never questioned it, as if it was a right of passage included in the advancement from grade school. You're a man now. This is how the MEN swim! Men don't wear swimming suits.
My guess is, the whole decision to swim nude was nothing more than a cost-saving measure. No suits to buy, no laundry to do, no unauthorized swim wear screwing up the PH balance of the water. In retrospect I suppose they could have allowed us to bring our own suits, but again... no one seemed to question this arrangement at the time.
The only thing we really seem to care about was how damn cold it was. Not only was the pool water kept at a mere 70 degrees (freezing by recreational pool standards) but the entire pool facility itself was cold as well. Add to that the fact that the bench where we had to sit (on our naked butts) and listen to our coach lecture (for several minutes) was made of ceramic tile, and you have yourself a shivering herd of blue-lipped tweens.
Another area of, how shall I say... "interest" at this time was the issue of physical development. In our school district, junior high ran from 7th - 9th grade, or ages 12-15. Being as how this is also the age span at which young boys may or may not experience puberty, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to realize that some boys looked different than others. In 7th grade it wasn't that big of a deal... we basically all looked like we were growing a small mushroom on barren ground. But by 9th grade, some of the more muscular jocks were already growing beards and sideburns... and had the shrubbery to match. This was especially evident with the aptly-named Peter, who after being held back, expelled and truant countless times, was 18 years old by the time he was finally able to leave 9th grade. Let's just say we never had to wonder who we wanted to grow up to be like.
So that's my story. Just one of many skinny, naked, freezing boys, dutifully doing their time every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., hoping some smart-ass didn't put tape over the latch on the door that opened to the hallway so someone could fling it open while we were in mid-march to the poolside, causing everyone to dive into the freezing water before every girl within 100 feet could run up and sneak a peak. No big deal. Literally.
But what I really want to know is... was my school the only one who had naked swimming for the boys? (the girls got to wear suits btw) Was this standard policy in the mid 70s or was our coach a little "different" than the rest?
I'd kinda like to know. Anyone?