Apparently I am not the only middle-aged male in WNY whose thoughts have wandered back to the more carefree if hormonally-charged teenage years recently.
The spark for reflection: the college sex scandals.
Allegedly (of course), two coach-gym teacher types derived and acted upon sexual cravings with underage boys to whom they’d been entrusted.
I don’t think I will ever hear “rhythmic slapping sounds” again without a feeling of nausea or dismay.
In 2011, the idea of adults being involved with naked children, barring a very good explanation, is repugnant to us in every way.
Which brings me back to my teenage years and the tradition in some schools of NAKED swimming for students, usually boys.
My children were horrified and yet laughing in disbelief when I told them of our compulsory skinny-dipping mandate from 7th through 12th grade.
In fact, unless you were there it sounds absolutely medieval and barbaric. And we are only talking about thirty years ago!
Here’s how it worked:
1. Go to gym class and totally disrobe.
2. Wrap towel around waist.
3. Hang towel on hook in shower.
4. Walk buck-naked into natatorium.
5. Be naked before the fully-clothed gym instructors.
Even at the age of twelve I thought there was something, well, homoerotic about this. I just knew that it wasn’t right.
And walking into a bitterly cold room after a walk to school in 0 degrees could be, ummm, humbling.
But at twelve you don’t make waves. Naked? That’s how we’ve done it in the district since Moses wore short pants, and that’s how it is going to stay!
Young people today may believe this to be a tall tale, but on my soul I swear that naked swimming actually happened.
Just thirty years ago!
What still bothers me (and I am not alleging abuse) is the complete lack of any kind of logic or sense to this Grecian exercise, especially as the girls wore suits when they swam.
I’ve heard over the years that naked swimming was to break down the individual for future military service (apparently some districts subversively resisted and allowed their young men to wear suits); that any suits would molder wet in lockers (girls apparently had magic suits that were washed and dried by fairies); that chlorine killed, errr, lice (apparently boys’ bathing suits were water-proof); that being bare-butted was a form of riot-control (!) and so on and so forth.
There has not been one convincing explanation to me as to why boys had to be naked for extended periods in front of grown men.
In the absence of any logical explanation, the recent scandals have convinced me more than ever that the real reason boys had to swim naked was that someone must have enjoyed it and gotten a sick thrill from it.
This is a classic case of applying William of Occam’s rule, which essentially is that the best explanation is usually the one that makes the most sense.
Can you imagine a school opening a new pool in 2011 and a gym teacher saying, “Hey, we’ll make the boys swim in the nude!”
I would hope that he (or she) would be fired on the spot.
As the recent scandals have shown us, when it comes to your children, you cannot be too careful.
As far as I can tell, I suffered no permanent scars from this, but I know of several boys (now men) who have never gotten over the humiliation of forced naked swimming in the public schools and who still resent themselves for not having complained….thirty years ago.