The story I'm about to tell you is true. You will not believe it. Nevertheless, the events are accurate and factual. I swear.
There is most likely not a more miserable time in your life as 9th grade. You're freshly out of junior high, but so what. You are now on the lowest rung of the high school totem pole. As a male, you aren't close to shaving yet and the short and curlies in your trousers have barely taken root. Beautiful high school girls were everywhere. Upperclasswomen were goddesses, but you were still a boy and not noticed.
The senior guys at my high school, Oscoda High School in Oscoda, Michigan (Go Owls!), looked like grown men. It was 1977 and hair ruled the day. Unlike today where guys go out of there way to wax and shave their entire bodies, a hairy chest was a thing to behold and show off with pride. The senior guys at OHS seemed like a hairy lot of bastards. They had full mustaches, hairy chests, curly headed, poofy fros, or a head of hair that was parted down the middle and feathered back. Did you get that? I said "parted down the middle and feathered back!" The girls wore their hair that way as well, and they looked damned good, let me tell you. Oh, and by the way, those guys had hairy asses as well. How would I know? Funny you should ask.
We've all heard horror stories of what transpires in a high school gym class. I laugh at those. They are nothing, no account stories told by wimps and crybabies. A bloody game of dodgeball is a cupcake party, comparatively speaking, to what I endured in gym class. Years of therapy would not have been enough to get over what I'm about to describe. In fact, among the school mates I still am in contact with today, this story is spoken about in hushed tones. No eye contact is made and even our wives don't believe our tale.
Our P.E. class was a mixture of all grade levels. That means that freshmen boys on through the senior class all took physical education together. In addition, it did not matter if you were a star athlete or a "burnout" jonesing for smoke between classes, you were required to take PE. It was a chaotic mess of testosterone, pimply foreheads, and body odor wrapped in a Lord of the Flies book cover. I don't remember my PE teacher very much. Mostly, the older guys ran PE class. I mentioned dodgeball earlier. In our PE class it was called Murderball. I'm not kidding. But playing Murderball was a welcome activity compared to swim class.
For some reason I've never known, our small town high school had an indoor swimming pool, and, not to brag but, a really good swim team. During the school day, PE classes would, at certain times of the year, have pool time set aside for them to use. Even the Michigan winter would not keep us out of the pool. Wow, a heated indoor swimming pool! Fantastic. This is where the story takes a turn.
Before our "swimming unit" was to begin, coach went over a few quick swim guidelines: No horseplay, no running around the pool, we would be swimming naked, there would be no...wait, what? We would be swimming naked? What kind of a sick joke was this, man? He went on to explain that because our swimsuits would freeze in the Michigan winter if we took them home, or that they would mildew if we just left them in our lockers, it would be easier if we all just swam completely naked. (Years later it occurred to me that our towels would also get wet, but we still used those!)
I looked around the gym at my fellow classmates, no one looked surprised. I suppose the sophomores, juniors, and seniors had all experienced naked PE swimming before. And, perhaps a lot of the other freshmen had heard about naked swimming from their older brothers because they seemed fine with what there were hearing. I, on the other hand, was having a panic attack. I was the kind of wussy ninth grader that hated even showering after gym class. That was humiliating enough. Imagine, and remember, this skinny, mostly pubic hair-free ninth grader was in a class with high school seniors. Those dudes were basically adult men. They had fully bushed wangs and I was barely out of the peach fuzz stage. Naked swimming? Did the school board know this was happening? Was the community aware of this practice? Take a second and put yourself in my shoes here. Could there be a more frightening scenario on Earth than forced skinny dipping at school against your will? I would literally be living out the "being at school naked" nightmare many of you have experienced.
I went home and told my mom. She didn't believe me.
The next day at school I was eating lunch with some buddies. "So, how about that naked swimming thing?" I said.
No one wanted to talk about it. Perhaps if we didn't talk about it, it would go away. Ha! No such luck. The countdown to naked swimming at school had begun in my head and that's all I could think about. I could not sleep because of naked swimming. I did not enjoy shooting hoops in the driveway because of naked swimming. I could not enjoy my favorite show, Charlie's Angels, because of naked swimming. I was a mess.
Then a thought occurred to me. What if I got a boner* during naked swimming? I was not aroused by guys, that wasn't the problem. Quite the opposite. I was aroused by girls. As a 14 year old male, I thought of girls, naked girls, about every 13 seconds. What if I thought of a naked girl while I was in the middle of naked swimming? Jesus Christ! If I told myself to not think of a naked girl during naked swimming, I'd for sure think of a naked girl. My mind would take me to the Playboy I had hidden under my dresser and those pictorial pictures I had memorized would flash in my head whether I wanted them to or not! Imagine the lifelong trauma of getting a public boner in PE class? No amount of therapy or counseling would ever help you. To stop a boner during naked swimming was about the same as stopping laughter in church once it got going. I wanted to die.
(*The term boner is used exclusively in this story. Not erection, not hard-on, not woody...only boner. Boners are useless. Boys that are virgins get boners. Once you actually have sex, you can call your boner a hard-on or a purple-helmeted love soldier if you want. But until you actually use your hard penis for real sex, it is, sadly, just a boner. )
Time marched on. My date with naked swimming crept closer. I thought about faking being sick, but I knew that would only get me a day or two at the most. By the time I did go to naked swimming, er, I mean school, the other guys in class would be used to naked swimming and I would be behind the learning curve of the ins and outs of naked swimming protocol. Outside of impending death, I can't think of a more miserable event that could loom in your future.
On the day of naked swimming I climbed on the bus in a haze. How did this happen to me? I must have looked like a kid who'd just lost a beloved pet. There is no way I can describe to you exactly how I was feeling. Imagine for yourself.
When PE rolled around. The class filed into the locker room and began shedding their clothes like confetti. No one seemed to care what was about to happen. I suppose the older boys had done this before and didn't seem to care so much. The freshmen, I guess, played along like this was nothing, if not normal. My naked brethren and I marched out of a door in the back of the locker room that led directly to the swimming pool. So it began.
First let me say this. There is nothing so oddly disgusting as a man ass. Women's behinds have curves and milky soft skin and are generally the stuff of fine art over the centuries. Guys have hairy, boxy asses that serve no aesthetic purpose. They are functional and that's about it. The senior guys sported pimply, squared off butts and proudly let their hairy wieners flop like fish out of water while they walked to the pool. The young pups, like myself, mostly covered our man parts with our crossed hands. Coach told us to take a seat on the tiled floor before we jumped in the pool.
Apparently, our PE teacher had to talk to us once more about the rules that govern naked, public school swimming. No one listened. He seemed to drone on forever as he walked back and forth in front of us. It was if he was inspecting his troops. His naked, boy army ready...ready to storm the locker room to get dressed I'm betting. As an adult looking back on this, I can only imagine what kind of a sick group of adults would allow this total degradation to take place. Parents now days are terrified if a peanut ends up in the lunchroom. Let me tell you, there were plenty of nuts out during naked swimming. Where was the outcry?
Finally, thank God, Coach told us to hit the pool. There was a mad dash to jump in the water. Perhaps there were a few guys who had naked girl thoughts and needed to get in quickly. Luckily, I wasn't one of them. I had no coherent thoughts at all just then. I did notice, as everyone got up off the tiled floor, that our assess picked up the tile pattern on the floor and each one of our butts had creased tile lines in perfect squares. You could have played checkers on our asses.
Imagine, if you will, a pool full of splashing, naked high school boys screaming like banshees. I was keeping away from the me lee because I noticed that everyone else acted as if they were wearing swimsuits. No modesty. Flopping wieners and lopsided asses were everywhere. The activity of the day was water polo. So yeah, naked water polo. You ever play water polo? It's basically gang-tackling the guy with the ball. Only we were doing it naked. Let's just say it was disconcerting.
Suddenly, through dumb luck, the ball ricocheted off a few naked dudes and was coming right at me. Instinctively, I caught it. Within microseconds, at least half a dozen naked guys were coming straight at me. One of the naked guys launched himself out of the water towards me with a fury. For the most part, his wiener was coming right at me. I threw that ball in the air like a hornet's nest. Screw this, I'm out.
I spent the rest of our naked swimming unit staying the hell out of everyone's way. I'd pretend to play the games, on the side, away from the action, keeping to my naked self and my naked thoughts. To this day, when I tell this story to people, they think I'm lying. I'm not. I swear. Google it. It was a thing.
In retrospect, I am so glad I had naked, public high school swimming. It was my own private Vietnam. One day, my daughter told me she was too afraid to stand up in front of her class to give a presentation. I scoffed. "At least you don't have to swim naked at school like I did," I told her. She had no reply.
My own mother once told me she walked 6 miles to school, each way, thinking her childhood was so rough. "Oh yeah?" I said, "Were you naked while you walked there?"
A couple of side notes to naked swimming:
Just before our 30th high school reunion, I emailed the superintendent of the Oscoda Public Schools to recount the horrors of forced naked swimming in hopes of getting her to donate a keg to our reunion party. I told her that although the statute of limitations had most likely passed, it would be in the district's best interest to "settle out of court" and give us a damn keg. To my surprise, she emailed me back and said she had heard of the naked swimming legend. She was pretty good-natured about it and said she'd personally donate "something" to our party. She reneged and we never got so much as a six pack. A few of us wore "I survived Naked Swimming T-shirts".
Additionally, I later heard that the Oscoda High School pool was equipped with an underwater, glassed viewing room in the diving end of the pool. I thought this could, in no way, be true. I am assured, by certain females, that this IS true. Son of a Bitch!