Whether a person looks good naked seems to have very little correlation to whether a person enjoys being naked.
Having visited a few nude beaches, I can testify to that. Yikes.
Now, I have no idea how Jon Hawkins looks nude, and I have absolutely no desire to find out. No offense. I've never even met him. We bring this up only because Hawkins is still so traumatized by some youthful nakedness half a century ago that he wrote me an email about it.
"I was driving down East Market Street the other evening and noticed my old secondary school, Goodyear Junior High, looming in the background. I went there in the early '70s, and every time I see it it brings back a type of PTSD.
"Certainly, just being a teenager was difficult enough on its own. But I recall a certain gym class that brings back especially painful memories.
"There was a pool deep in the bowels of that dungeon-like place and the boys in gym class were forced to take swimming lessons NAKED. ...
"They explained to us that this would eliminate the problem of leaving wet swim trunks in lockers. I remember a long line of naked teenage boys waiting to jump in. ...
"I have shared this story with friends and family and people have a difficult time believing it, but it's true. I would love to hear what others who experienced this think."
Well, my own junior high was pool-less, so I decided to float the question to 5,000 of my closest Facebook friends.
They never fail to disappoint.
Just kidding. Sort of.
One of the earliest responses (out of almost 150) came from a guy who posted a photo of himself rock-climbing nude. The photo wasn't the problem. The problem was his caption:
“Spent the last 30+ collecting nude accents on boulder problems across America. Pure joy in the simplicity and freedom from social norms and rules of educate.”
When one of my other Facebookers suggested he may have meant “ascents” rather than “assets,” he fired back. “Sure if spelling counts … didn’t think that was a thing with anybody under 60. … I guess context is lost on ya.”
Even with context, it took me a while to figure out that he also probably meant “rules of etiquette,” rather than “rules of educate.” I'm still working on "boulder problems."
But we digress.
Dozens of folks confirmed that Hawkins' memory was not playing tricks on him.
James Homa was among half a dozen readers who specifically mentioned Goodyear Junior High as a place where boys were required to swim in the nude for gym class. He has vivid memories of being in the first class of the day.
“The pool water was still at 8 a.m. You could see hair floating. My class was the 'Ice Breakers' — we stirred up the water for those who followed.”
Four readers remember men and boys swimming nude at the Akron YMCA, and four more named the Cuyahoga Falls Y.
Plenty of others testified that nude swimming was the norm at various schools and Y's in Northeast Ohio from the 1950s into the 1970s. Some sounded almost as traumatized as my emailer, although most remember just being uncomfortable.
Jay Brophy seems to have pinned down the chief issue.
“I had a friend who went to Goodyear who said they definitely swam in the nude,” he says. “I don’t know how I would have handled that in junior high. I didn’t mind being nude — never have, lol — but in gym class at school?”
Good point. Junior high — or “middle school,” as we apparently are required to call it today — can be a psychological house of horrors. It's an age when kids are making often-painful transitions, trying to figure out who they are. And given the fact that some kids reach adolescence much later than others, it's not difficult to understand that swimming nude in front of more mature classmates could be intimidating.
On the other hand, I remember hitting communal showers after gym classes and sports practices all through school and nobody seemed to think much about it.
Rebecca Stone Urycki brought up another solid point: “Maybe being required is where the hang-up comes from.
“As a teen, we had a neighborhood pool. A bunch of us, boys and girls alike, would routinely jump the fence to skinny dip. We would hang out afterward at a campfire where we would dry out, get dressed and sit and talk. There was not a lot of hanky-panky going on.
“We were respectful of each other and just enjoyed the freedom and thrill of sneaking over the fence and swimming in the buff.”
If you do some research, you'll find that nude swimming was not the least bit unusual for males about 75 years ago. Attitudes change. And part of this change may have involved product development.
There seems to have been a correlation between the end of nude school/YMCA swimming and the arrival of synthetic swimsuits, which don't clog pool filters the way the old woolen suits did.
Just for laughs
Here's something I didn't expect to hear: Apparently, if you're a professional comedian, the call of nudity is strong.
Stand-up funnyman Mike Conley has performed at a number of nude resorts: two shows at White Tail in Virginia, one at White Thorn in Pennsylvania and another at Avalon in West Virginia.
“My best story is they didn’t know in advance I was going to do the show nude until they introduced me. And then, well, yeah, they knew.
“That was the first time. The other three shows were because the other resorts got word there was a 'nude comic' available.
“We all need a niche.”
Standup comic Jeff Blanchard also fessed up to performing in the buff at the White Tail Resort. “When in Rome ....” he wrote.
“It’s a hell of a thing to do an hour of comedy in the nude. Biggest hurdle is not bumping into the mic stand — a bit of a zap.”
Veteran Plain Dealer writer Chuck Yarborough offered this amusing anecdote:
“I did one of my on-the-job training stories on being a nude model. I still pity our photographer. I did tell one artist, 'You're dressing me with your eyes, and it's making me very uncomfortable.'”
Other Facebookers also brought their “A” games.
Michael Kyner: “I'm glad my school didn't have a pool. If I had swam naked they would have drained the pool, filled it with concrete and imported a boxcar full of seeing-eye dogs to help out the people who gouged their eyes out after gazing upon me.”
Nate Zappola: "I graduated from Cleveland Heights High in 1964. Swam nekkid for 10th and 11th grades. Then we got suits. No big deal. In today's world you would have to have a platoon of psychiatrists standing by at school, and for the parents. If the girls did swim naked — they didn't — the wall separating their pool from the back hall would have looked like it was machine-gunned.”
Ladd McIntosh says a former wife who graduated from a Salt Lake City high school in 1970 told him how things progressed as she and her classmates took communal showers: “The girls covered themselves completely with a towel in junior high. At the beginning of high school, they covered their boobs when their boobs were still small. By the time they were juniors, they walked into the showers with the towels wrapped around their heads! Always liked that story.”
To read all of the comments, go to my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31
Now please excuse me while I go get naked.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.