Adolescence is ugly. No getting around it. Hormones beginning to rage, coming into your budding body, a roller coaster of emotions, and being forced into all sorts of new experiences. Being thrown into classes at a new middle school with kids you never saw before. Learning locker combinations, following class schedules, finding your way around a much larger school. Trying to find a friendly face in the cafeteria so you didn’t have to sit alone. Taking off your clothes in front of others in the locker room. Just lots of joyful experiences!
The experience of swimming in gym class at my middle school was one of the most awful that I can remember. First, there was the trauma of public disrobing, at an age when what you had, or didn’t have, really mattered. Wanting to check out what everyone else had without remaining naked long enough for anyone to see yours. Then there was the required shower, on an ancient tiled floor that always felt slippery for some reason, and would have never passed my mother’s cleanliness standards.
The pool tiles felt rough and slimy on your feet, and holding onto the sides where the overflow drains were was hardly an option. Usually you’d get a mouth or nose full of highly chlorinated water at some point, and God knows what else.
After the swim, there was the second disrobing to rinse your suit in some mysterious disinfectant, and wring it in the ancient wringer. It was a sweet, sickly smell, unlike any other. Using your tiny bleached towel, you swipe away most of the water, and nervously wrench your training bra and panties on, and finally your clothing, all of it sticking to your wet skin. And what do you talk about while your’e so exposed? NOTHING! ‘Cause you’re trying to do all of this as fast as you can to get dressed and out of there! You just focus on the sound of the shower running and locker doors slamming, and hope it’s over soon.
To this day, I hate having to use a locker room, and am flooded with these visions every time!