Mandatory Moon Bathing in Minnesota

No one in my family has ever been a nudist. Coming to dinner in shorts and a sweatshirt was considered “inappropriate dress for dinner.” Ties were not required for dining but wearing one would not have resulted in being sent back to my room to change.

In my parent’s home, if you didn’t have clothes on, you must be alone and showering. What other possible reason would justify nakedness? It wasn’t that I was excessively shy, or modest. It just seemed that those parts were called ‘private’ for a reason.

Nude swimming or skinny dipping is one approach to a complete sense of freedom. To float, unencumbered by gravity or clothing is a great natural high. My brother called it “moon bathing” presumably because he did it at night.

I once went skinny dipping in one of Florida’s bottomless limestone sink holes. It was a liberating experience until a school of minnows started nibbling on me, en masse. That was eerie. I have an idea how celebrities feel surrounded by paparazzi. I always preferred swimming pools after growing up in the Land of Ten Thousand Leech Infested Lakes.

One curious thing about Minnesota (among many…), maybe it is the heavily Scandinavian population, but swimming in the nude was not only expected behavior, it was mandated in various public settings. It may derive from their penchant for rolling around in the snow after taking a sauna (one cultural tradition I could never grasp). (Lutefisk was another.)

It is the mandate that I thought strange. Why contort that feeling of absolute freedom by confining it within a requirement? I don’t need my freedom to be regulated, thank you.

The Athletic Club in downtown Minneapolis was the first place I encountered this mandate. The swim times at the Olympic sized pool were segregated by sex. Males were required to swim without suits. That is, swimming suits for males were not optional, but forbidden.

Females were required to swim with suits. No convincing explanation for this distinction was ever offered.

But to a ten year old boy, the idea of being required to swim nude, with a large group of strangers seemed odd to me. I did not join this club.

Outside of Minnesota, anyone I told about mandatory nude swimming, reacted in disbelief. Friends now describe anyone radically under dressed as ‘dressing Minnesota style.’

When I attended Junior High School in suburban Minneapolis the administration announced that a swimming pool would be built to enhance our physical education classes. Near the end of my 9th grade year my gym class got a tour of the new pool facilities.

It would be a fine pool, Olympic sized, lanes for racing, acres of tile, everything a pool should be. Then our coach led us down stairs, past the locker rooms, and proudly showed us the sub-surface observation ports; three large round, watertight, windows for the ‘observation’ of swimmers. These ports took up a whole wall, the width of the pool. You could see all the way to Albequerque.

When the coach informed us that male swimmers would not be allowed to wear swimming trunks in the pool this ‘enhancement of physical education’ took on a different tone. The lame reason for this rule was ‘to avoid the clogging of the filters with all the lint that boys’ swimming suits produce.’ Really?

It made no sense to me. After all, who wants to ‘observe’ a bunch of nude, pubescent boys swimming around? And sub-surface? I couldn’t imagine.

Our coach, a giant who worked as a prison guard during summer break was not someone to argue with.

Girls, long haired but presumably lint free, were required to wear swimming suits. Alternate days were set for girls’ and boys’ swim sessions. No peeking was allowed, at least by students.

A new schedule, for a new pool. Alternating days. So much to remember. It was an easy mistake to make.

Late for class and anxious about everything eighth graders are anxious about, one boy (not me) ran to his first day of swimming class. Too late, he realized that, though he was late for swimming class, he was a day early. He made it to class but found himself surrounded by girls! And he was naked as a blooming orchid.

I can imagine his legs pumping, Wiley Coyote style, to beat a hasty retreat.

Unfortunately, he slipped on a wet spot, hit his head on the tile and knocked himself unconscious. Six strong girls carried him, covered with a towel to the nurse’s office where he soon recovered all but his dignity.

Word travels faster than a slip on the tile. By day’s end, he was famous throughout the school.

4 thoughts on “Mandatory Moon Bathing in Minnesota

  1. What the heck! Minnesota, through your memories and astute observations, is fast becoming another planet for me! This is so funny and weird! In our world of political correctness, this is just wrong on so many levels! What lies between those hilarious lines of yours points to terrain I do not even want to begin to excavate! You so vividly bring alive a world I can’t begin to understand! Your keen “observational portal” allows us glimpses of the underbelly of more than just a few pubescent boys! This is both fun & icky (not necessarily in that order)! Thanks for making me laugh & cringe at the same time (a new experience)!

    Like

  2. What the heck! Minnesota, through your memories and astute observations, is fast becoming another planet for me! This is so funny and weird! In our world of political correctness, this is just wrong on so many levels! What lies between those hilarious lines of yours points to terrain I do not even want to begin to excavate! You so vividly bring alive a world I can’t begin to understand! Your keen “observational portal” allows us glimpses of the underbelly of more than just a few pubescent boys! This is both fun & icky (not necessarily in that order)! Thanks for making me laugh & cringe at the same time (a new experience)!

    Liked by 1 person

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