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These boys are younger than 9th grade, but the diving board looks similar to the one I remember in our high school pool. So a physical activity that I was actually good at has been removed.When we got to the gym our guide pointed out that the climbing poles and ropes had been removed and climbing was no longer a part of the school gym curriculum. I was sad to hear that the ropes and poles were gone because I had actually done well in climbing in the 7th and 8th grades and did it in the boys gymnastic show in P. We were often shirtless in elementary school gym class, which was a situation in which adolescent boys were often insecure because our bodies were developing at wildly different rates.I was never a good diver because I was nearsighted and was always worried about where I would land.But I at least had the experience of trying it under supervision.Even when I was a youth there were muscle magazines encouraging boys to bulk up so they wouldn’t be the skinny kid having sand kicked in his face on the beach—in front of his girl friend, who then walks off with the muscle guy!Today youth use steroids and consume protein shakes to bulk up in order to compare more favorably with ideal models.
Some even deny it happened because it doesn’t fit our current cultural mores.
Ironically, I felt less self-conscious being naked in 9th grade swimming class than being shirtless in 8th grade gymnastics.
Maybe it was because in swimming we shed those school-issued shorts that accentuated skinny legs.
Men don’t talk about it even if they were comfortable with the practice because the reactions are usually negative.
So this article is an exercise in social history to discuss what was standard practice in America until the 1970s.