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Our society today tends to have crazy attitudes toward the body.
The body is glamorized in the media (using impossible models for the rest of us) and this in turn leads to issues of body shame (sometimes producing eating disorders).
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.
Rather, I was created as a body—a body with a mind and a soul. So it is a serious thing if the body becomes a source of shame because then we’re talking about my shame.
There may be issues of which I am ashamed, but my body is not one of them. So this is a fourth reason for writing this article.
(I actually first broached this topic of swimming naked at the YMCA in my “Frank Answer About Being Naked Before God”—written before I went to my class reunion.) Philosophically, I don’t think that the body is just something that we have, as if the real me is something other than the body (like the mind or the soul).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.But it reminds me of what I experienced at Bennett High School in Buffalo during my freshman year (1957-58).Among other changes, our tour guide at Bennett pointed out that the diving boards had been removed from the pool because of a fatal diving accident.