(Un)Dress Sense

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How it should be: mates enjoying their freedom “in the nature” (as an Austrian friend slightly quaintly puts it) – open air, water, barefoot and shirt-free.

I was prompted towards this topic by a note in my (British) e-newspaper about a 16yo new driver in Texas who rolled a car with three of his friends in because the passenger set fire to his armpit hair. I resist exclamation marks…

…clearly, then, the driver was either shirtless or wearing a low-slung vest and, whilst driving, lifting his right arm up high enough for his ‘mate’ to deploy his lighter!

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I do remember reading about some guy who used to try and impress the ladies by setting fire to his chest hair… well, we who join with our female collaborators and their ‘body-burning’ antics in our acrobatic/fakir shows choose to trim our visible or accessible hair to modest lengths for obvious reasons, but I never thought that armpit hair could be at risk.

I’ve lived in America for nearly 15 years now, and I still find American attitudes to exposing body parts totally confusing. On the one hand, young kids tend to go barefoot at home and sometimes outside, and teen boys always seem to pull their shirts off at parties (and sometimes strip down to underpants) – whether to impress girls or to share some ‘male bonding’ I can’t say. Initiations at male college fraternities almost always involve nudity. At the other extreme, objections to public shirtlessness seem to be on the increase – all those NS3 notices in stores, and aggressive security guards turning potential customers away. Often, spurious ‘health issues’ are given as the excuse. And in schoosl, some Phys Ed instructors never allow shirts to be removed.

You can probably guess where I stand on this. In our household (4 gay men, 2 lesbian mums and two offspring, all performers), barefoot is normal, shirtless guys are normal and, when the kids were much younger, total naturism indoors troubled no-one. Even though the kids now approach 13 years, we all still swim naked in the Clinch River and at our place in Wales along with assorted friends (albeit at a secluded venue) and think nothing of it.

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The males all train (weights, acrobatics etc) with never more than short shorts…

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…and often with less in our private locations (our training cabin and the ‘special’ private gym)…

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You’re gonna sweat (if the training means anything!)… so, as long as you are clean and fresh when you enter the room, who needs clothes? It’s all about improving the body, so let’s show it off… nothing there to be ashamed of…

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I was aged about 8 I think (see a very early post on this blog) when I discovered, in the UK school summer break and along with my oldest friend Colin, the super sensation of flinging off our shirts, riding our bikes up to a favourite swimming place on the Cherwell River to hang out all day with the wind against our chests and the sun on our backs, kicking off our trainers and feeling the cool moist grass under our feet. We’d pull off our shorts to swim, intending to keep them dry, but then leave them off and sunbathe. Then we would play around with some ‘fun’ basic acrobatics, or wrestle… I always feel that you can define a ‘best friend’ as someone you’re fully comfortable being naked with!

We would admire each other’s muscles (fairly small ones at that age). Colin now says that he suspected I was gay even at that age (he’s fiercely straight by the way) by the way I looked at him, but I wasn’t aware of it and never really knew it all even at High School as I admired the other guys in the sports locker rooms. Colin, to his great credit and without me having the slightest notion of it, defended me up to the hilt when they taunted him for being friends with ‘the homo kid’. But it was never bullying, nor menacing, – we were all good friends really in my year group, and Colin remains a close friend to this day… indeed, my son Leo and his Ollie get together whenever we can save enough money for air fares, and behave exactly as their fathers did!

Colin and I naturally took to gymnastics under the tuition of a guy called ‘Chalky’ White who we all feared… until he became one of my greatest supporters for entering professional acrobatic performance, as I tell here.

So it all comes down to this: shirt-free fun whenever, wherever, we can…

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…and, when you’re working professionally at acrobatics, which is all about using your muscles intensively, you really don’t want  to be impeded by any more clothing than you need to satisfy local decency laws!

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Even in India – a very conservative country, their acrobats really show it all off…

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Another issue is that there’s a lot of debate about is the unwillingness of High-Street weight gyms to allow males to train shirtless even when they cover their walls with posters showing fit guys doing exactly that! Some allow it (and some specifically gay gyms probably encourage it, as Chad’s private one does), provided you protect their machines from your sweat…

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…some tolerate it until someone complains and, when that happens, it is usually a female who objects. Why? There’s nothing insulting or offensive about the male upper torso, on show in most public swim pools for example, often in the same buildings as those gyms! And then, I hear more and more that we discover guys in swimming pools wearing shirts, again, especially in America. Why? Doesn’t make any sense to us.

This should be the norm for public swimming:

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It’s certainly the norm in France, because that enlightened (?) country actually forbids the wearing of longer shorts (boxer-style or boardies) in public swim pools, apparently on health grounds… I jest not. It’s the law. It may make no sense to you (it certainly doesn’t to me), but then the French of either sex need little encouragement to strip off in public – all those topless girls on the Med beaches…

In gymnastic clubs, like as not, the boys will shuck their shirts soon enough once warmed up (here are two boys still in that process, alongside the guy on the rings):

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Let’s be clear. It’s not because coaches insist, not because gymnasts are all gay showoffs… it’s because, when you’re working out hard and getting hot, it’s comfortable. Often the girl gymnasts will say ‘wish we could do the same!’

Wrestling, American style, is odd, too. High Schools promote it (unlike in my country UK) but the uniform is a lycra ‘onesie’, plus socks and trainers. I don’t understand any of that – especially why footwear is demanded – and there is a growing movement to allow a ‘topless’ uniform. Let’s face it – the other guy is going to sweat all over you anyway, so what exactly are we ‘protecting’? When we wrestle, it’s so-called ‘submission’ style or ‘underground’… just Speedos (if you must). My son does both – Middle School collegiate style and ‘submission’ with us – totally different rules and he has to throw a switch in his head at the outset to make sure he remembers he can’t grab his opponents balls and twist in a School training session!

Anyone new to this blog will surely by now be thinking – “gay guy” – “son”?? Long story. Set out in the book in that earlier link and also in these two (1) (2) which top-and-tail the story…

Time to shut off the rant. I’ll just add a few more pictures of well-built guys for our collective admiration, and see you next time!

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rat

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Show-off!

Coming soon: A ‘Sensual’ Guide to my wonderful gay partner, Dave…

About tonycavanagh

Born Northampton UK; school Oxford UK and Oak Ridge Tennessee, where I met my wonderful partner Dave, also from UK. Oak Ridge is our main training base for acrobatics and circus stuff, but we also established a base in Wales (UK) to serve us when we are working in Europe. Our 'story', of finding gay love, learning the acrobatics trade and then of how we got shot at during our show (and worse was to follow - just to prove that the risks of being an acrobat are not always the most obvious ones!) are now available in my three books 'Loving the Boy', 'The Power of Love' and 'Against All Odds'. Links available on most blog posts. Actually, waiting for the imminent arrival of the first printed copies was far scarier than anything we do in performance. A fourth book - not about us but exploring the sadness of a gay Native American boy denied his true identity - is currently with an agent for evaluation. watch for 'Let The Future Find Me' in due time. And now to book five... another boy, another quest... seems its always boys...
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