It’s a Square World…

Today’s Gallery Theme: ‘Sporting Dress’

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What’s odd about this picture? Apart from being a ‘kewl’ composition (I love the chance to dive into a pool when the water is completely still!), nothing is odd. To us, anyway. The guy is sensibly dressed for his sport – and, indeed, complies with French law (should he be in France) which demands that male swimmers do not wear long shorts in public pools “as this brings dirt into the pool”.

Gotta love the French! As a result of a new French law, their police are pretty much ripping ‘burkinis’ off women on the beaches, demanding that they expose themselves like Westerners in the interests of preventing terrorism. Contrast that with the imams (and frequently their husbands/brothers) who demand they cover up.

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We recently (and very briefly) had a devout Muslim girl attend gym classes. She wasn’t in a burka, but wore yards of clothes around her which left only her face visible. Her brother accompanied her and demanded to be by her side the whole time to ensure she wasn’t molested by any man. Since it is hard to teach gymnastics without supporting a newcomer, he wanted all male coaches removed from the gym… well, as you may imagine, this didn’t work out. Not for her, not for them, not for the female coaches either. Since most of the boys in the gym at the time were training shirtless anyway, as they like to do, one had to wonder slightly if she was, beneath the veil as it were, enjoying a moment of eye-candy “freedom”.

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It got us thinking about ‘acceptable’ sporting attire. The sight of perspiring Saudi ladies up against the bikini-clad opponents for beach volleyball at the Olympics… – we were wondering what the Saudi team were actually thinking as they opposed the scantily-clad opposition!

What goes around, comes around. Early in the twentieth century, once freed from their Victorian bathing machines, young men were encouraged to swim naked. This prevailed in schools in both USA and UK for a long time, and especially in YMCAs (so it must have been viewed as ‘OK’ by the church! – although we have so many reports of ‘bent’ clergy these days entertaining the wrong thoughts about young boys…). But now, it’s ‘about face’ – increasingly here in USA we see men (even young men) swimming in tee-shirts, unwilling to expose their bodies to public gaze, increasingly weights gyms forbid shirtlessness during training, and as for those ‘No Shirts No Shoes No Service’ signs so prevalent in retail outlets here in US… don’t get me going.

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Why are people over here suddenly getting so afraid of the sight of human flesh? So many French girls sunbathe topless on public beaches without a care in the world… naturism is encouraged in Europe – especially Germany and Sweden – as a family affair…  in The Netherlnds, public pools go naked after 8pm… and then we have the wrestling debate:

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WWF, along with many guys who enjoy a submission bout, will do it that way – speedos, barefoot. You’re going to get sweaty, you’re going to want to get a good grip on your opponent. Additional clothes are unnecessary and get in the way. Some (our hands are up here), given a suitably private venue, like it this way:

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So – contrast the American ‘collegiate’ style! A sweaty lycra ‘onesie’ which all the lads push down to their waists as soon as they are off the mats, with socks and trainers – oh, another broadside from Leo: “Why do you call ‘sneakers’ ‘trainers’, Dad?” “Because I’m British and I speak proper English!” OK, we’ll let that one go by! There is, apparently, a campaign to allow bare chests in collegiate, but it is strongly resisted, especially by schools. Here’s two who pushed their tops down quickly enough:

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Leo has two close fitness-freak mates who are on the High School wrestle team – but when they come to ours or to the private gym, the style is ‘all-in’ and the clothes come ‘all-off’, or at least down to undies with bare feet.

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Some of those who are willing to be seen bare chested would have a horror of doing what those lads are doing (and I don’t mean throttling your friend!) – touching their bare skin against another guy’s. We do find that weird. Being in a relatively warm climate and spending a lot of time in sports training, the whole household here (men and women) tend to wander around in minimalist clothing, and it has worn off on to the kids, at least as far as training goes. In the privacy of ‘family’ and certainly in our private training cabin, ‘FKK rules’ (that’s Freikorperkultur to the uninitiated). Not necessarily totally naked, especially in the house, but guys are generally shirtless and everyone is barefoot – and proud of what they have on show:

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So there we were, Dave and I and our kids Leo and Jaymee, in shorts (or in Jaymee’s case, a bikini), on the grass beside the house last evening enjoying the evening sun, lounging around and thinking about a few possible new moves for our family acrobatic show, when Dave noticed a couple of coloured lads

[EDIT: OOOPs – just been pointed out to me I used the wrong word there, didn’t I. No offence intended… Leo’ s efforts at race relations nearly down the pan there… and all because his dad’s using Brit words…]

African-American lads standing slightly nervously in our driveway. ‘Style’ sneakers, shiny long nylon shorts, vests…

“We’ve come to fight with Leo!”

Ah. Two of his classmates, hopefully inspired by Leo’s and Chris’s uninhibited fitness exhibitions at school which have turned a few of his classmates off them completely – invited around (apparently) to wrestle a bit in our cabin. Great ‘race relations’ on his part, because they would simply not be allowed into the private gym (this is confederate country where old habits die hard) – but Leo and his friends don’t harbour such prejudices, thankfully. Half an hour later, when we poke our heads in at the door – you guessed it. Not quite FKK, but down to underpants… and all three of them drenched in sweat and laughing their heads off. I’m betting they’ll be back, and the rest of the gang will be joining in with them.

Leo’s done his bit both for race relations and for everyone’s right to dress – or undress – how they want.

‘Our’ training cabin – which started life as Ivo and Pete’s training cabin until Dave and I invaded 15 years ago – has now become the next generation’s training cabin into which we have to fight to find a place… plus ca change…

Let’s focus on shirtless/barefoot gyms (and appropriate short shorts!) for the rest of today’s pictures:

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Not forgetting the other great ingredient: fresh air:

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And to finish for today: boys, underwear and water. Not the most muscular, exactly – but they’re having fun. Smile please:

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The second part...Loving the Boy: ISBN 978-1-907732-30-0

The Power of Love: ISBN 978-1-907732-41-6

Against All Odds: ISBN 978-1-908645-35-7

 

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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