Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Psst, we're shooting craps in the locker room at 3:45pm. Pass it on!"

One of the perks of my job is staff access to many of the facilities at the college across the street, which happens to be my alma mater.  I've recently decided to start swimming laps on my lunch hour and the fact that IC's women's locker room has not changed one iota since I attended swim camp there in 1989 (1989, for the love of radishes!) flashed me back to my high school swimming days.

My school was very small and we didn't have enough girls to justify a girls' swim team, so thanks to Title IX, they had to let those of us interested swim on the boys' team.  Most of the other small towns around us were in the same boat and all had co-ed teams, but it got interesting when we were up against all-male teams. It was a good thing- we were swimming during the boys' season and were held to the boys' qualifying times, which pushed you harder. And the boys on our team were wonderful-- they were some of my best friends in high school and beyond.

We had a curious relationship between the girls & boys on our team. The boys were simply fascinated by the girls' locker room- even without girls in it. I remember a 7th grader who sincerely thought those were gumball machines on the wall next to the toilet.  And we had a floating craps game (pun intended) in the boys' locker room for the 30-35 minutes we had between school letting out and coach arriving.

Our school did Guys & Dolls as our musical in junior year and those of us who were chorus dancers or had other bit parts learned to shoot dice backstage.  The boys' locker room had one giant stone bench in the middle of the room and we used that to roll the dice. We mostly bet penny candy and sometimes pennies, nothing high stakes.

There was also a hazing ritual where new team members got either tossed in the snow outside or in the snow-filled dumpster outside. And every year just before Sectionals, we girls had to help the boys shave.  It allegedly cuts a couple seconds off times, so they were all for it.  The guys who had been on the team a couple years had the routine down, but we girls were always enlisted to help out the newbies.

Besides shaving boys' legs for them, it was a great experience. Frankly, you're never going to be more unattractive than you are competitively swimming:  race suits work to flatten you out on top and widen you on bottom to make you more streamlined in the water; swim caps basically make you bald and goggles make you look like a bug, and if you wore contacts like me, you wore them extra-tight so you wouldn't lose a lens, and spent a couple hours after practice or meets with deep circles imprinted under your eyes. You got to the point where you were used to boys seeing you like THIS all the time, and sort of stopped caring about how they saw you in other situations. We also had Saturday morning practices and when you're just going to get in the water anyway, why bother getting dressed & cleaning up? We all showed up in our pajamas and bedhead and just grew very comfortable around each other.  I had a cross-country friend who joined swim and used to reapply her makeup after meets. The rest of us would just shake our heads and take bets on how long that would last.

One thing I do NOT miss:  pre-race jitters.  I had a decent butterfly stroke and got stuck swimming those events.  The relay was fine- down and back, no problem.  The 100 - four laps of the pool- would kill me. It's an exhausting stroke, and the first time I did it, I started hallucinating (lack of oxygen?) on my last lap and thought the water around me had turned into orange soda.


  1. I am soooo not sporty. I wish I were sporty. This all sounds great. All the friends and rituals. A whole other world I never got to see.

  2. Truth be told, I only did it to get out of gym. If you did a sport, you could opt out of phys ed and that was my complete motivation. I hate basketball, kickball and dodgeball with a violent passion and would do anything to get out of being subjected to any of them.

  3. You have to guess that swimming in orange soda WOULD be fun though :)

  4. Oh I would totally go out for a sport to get out of gym!
    I hated gym so much. All the things you said. Awful. Awful. Awful.

  5. And I got stuck with the girls' basketball team & they saw every gym class as a practice. They'd yell at you for ducking when the ball came your way, even if you had glasses & braces and were deathly afraid of something hitting in you in the face. Bitches.

  6. orange soda? i love it. (both the drink and the story)