Dear PDV readers, I turned 40 this month! And for that I get a mammogram. In honor of getting to be a part of this wonderful rite of passage into awkward adulthood, I’m rerunning an oldie but a goodie (much like me) from my former blog Childhood Relived.
I have a question that’s been gnawing at me for nearly 25 years. It relates to something that really traumatized me as a kid.
Before I go any further, let me just acknowledge that I throw around the word traumatized a bit too much in relation to my childhood — over things like my favorite TV show Square Pegs being cancelled, over things like not getting the exact Care Bear I wanted, over the mere existence of tuna noodle casserole.
So it’s a tad Boy Crying Wolf of me now to say, “Really, guys. Listen up! I was traumatized.” And you’re not going to understand the magnitude of what I’m about to say. And you’re going to think I’m about to tell you of the time I dropped a pizza-flavored Hot Pocket on my best pair of 1988 stonewashed jeans. And you’re going to say, “Oh, please. Are you going to tell me you were traumatized by that? Have you not heard of club soda?” And I’m going to say, “Really? And then do I follow with a cold water rinse?” And you’re going to say, “Yes. Now are we through here?” And I’m going to say, “Almost. Can you send me a recipe for easy nacho dip?”
Believe me. I’m talking therapy sessions. I’m talking traumatized.
Here it is.
Why did I have to get naked and take showers in junior high gym class?
Why? Why then? Why with no opt-out clause? Who plans this? Is this written in some kind of hygiene curriculum plan set by a torture fiend over at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Very Important Dickweeds?
There we are, us kids, in all our lumpy, bumpy, pimply, disproportionate splendor, not even wanting to look at our own pathetic gimpy selves in the mirror, let alone our friends’.
And then we have to strip naked and jump on a locker room parade float.
For the sake of “us,” I’m going to talk in general asexual, androgynous terms and refrain from mentioning any specifics on this, most especially my specifics. It would drive a wedge into our relationship. There’d be awkwardness. You’d have trouble looking me in the eye again. You’d be reading my next blog post, and all the while you’d be thinking only of this post and wondering, So did (bodily feature) ever enlarge/shrink/sprout hair/stop oozing/fall off/regain proportion/morph into a conjoined twin?
Or maybe you will anyway.
I’ve given birth before and I’m pretty sure at one point up to four nurses crawled inside my uterus. I’m perfectly okay with that and with a locker room parade float — if it were required to bring a person into the world.
But as a kid I used to be terrified of nakedness. For no other reason than the fact that my parents didn’t walk around naked and I didn’t have 28 sisters walking around naked — nor did I watch movies where sorority girls walked around in bras and had pillow fights in a way that would make it seem normal to walk around in bras and have pillow fights. It is normal, isnt it?
I actually hyperventilated myself into a frenzy at age 13 when I thought my male doctor might make me strip naked to do a throat culture. Imagine my reaction when I later learned about the locker room parade float.
Do you notice I don’t have any pictures in here? Feels kind of weird, doesn’t it? Feels a little strange with all of these words and vacant spaces and no photograph hanging around to cozy up to, to block some of this wretched starkness. Feels a little, well, naked.
Would you like something to cover up with? Oh, okay. Here you go. It’s a microscopic picture of a beach blanket.
You didn’t see it? Oh, sorry. I’d offer you something more substantial but then you might get the idea that you can just hide behind it and not do what you’re here to do which is read! Maybe if you scroll down quickly, the words will form a blurry shadow that appears to be a soft fuzzy bathrobe.
Or maybe you can lean against this gray text box? I guess it seems appropriate to leave this here.
Dear Miss Leonard,
I would rather smell like rotten, sweaty 30-day-old gym socks and have my period 365 days out of a year than to have to take a shower for your own sadistic pleasure.
I wish on you an annual pap exam during the day that the entire med school’s first-year student class visits your doctor’s exam room. And may they all be carrying their clipboards. And clicky pens.
Your friend in hygiene,