We grew up in the 70s. Came of age in the 80s.
It was rad. So rad, we often talk about how rad it all was.
So you know, we edit, but never censor. Not language or ideas or emotion.
In this edition: gymsuits, self-esteem, survival
Zan: Okay, brace yourself. Look what I found. My junior high gymsuit.
Max: Holy shit! The gym onesie. So humiliating. How in the hell do you still have that?
Zan: I don’t know. It seemed liked something I should keep. Maybe because it had my name in felt letters on the back.
Max: I was so self-conscious in that thing that I BEGGED to wear a t-shirt over it. In fact, I insisted and Ms. Leonard came into the locker room and watched me put my regular clothes back on. Remember her, with hair bobbed into a perfect triangle. So awesome. Anyway, at the time, I thought it was super creepy, but she was checking for signs of abuse.
Zan: I LOVED Ms. Leonard. Didn’t most girls think she was a bitch, but she was actually really cool? And obviously, caring. It’s nice to hear that a teacher cared at that level. But if they really cared they’d have realized how ridiculous a gymsuit was as athletic wear.
Max: Our regular teacher was… Who? Not Mrs. Zenith?
Zan: No. Mrs. Zenith was a tough cookie. We had Mrs. Kimler.
Max: Mrs. Kimler, oh yeah! Huge muscly thighs. Too much of a good thing.
Zan: Way too much. But she forgave me for being mostly unathletic. And complaining endlessly about the guysuit.
Max: Meanwhile, on the other side of the gym, the boys wore black shorts and a green shirt. School colors. I was so jealous. It was so unfair.
Zan: Right. And there we were, in navy blue onsies, having to almost fully undress just to pee. And the top—which was supposed to blouse over the bottoms—would get twisted or snagged on equipment.
Max: Well, I had huge boobs. Not gymsuit compatible.
Zan: I had a tummy and I remember Mrs. Kimler poking middle and calling me Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Max: WHAT? That’s horrible. You were skinny.
Zan: Skinny fat. At my middle. With lean appendages. I’m pulling out the scrapbook.
Zan: Me. What a dumbass. She said fondly and lovingly.
Max: You were not. The thing is, it’s bad enough to go through puberty looking like a zit-covered alien, but then to force us into form-fitting shit left over from the 1950s?
Zan: Right. Thirty years later and no one figured out how jacked that suit was? With that neckline—itchy and fake feminine—and that piping—why? And why make fake fucking pockets? Give me some real pockets, at least, so I have a place to tuck my hands while I’m bowing my head in shame.
Max: I was just so bothered by the tightness of it that I didn’t care much how it looked. And, yes, the key word is shame. We were supposed to all look the same. No individuality, no calling attention to any of those nasty girl parts that we weren’t to talk about. Ever.
Zan: Exactly, but the fabric actually showed all the bits. Remember how we’d raid the lost and found and wear neckties or vests or mismatched shoes just to buck the system. I wanted to be unique and I wanted to distract from how oddly revealing the suit was.
Max: Because it was tight.
Zan: Made to fit a fictitious girl.
Max: Yes. I remember being sad when I first saw it. Thinking of the girls who could wear anything and look beautiful or perfect. Even in that horrible thing. For other kids, well, it was hard enough trying to fit in.
Zan: I dreaded it too. Felt scared to wear it because my sisters complained how ugly it made a person. I had no boobs and crooked teeth and didn’t need another reason to feel weird. So, did you care about being “pretty” or “beautiful” or did you just want to look cool? I cared a lot about looking cool, stylish. All the time. Anywhere. And I did not want my hiney to show.
Max: For me, I cared about being beautiful. It was just something I knew I’d never be. I remember boys always talked to me like I was another boy. Made me sad then. I get it now.
Zan: I knew I’d never be beautiful either. I could accept that. I just wanted an identity. MY identity. I actually liked when boys treated me like a boy. I felt respected. Equal. Still, they scared me. Their judgment scared me. I didn’t want to be defined by a boy.
Max: I’ve pointed this out before, but you did okay. You fit in.
Zan: Well, I didn’t have stand-out good looks or the best clothes, but I had some confidence. Which was really defiance. I’ve always been sensitive to the nuances in people’s behavior. And my own. Even back then I understood that most kids didn’t feel awesome about themselves. At all. There were probably only a few kids who truly felt attractive in all aspects. Some who got deemed “popular” clung to that and tried to make the rest of us feel unworthy. But they were fucking idiots with no good ideas. Those were kids I had to stand up to—shaking in my boots—and let know they couldn’t define me. Learned to do that in the family unit and sometimes that behavior made me uncool with the “cool” kids. Truth is, I was nerdy, silly, immature, and unsure, but I could see through the roles kids adopted or were given. Maybe it gave me a slight leg up. But I never shared those feelings with you. We were kids. I didn’t know how.
Max: There was a lot we didn’t say, I agree.
Zan: If I could go back in time, I’d tell you I saw your charm, wit, and a cleverness. I saw how you were sweet and edgy.
Max: I’ve distracted you from the topic at hand. Gymsuits. Go.
Zan: You’re gonna breeze over my friendly comments?
Max: I run from emotion. And speaking of running… What sports did you like?
Zan: Okay. I’ll let you off the hook. So. I hated sports. Except golf. And some track. ‘Cause spazzes love to run. But I didn’t really hate sports. I hated gym class.
Max: What about swimming? In high school? I used to change in the bathroom stall, but after class, after the shower, Coach Perkins made us walk by her naked. We were actually graded on showering.
Zan: Like the gym suit, grading on hygiene was left over from the old days. Some Don’t-Be-Mr.-Bungle bullshit. I remember thinking, “Yeah, don’t worry Coach Perkins. I’ll wash my mosquito bite tits and hiney, but at home.”
Max: If I could go back in time, I’d ask why. Why the gymsuit? Why the deeply shaming locker room rules? I did love gym and sports, so why ruin it?
Zan: We just had to get through it.