Sweat, Showers, and Secrets
I guess it didn’t really start in high school. It’s not magic. It doesn’t happen overnight or even over the course of a single year. It’s gradual, and who you become is the cumulative of your years. For me, though, I guess I first realized I was different in junior high. My story may start in high school, but to understand it, you have to know who I was when that story started.
Like I said, it was in middle school when I knew I was different. As the other boys hit puberty, I just stayed the same. Or that’s how I saw it, at least. They hit growth spurts; I didn’t. I knew what was supposed to happen. I knew that I was supposed to grow body hair, get bigger, and grow into a young man. But I didn’t. I kept waiting, and it never came.
What body hair I grew was wispy, soft, and fine. Unless you were up close, you couldn’t even see it. And forget about facial hair. My features never sharpened, and my body never really grew. I guess it did, a little, but not like the other boys.
But all of that was banished to the back of my mind. I just didn’t think about it. I would hit puberty at some point. Everyone did.
And then there was the day of the shower. I remember it so well.
Now, I don’t know how other kids grew up, but we weren’t required to take showers after gym class. I don’t know why. Looking back, I guess we must have smelled something awful for the rest of the day. But that’s neither here nor there.
We actually had showers in the locker room, though we never used them. Until that one day, near the end of junior high…
To this day, I don’t know why we were required to take a shower that day. Maybe it was in preparation for high school where it would be an everyday occurrence. Or it could have been just the coach’s whim. But on that day, well, he made us take a shower at school.
I guess I was a bit nervous going into it. I knew I was smaller than the other guys, but it had never been an issue before. Being naked, though…that seemed like it would make it worse, like it would throw my small body into stark contrast with theirs. I hesitated, but with a deep breath, I shed my shirt. Then, I pulled off my gym shorts. And finally, slipped my underpants down my slim, hairless legs. Quickly, though, I wrapped my towel around my waist, and went to the showers.
I tried to keep my eyes up. I didn’t want to see the other boys showering, but I couldn’t help it. My eyes wandered. Just a glance here or there, it was quickly apparent that I just didn’t stack up.
What was I going to do? I couldn’t let them see. Would they even look? No, they didn’t want to see another naked guy any more than I did.
It’s kind of a funny thing, when you look at it objectively. Why should I, or any other guy for that matter, be ashamed or proud of the size of his…parts? It’s not like we can control it. But even knowing that, those of us who are underendowed can’t help but get that feeling in the pits of our stomachs. Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. It’s all there, knotted up and fighting to unravel.
I froze, then and there, in the showers, clinching my towel like it was my one and only shield from a life of embarrassing taunts. So what did I do?
What would any boy do? I turned around, faced my locker (so no one could see), and I put my clothes back on. Crisis was averted. What were they going to do? Call me out for not showering? No one even noticed.
I tried to forget it, but for that entire day, my stink (why hadn’t I noticed how much an hour’s worth of physical exertion could make a person sweat?) followed me around like a red flag. It told everyone of my fear, of my shame. I was too afraid to shower at school.
But at least they didn’t know my secret.