You've got to be kidding me. I know times have changed, but I hope this is some kind of joke. Based on an article I read in the New York Times things sure are changing-for the worse. The Times put the story on the front page headlined: "Students still sweat, they just don't shower." The article almost reads like a gag, but it turns out to be a trend among teenagers that's catching on across the country. What's hard to accept is the fact that kids just don't want to shower after they have participated in a gym class and other athletic events. That's a real puzzler because to me it's such a pleasure to take a shower after a good workout, even if there are others in the shower room. But according to the article, that's a generational thing, and it's certainly not the way it is today.
The story was datelined West Dundee, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and the reporter, Dirk Johnson, starts off with this observation: "They might wear nose rings, shave their heads or sport tattoos on their who-knows-where. But among most American high school students these days, one thing is considered way too strange: showering with classmates after gym." That sets the tone for what's to come later. Students are quoted saying things like: "Standing around together naked? Oh no, man. People would feel really uncomfortable about that." Another offers an alternative solution: "You just cake on the deodorant and hope you aren't going to smell too bad."
But Judy Young, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a group that includes teachers and coaches, isn't alarmed by the trend. "It's a new cultural thing," she says. "They simply have a different routine than we did." She contends the avoidance of showering at school isn't really all that new, saying many of those who are now in middle age either had notes from their parents or their doctors to avoid showering when they were in school. Still, the reluctance on the part of today's teens does puzzle many coaches and teachers. "These guys don't want to undress in front of each other," one teacher said. "I just don't get it. When I started in '74 nobody even thought about things like this."
Two years ago students who didn't want to take showers at school gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union. At that time the ACLU threatened to file suit in federal court over a mandatory shower policy in Hollidaysburg, Pa. The case revolved around a shy, overweight girl who simply felt humiliated undressing in front of her classmates. The lawyer who represented the girl stated his case succinctly: "Unless a student is drawing flies, it's none of the school's business." The school district dropped its policy, and the lawyer claims the response he received was overwhelming. "In 25 years of doing ACLU work-cases on prayer in the schools, you name it-I never had any response like this," he said. "People remembered their own humiliation."
This doesn't look like a passing fad. According to the Times article, many schools now make taking a shower after gym optional, and others are considering taking the showers out because they're never used.
The story that really stopped me though was one from 1994 involving Homewood-Flossmoor High School in suburban Chicago. It was the year the school won the Illinois state title in football. Throughout the season the coach said even after grueling 21/2-hour games many players, even though covered in mud and sweat, would wait to go home and take a shower in private instead of going back to the school. The coach was as puzzled as I am. As he put it: "Used to be when you get sweaty and stinky, you wanted to take a shower."
I know we're living in an era of change, but I sure hope personal hygiene and cleanliness haven't gone out of style.
Clean is keen,Charles S. Lauer