What happens when a straight guy steps outside his swimwear comfort zone? This post below. Our newest writer Gabe tells about how he put on a speedo for the first time on vacation. Enjoy the post!
‘Old habits die hard.’ The same can be said of attitudes or personal beliefs. Anything that jeopardizes the safe comfort of our small thought bubble universe is usually eradicated quickly. It’s just human nature. After all, no one wants to accept that their deep-held personal beliefs may be wrong.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about… our story is about Speedos!!!
Actually, my introduction is highly relevant to that style of skimpy spandex swimwear. If you’re unsure about why that is then I offer this challenge: put on a Speedo, go to your nearest public beach or pool, and loiter in the sun. Count the number of awkward moments you experience in an hour.
The truth is that, despite centuries of human progress and enlightenment, we are still unable to shake our profound feelings of shame toward our own bodies. This is especially true here in the U.S. where we have John Ashcroft and Super Bowl wardrobe malfunctions to remind us that unclothed human bodies are morally wrong.
It is a perverse dichotomy. We love seeing skin. It is all over our magazine covers, television ads, movies, etc. And yet, we have somehow all silently agreed amongst ourselves to make our disgust known anytime we see it in public. Recall the scene from the movie Meet the Parents in which Ben Stiller is left no alternative but to don a Speedo in front of the entire family and how the group taunted him. The knee-jerk ‘eeewwww’ reaction is so embedded in our culture as to be second nature. It is a learned behavior and it is doing us no favors.
A few years ago my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I made a trip to a resort on the island of St. Lucia. We were staying at a place that catered mostly to couples (lots of newlyweds). Our visit happened to coincide with that of a large group of 30 and 40 something couples from the Netherlands. They were a fun group. Good lord could they drink!
The afternoon of our second day there, we were lying on the sand at the beach behind our bungalow. It was only then I became aware that I was the only man wearing board shorts. My male European counterparts were all wearing speedos. It was actually me, in my family‑friendly swimwear, who was getting the odd looks from people. Or at least I certainly felt that way. Go figure. By the third day I had decided enough was enough. After some encouragement from my GF (and after downing a brightly colored fruity umbrella drink) I strode to the resort shop, bought a pair of black speedos, and “hammocked up.”
It’s important to note here that I swam competitively for many years and was accustomed to wearing a speedo during workouts at a pool. But I had never simply worn one while relaxing on a beach. Nor did I possess the kind of rippled physique that might grant me an exemption from mockery. No, I was stumbling head-on into Greg Focker territory.
But truthfully I felt no stigma or shame. I was lucky enough to find myself in a situation where the social pressure element (the fear of being taunted) was totally eliminated. My girlfriend was not critical at all as she seemed only to encourage me. Once that critical element was removed the only pressure remaining was internal.
And this brings me to perhaps the most important point. A straight man wearing a Speedo may experience thoughts of self-doubt which are as inhibiting as any external social pressure. We are afraid that if we wear a Speedo (and heaven forbid we enjoy it) that it somehow makes us gay. As if Tim Gunn himself descended from the heavens, waived a bejeweled wand, and made a cloud of pink smoke go “poof” on top of our lives. Your next stop is an appearance on Oprah where the topic is straight men who ruined the lives of their unsuspecting female partners.
This is not how it works. Honest. My experience did not turn me gay. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Ignoring the urge to cover up made the personal time with my girlfriend way more adventurous and flirty than it had ever been before. Lacking a better term I refer to it as the ‘Tarzan Effect.’ I felt less schlubby. I actually liked my own body for once, even if I was carrying a keg instead six pack abs. It was this sudden inrush of confidence that made the rest of our stay incredible.
This experience was important to have because it marked a change in my attitude. It was the last time I really worried about what other people thought of me. This letting go has had many positive effects in other parts of my life. The speedo itself is really just a secondary part of the bigger change in thinking that I’m trying to sell here. And that is: be unafraid. Find what it is that makes you feel confident or happy. See how it affects your relationships, intimate or otherwise. Experiment. This body you have is the only one you get. Why not enjoy it?
I don’t expect this sense of adventure or experimentation will be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m sure that there really are people who, absent any social pressure, still really prefer to cover up. And that’s fine too. The only thing I would urge upon those people is to withhold judgement of others who are more adventurous than you. They’re not trying to gross you out. And if it does gross you out, just look away.
If you’re still afraid that a speedo will turn you gay just remember that it’s simply an article of clothing. The inherent traits that you possess are much stronger and are unlikely to change by virtue of a wardrobe choice. If I’m wrong and it does change you then look on the bright side… you’ll get to meet Oprah.
So for the guys reading who are still on the fence, I dare you… “hammock up”