Way back when I was getting ready to enter the 7th grade, they required all boys to obtain jock straps for P.E. To my shame I was never able to figure out how it worked, even though it certainly isn't that complicated. Recently it suddenly dawned on me in a moment of forehead-smacking clarity that I had confused the "strap" with the "cup," thinking they were one and the same when in fact they are not. Come with me on this lifelong journey from ignorance to understanding.
It was during the last dying days of the summer of 1983. My dad had taken me to Army Navy, which is a dreadful place for a "sensitive" boy to find himself during the nightmare blur of days leading up to the first day of junior high. Most of the Army Navy is devoted to fishing, hunting, camping, and sporting. Lots of plaid, brown, beige, and camouflage. I was more of a unicorn, Scratch 'n' Sniff sticker, stuffed animal kind of boy, so I totally felt like I was in enemy territory.
I swear no one told me about the cup. Or if they did, they didn't bother to explain it was something separate that is placed into the jock strap pouch that goes over your junk. I really had no idea. I was in a blind haze of denial, mortified that I had to go out and buy something specifically for my PENIS & BALLS. It seemed like a form of torture, an intentional humiliation forced on me by the public school system. I was pretty sure girls did not have a checklist that included tampons and Gynelotrimin.
I resentfully stomped into the Army Navy dressing room and glared at the ugly beige standard issue jock strap. It looked kind of like an old pair of underpants that had fallen apart from wear until all that was left was the elastic band, and that mysterious pouch. A pouch facing OUTWARD with snaps to fasten it shut. How the hell was my google supposed to fit into that? And get SNAPPED IN?!
My bits were firmly attached to my body (still are), and as far as I knew detachable penises only existed in novelty songs.* It was baffling.
"How is everything going in there?" my dad called from outside the dressing room.
"Fine!" I blurted, turning the jockstrap inside-out and yanking it up my thighs to see if that made more sense. It didn't, because I was still convinced my junk was supposed to go INTO the snapping pouch, otherwise what's it for?
"You need any help in there?"
"NO!" I screeched, stuffing my balls into the pouch and getting horribly tangled in the strap. Wrong. All wrong. I gave up and pulled it back off.
I emerged grimly from the dressing room, insisting everything was great, the strap is just nifty, let's GO, Dad.
On the first day of junior high my best friend and I hunkered in the corner of the boys' locker room, wide-eyed and disgusted, trying to appear as inconspicuous and NOT gay as possible. We both rolled our eyes and shook our heads at the idea of the jock strap and agreed we would NEVER wear one of those things. I don't remember if I actually threw it away, or just kept it in my P.E. locker in case I ever had to prove I had one.
It should go without saying that I couldn't WATCH the other boys and observe how they donned their straps and dealt with the pouch, any more than I could just walk up to one of them and say, "Excuse me, may I ask you for some help with my jock?" For a bullied little pudgy gay nerd, the only way to even SURVIVE in P.E. was to keep your head down, not make eye contact with anyone, and strive for invisibility.
A few weeks ago I caught some of "America's Funniest Videos," and saw a disturbing clip of two little league boys knocking the baseball against their athletic cup-protected crotches. A little light went off in my brain. Athletic cup. An athletic cup is one of those hard plastic thingies, which must be what goes...
INTO THE POUCH!
My jaw dropped. I smacked my forehead. Not having been an athletically inclined boy, the idea of special gear to protect your crotch was just never a practical reality, and not something that ever would have occurred to me. And if either of my parents had started to say, "Do you understand what a jock strap is for?" I would have interrupted, "YES, I understand everything, I have no questions, now can we talk about something ELSE?"
I guess in today's world a scared little queer boy faced with jock strap uncertainty could use the internet for help. But then his parents would probably just find pictures of men in jock straps in the family computer's history, and that would spark a whole dilemma of its own.
*please excuse my creative license, "Detachable Penis" by King Missile didn't come out until 1992.