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Monday, December 10, 2012

Going Gallic

Closing the book on my Gallic project, I'm compelled to share a True Story (TM) of my youth.  It seems like a satisfactory exclamation point to the topic, so here it goes.

After graduating from High School, my friends and I spent our summer nights hanging out before we went our separate ways.  In Phoenix, Arizona, homes often have a swimming pool on account of the oppressive desert heat. Being teens, we chose to hang out at the house/pool with absentee parents. On this Saturday night,we'd gotten together for a swim party.  Us guys were in the pool and the girls were outside of it, hair and makeup neat, paying us no attention at all.  Our ringleader Jim called us boys together in the deep end and as we tread water, he said softly “On the count of 3, pull off your swimsuits and wave then at the girls!” 

Off went the countdown, “1, 2… 3!!!” Off came my swimsuit and I waved mine wildly at the girls.  Then it hit me, mine was the only one in the air. Before I could comprehend the depths of the treachery I was about to suffer, I was dunked and held under water while my suit was ripped from my hand.  By the time I was allowed up for air, Jim was out of the pool with my suit.  The rest of the guys followed him, hooting and hollering as they paraded my swimsuit through the party to a large tree.  There they hung it from the lowest branch with great ceremony and insults to my intelligence. 

I was straight as an arrow back then but even an arrow bends when enough pressure is applied.  I swam to the edge of the pool and panicked.  Everyone was laughing at me.  They wanted me to beg, no, plead for my swimsuit back.  I knew they wouldn't soon relent.  No, they’d drag the joke out and make me suffer.  The pressure to act grew with the taunts and staring.  I had to put an end to their game. Without fully understanding it at the time, I decided to go Gallic. 
Roman dogs, give me back MY swimsuit!!!  
In a single motion, I lifted myself up out of the pool. I did not run.  I did not trot.  I made no attempt to hide my nakedness. I strode calmly through the crowd with my head up and eyes straight ahead.  I walked as if I were wearing pants.  I knew I could show no weakness, fear or shame.  And it worked.  As soon as I was out of the pool, the laughter and taunts stopped.  The crowd watched in stunned silence as I walked to the tree, pulled my suit down and put them on as as if I were dressing in the privacy of my bedroom.  This was NOT the way the prank was supposed to play out.  Game over. While the long walk is burnished into my memory, I can't remember anything from the rest of that night.  

Livy recorded that the Celts of Asia Minor fought naked: "The Insubres and the Boii wore trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae, in their love of glory and defiant spirit, had thrown off their garments and taken up their position in front of the whole army naked and wearing nothing but their arms... The appearance of these naked warriors was a terrifying spectacle, for they were all men of splendid physique and in the prime of life."

Once in my lifetime, I too was a terrifying spectacle.  Never before or since have I done anything remotely like this.  If surrounded, pressed and hounded by my enemies, I know what to do.  Show no fear, stand tall and go Gallic!  And of course, pants optional!