Fear and Loathing in Las Locker Room

Gay Guy,

To follow-up on your last post, I've minimized the locker room issue in my life. I hate them. It's not that I never visit a gym, though it is rare, but I never go before or during work, when I'd have to shower and get right on to the next thing.

I'm not ultra-private, or a homophobe, or even a germaphobe for that matter (though I thought that might be your undoing, GG). Like our commenter, Tig, I wish that we could relax a little about non-sexual nudity (props to Watchman Dr. Manhattan).

And look, even if someone WAS on the make, the locker room is not the best runway to strut your stuff. Florescent lighting, aerosol deodorant, old men wheezing (and worse) from the next bench, the awkward way we dress without ever sitting down... not doing it for me, sorry. I have no idea how you're getting thrown off-kilter.

I wish it wasn't a big deal. But my locker-room-phobia is easy to diagnose: I attended public school.

By all outward appearances it was fairly idyllic. Our classrooms were well appointed and conducive to learning, including the gymnasium. Somehow, none of these standards applied to the boys' locker room. To put it in pop culture terms, it had the shadowy, steely, wet aesthetic of an Aliens movie and its transient population lived, like the Road Warrior, in a constant state of anarchy and mayhem. Supervision was badly needed and completely non-existent. Even the bonds of our social cliques offered no protection as the niceties of society faded into a more primal mode of survival.

Though we all felt physically vulnerable in our various states of undress, much of the damage was emotional, as no detail was off-limits to commentary. Bad hair, bad skin? Your day is ruined. Developing early, developing late? You are now filled with self-doubt. God forbid that there was anything at all notable about your junk... you will be called on it, so just keep a therapist on standby.

This is why pubescent boys can be so hurtful. They are hormonally off-balance and always posturing for the herd. They think: If I can say or do something that hurts you and strengthens me, then I'm moving in the right direction. Sure, these urges are repressed or forgotten by most mature men. Polite society is far more rewarding than the primal scramble. But tween and teen boys don't have all the filters in place yet and some will never develop them at all.

Not that there wasn't real physical danger there, too. I was once a victim of the "1,000 tiny cuts" metaphor as I was cornered in my undies and gang-scraped by many fast moving ACE pocket combs. Bizarre but true, and quite painful, actually. Others were more traditionally beaten and left behind, and only when the in/out headcount didn't match, did supervision ever appear. Maybe the teachers didn't want to seem skeevy by hanging out when the kids got showered and changed, but we paid a price for their absence. And I've never fully recovered from the trauma.

TMI? I don't know. But, I admit that I'm damaged goods on this topic.

I've never bought the argument that gays who are out can't succeed in the military because straight guys will be uncomfortably ogled when spaces for grooming might need to be shared. The (gasp!) horror of being silently noted as attractive by a maybe-gay guy is not what keeps me away. I completely understand that almost everyone is on their best behavior in the locker rooms I see today. But I also understand an apprehension that is amplified by feeling both vulnerable and uncomfortable.

But I'm functional. When I have to use a locker room, I move quickly, keep my head down, and never carry a comb. And like you, I don't bring friends along for the fun.

Final thought: Maybe things are different in Boystown, but out here in Straightsville the gyms and locker rooms are not exactly "Pulchritude on Parade." Most folks are at the gym because they are trying to get somewhere with their bodies, not because they've already arrived. If you want to feel better about yourself and simply look better in comparison, join a gym out here.

--Straight Guy

4 comments:

Straight in Upstate said...

Are you two shilling for therapists by uncovering repressed memories? It may be working.

My immediate reaction was, hell no, I'm not comfortable, and it hearkens back to public school. Then I realized I was less self-conscious once I started being on a team, in high school and college. (My gym class experience prior to that was being picked last for everything.) Naked self-esteem was tied to clothed self-esteem - I'm a contributing member of a team, I'm accepted, I can deal with walking around naked.

The one period I belonged to a gym was in graduate school almost 20 years ago. Again, I felt pretty good about myself because I was so stressed and I was doing something beneficial for my sanity. I chatted in the shower and the sauna and ran into people from school along the way. It was 100% eye contact, I wasn't checking guys out, but I was okay with it.

I stick with my first reaction: I don't think straight guys are inherently more comfortable being naked around other guys. But I guess I'm more comfortable with it than I thought. I'll ask my therapist, I start next week - thanks boys, hope you're getting your cut.

Gay Guy said...

SG: Savaged by an angry flock of Ace combs? Who are you, Tipi Hendren? I've heard of plenty of forms of adolescent torture, but that's new.

I'm fine with the locker room, but only when it's all strangers or at most nodding acquaintances. I can't talk to someone if either of us is nude. I don't know where to put my eyes.

And, let's face it. We take a glance at each other's stuff. You just can't help it. I can only assume this is true for straights. Maybe I am wrong. Please inform.

I don't care if a stranger looks at me. I don't care what he thinks. Someone I know? Nope, going to avoid that image and the potential for judgment.

When I am at the gym and nekkid, you may not talk to me. I don't understand guys who can have a conversation adorned only in a towel. Or less.

Speaking of towels: I love, love, love it when straight men change in and out of their underwear under a towel. Like somehow their peniles are going to -- I don't know what--if another guy catches at glance. Next to a wedding ring, changing under a towel wrapped around his waist is the a great straight guy tip off.

I am going through my bathroom drawer know to capture and toss any ace pocket combs that might be just waiting for me to fall asleep before then scrape my skin until it bleeds.

Kathryn said...

Oh, SG....your story gives new meaning to the thought that "kids can be cru-el". I don't blame you for being traumatized. I couldn't resist checking with my sons on the state of public school gym class, as I have both a tween and a teen. They both say no-one has time to shower, as they're given only 5 mins to change. Tween says they all wear boxers and they're loud & raucous. Teen says the air is so heavy with Axe cologne, it burns your eyes.
It's natural curiosity to look, tho, right? I mean...same as when you're at the beach.

Straight Guy said...

Upstate, you are correct, I played on a teams as well and the atmosphere was much lighter. The doom and gloom scenarios had to do with more with gym class, where all were forced to participate.

K, in ye olden dayes, gym uniforms and showering were part of the rules, or at least they checked for wet hair on the way out.

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