Everything about going to the gym and exercising regularly is getting easier, except integrating myself into locker room culture. This polished tile jungle, with its strange social conventions and endless opportunities for social awkwardness tortures me daily.
It probably won't surprise to learn that I've never been especially comfortable in locker rooms. As I'm sure it is for many former teenage outcasts, my issues with gym locker rooms have their genesis in junior high school. Trauma just isn't a strong enough word to describe forcing a 13 year old boy to stand naked in a grimy shower area, trying to avoid stepping in numerous puddles of rusty water, joined by a group of hormonally advanced adolescent alphas, who have just spent the last 45 minutes whipping dodge balls at your head. You add in some snarling attack dogs and a few stress positions and you're looking at Guantanamo Bay: Junior High School Edition.
So clearly I'm bringing more than a duffel bag full of baggage into my modern day locker room experience.
The first challenge when I go into the locker room is deciding where I want to set up shop for my undressing and re-dressing. I treat this much the same way I go about picking a seat at the movies. I'm looking for a spot where I'm most unlikely to have someone sit right next to me. Unfortunately, unlike the movies I can't just throw a jacket over the seat next to me and pretend like my friend is out getting popcorn. Still, after some research I've discovered that the further you get from the showers the less populated the area. So I usually set up in the far corner away from the showers. This does require a slightly longer walk after my shower, but it's like having a nice house in the suburbs. The privacy is ultimately worth the commute.
Okay, that covers the coming. Now I've had my swim, my dip in the whirlpool, and my death defying 45 seconds in the steam room. It's time for the going.
The going begins with a nice shower, and here is where we find my only hard and fast rule. I require a corner shower spot. I can't, and won't, shower in the middle. I'm the same way when it comes to bathroom urinals. I do not need a wing-man for these two activities. In truth, I'd really like to use the private shower stall with the curtain and the bench, but I have a suspicion there is an unwritten rule that it is to be used by the older guests. Which brings us to the shrunken, withered elephant in the room.
Let me state very clearly and unequivocally here. I do not particularly like looking at geriatric penises. That being said, I do have a certain medical curiosity regarding how well this particular “apparatus” holds up under the ravages of time. So, I take a peek here and there purely out of scientific inquiry. Does this make me abnormal, or a deviant? I don't feel like a deviant... Look, I'm not a doctor. I don't know any doctors. If I want to conduct a little field research by briefly (very briefly) checking out some fossilized geezer junk I don't see the big crime. The way I look at it, I'm just preparing myself for my own golden years.
Of course no locker room experience would ever be complete without bawdy locker room talk. Luckily there's not much bawdy talk going on in my locker room. I would imagine the age of sexual harassment suits has put a clamp down on this phenomenon. But that doesn't mean I get to sit there dripping dry in silent shame and exhaustion, because the talk goes on. Only instead of bawdy talk it's boring talk. The two predominant topics seem to be the stock market and deficiencies in local professional sports organizations. “So, how would you fix the Seahawks defense?” Look, I'm just trying to get dried, dressed and out of this flabby flesh factory as fast as possible. The Seahawks are going to have to work out their own problems.
So there's a slice of locker room life for you, courtesy of my anxiety-ridden brain. We didn't even cover the public application of creams, powders, and salves or the whole body hair situation. Another time. The jungle produces bountiful fruit.