“Can I ask you a question?” A strange man asks in the men’s gym locker room. I hesitate, questioning the direction this dialogue will take. Why did he wait until I had taken off my clothes to approach me? And you can’t ask to ask a question because you just did whether I wanted you to or not.
“Um, sure…” I respond, undecided if it would be worse for his shifty eyes to connect with my own or for them to keep wandering.
“I really like your hair. What’s the name of that style?” Seriously?
“It’s a bun.”
“A bun…? I like it…” Please stop talking.
“It’s really nice.” Ughhh.
This guy. I don’t strike up casual locker room conversations because I have an irrational fear of men thinking about me like I thought about this guy. This fear is probably rooted in my high school locker room experiences where all the hormonally raging teenage boys would pretend to be gay and then call you a faggot if you looked anywhere but at the ground in front of you.
Stupid locker rooms. Locker rooms bring out the lingering primitive tendencies lurking under the surface of our refined evolution. Pinching and twisting nipples, pulling underwear up ass-cracks and towel-whipping. In a tragic twist of a wet towel slap, one student even lost his left testicle. It’s all fun and homoerotic games until somebody loses a testicle.
I never participated, but heard of the secret circle jerks that happened in the locker room showers. One can see how confusing it would be for a closeted gay boy growing up in my high school. Being gay was abhorrent, but pretending to be was all the rage.
The other day, after my workout, I walked into the men’s locker room at my gym and was presented with a very attractive man lounging in the opening to the shower area, legs spread shamelessly as he vigorously, both arms above his head, towel-dried his hair. The movement sent tremors downward, making other areas shake and dance. Seriously? Yes, he was hot, but it was still a dick move. Literally. It was the most obvious call for attention, but you could tell he was the type that would say, “What are you looking at?” What are you shaking in my face, shithead.
The locker room is a zoo that requires a certain amount of detachment to navigate efficiently. You have the tropical bird preening and puffing up his feathers; you have the monkeys playing with their dongs; you have the curious giraffe sticking his neck where it doesn’t belong; you have the grumpy rhinoceros that everyone avoids; and you have the old turtle that spends most of his day there. I wonder what kind of animal the others think I am?