Welcome to my fiftieth blog post!!! I did it! Yaaaaaaaaay. Thank you to everyone who has read my posts so far. And no thank you if you aren’t reading my blog. I can definitively say that if you’ve never read my blog then you aren’t my friend and I don’t like you. Because you aren’t reading this, you won’t know I’m trash talking you and you can’t beat me up. And if you are reading this, you’re now my friend! Everyone wins! Except for the people reading this. You’ve officially lost. So yeah, you’re a saint if you’re reading and you’re the worst if you aren’t. Time to talk about my greatest fear!
The year is 2013. I am eleven years old. I am at the YMCA and I’ve been swimming for three hours. My skin is pruny, my eyes are raw, my hair is stiff with chlorine. My ears are filled with water that won’t come out for at least a day. My lungs are tired from all the exercise, and my stomach is full of accidentally swallowed water that probably contains somebody else’s urine. As I leave the water shivers run down my spine. Three hours ago the air in the room was warm and balmy. Now it’s as cold as ice. The speckled floor pokes and rips at my overly tender feet as I go to retrieve my towel. It’s a painful reminder that I once again forgot my flip flops. Despite this, I will continue to forget my flip flops until the day that I die. My Amazing Spider-Man themed beach towel offers little comfort. It also seems to repel water, rather than actually drying me off. As I trudge out the door and begin my uncomfortable walk to the locker room, I shoot envious glares at the children my age who actually have friends to hang out with them.
The air is even colder out here. But I barely notice. I’m too anxious because I know what’s coming. In a futile attempt to delay the inevitable, I slow my pace and start looking at the surrounding rooms with a quizzical look, so if anyone looks at me they’ll assume I’m lost. The first stop on my very slow tour is the sauna. Just looking at the sign makes me thirsty. And now I have to speed back up again, because that distinct sauna smell is making me feel woozy and lightheaded. Great. That’s just what I need. Next I pass the Zumba class. I know that’s what it is because they only play one song when they work out. I don’t know what the song is called, but I know that there’s no singing in it, and it sounds like a Prince song. Well, that’s not exactly right. It sounds like what a Prince song would sound like if Prince was a middle-aged white woman who loved to play the tambourine. I’m so busy humming Raspberry Beret that it takes me a second to realize that I’m at the locker room door. I remind myself that I have survived this before, and it’ll all be over so fast as long as I stay calm. I may be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. But I can do this. So I take a deep breath… and enter.
As soon as I walk in I begin a staring contest with the floor. I can’t avoid my discomfort, but I can at least try to avoid eye contact. But of course that won’t be an option. My locker is right in between two heavyset gentlemen in their late sixties. Neither of them are wearing any clothes whatsoever, nor are they making any effort to change that. And now I have no choice but to get in the middle of all of this. The two of them are in the middle of a conversation about some golf buddy they have, and the one on the right is currently performing a reenactment of some amazing swing this guy made the other day. And every time he makes a swinging gesture, his entire body shakes and wobbles, like a plate of geriatric jello. I focus on getting my shampoo and body wash out of my locker and then shuffle away as quick as I can muster.
It seems as if my troubles may be over for now. I’m the only one in the showers, which I’ve always despised the layout of, by the way. There aren’t any stalls or curtains. Everything is out in the open. This is hell for a repressed little boy like me. My intention is to just have a quick shower and get out before anyone can see me, but somebody out there must not like me. In walks five gentlemen in their seventies and eighties who are fresh out of the sauna, followed closely by my locker buddies. Shortly after a child who looks to be about my age joins the fray with a man who I assume is his father. The child seems as repressed and uncomfortable as I am. His father doesn’t seem to notice. There are many ways to bond and form friendships with people. Communally showering with nine other guys in a gym locker room is not one of them. The only thing I can do to avoid making this situation worse is close my eyes. It doesn’t really matter where I look otherwise, if I don’t close my eyes I’m going to end up seeing something I didn’t want to see. Something wrinkly, saggy, and covered in hair.
I finish showering and practically run out of the shower and back to my locker, barely toweling off before throwing my clothes on and bursting out of the locker room. I take a deep breath. I have reentered regular society. Right now it doesn’t matter that I will inevitably have to repeat this experience next weekend, and each weekend after that multiple times over. It doesn’t even matter that I’m still sopping wet and covered in copious amounts of chlorine. Because right now, I’m free.
To be clear, it isn’t the way these men look that makes me so unbelievably uncomfortable. I’m not one to shame people for looking the way they do. What makes me uncomfortable is the blatant confidence these men show around children 1/8th their age. I get that they know the drill and they’ve been going to the gym forever. But I haven’t! I don’t enjoy showering and changing around other guys! At least when I go to gym class it’s different because nobody ever gets fully naked. They’re all my age and so they’re all pretty much just as repressed as I am.
By the way, I picked this specific time as an example. I get just as uncomfortable now when I go to the gym, and it’s been eight years! Something needs to change. We as a society should not be forcing tweenagers who are still very much uncomfortable with their own bodies to coexist around men who are perfectly fine with letting it all hang. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one out there who has this totally legitimate fear. Being in those locker rooms is very traumatizing. I could have been way more vivid with my descriptions, because there are so many things I’ve seen in there that I can’t get out of my head. And also if I went above a 2 on John’s Scale of Vivid and Disgusting Descriptions, it would make everybody reading this vomit. So yeah, that’s the one thing I fear most on this Earth. But it’s not too late to change. I may have been through the trenches. That doesn’t mean others have to.
Thank you again for supporting this blog, if in fact you do. I’m frankly shocked that I’ve made it to fifty posts without a single person yelling at me to stop. So until that happens, I’m going to keep going! And maybe I’ll write something slightly less traumatizing for the 100th post. We’ll see! Anyway, thank you and have a great day!