So, I’ve finished my workout at the local YMCA, and there are five guys in the locker room. One has just exited the shower, and he stands in front of the benches where the others of us are changing. He is towelling his head, though it is almost bald, and he is standing in front of us, his genitalia proudly displayed. Then, he walks back and forth from the mirror and hair dryers to the lockers, again and again. His privates make a disturbing slapping sound against his thighs, but he doesn’t seem to care or notice.
Another man, small, simian, with hair covering most of his torso and back is in the shower, singing. He is very bad, yet he sings at the top of his lungs, rap lyrics of all things: “You silly rabbit/I can’t make you my habit…” At times, he emits a resounding belch and even a wet fart that echoes in the ceramic chambers of the shower room. Two guys by their lockers down from mine are talking. One says “the wife” is waiting for him with his favorite meal, some pasta dish. He looks like Tony Soprano after too many cannoli. He remarks when his friend next to him asks him how many plates he put on the bar to bench press: “Me,” he intones, “I can do five plates….of spaghatz, that is…” He thinks he has made the greatest joke in the world and looks at me for approval.
Finally, guy number five is named Reg. He is approaching sixty, and he always walks around in a wife- beaterT-shirt, telling everyone he can bench 300 lbs. It may be true. Reg is ripped, and he has told the whole room that he takes steroids and HGH supplements from a “reliable” source. The one time he spoke to me directly, he asked me if I didn’t think he had an amazing body for someone his age. “Almost a six pack,” he told me, lifting up his shirt and showing me the rippling muscles. Reg is, in his own words, “putting it to one of the cougars” who works out in the gym at this hour. I once heard him tell anyone who would listen that his latest conquest was so into him because he introduced her to sexual magic that she left her husband of seventeen years. Reg claims that he taught her how to have multiple orgasm, so much so that she would be in a frenzy of sexual ecstasy long after he had finished. In fact, he also said that she would be at his beck and call 24/7 and all he had to do was call or text her to say he was coming over, and she would be waiting on her knees, ready to unzip him and go to work. “She was just like a young bird,” he said,“with her beak open.”
I wonder if all of this is a guy thing. Do men never grow up, and do they always need to try to be the alpha male when gathered together? And why do they check out each other’s privates when they shower, often standing inches away from the next naked fellow? Do women do this down the hall? Do they talk about sexual exploits, their sexual prowess, and their habits? Do they blow their noses in the shower, belch, and fart with impunity? And am I weird for finding all of this juvenile and revolting?
I have finished my shower, dressing quickly while turning my back to the others. I avoid conversation, avoid the challenge of floppy penises and loud barnyard noises. Perhaps I have been ruined by reading literature. I appreciate a good erotic moment like most, but let it be from a Henry Miller or even an Anais Nin who are able to look at the nuances of sexual feelings, and who are able to laugh at their own human foibles. No, I don’t think there is a soul in the locker room of the local YMCA who would understand or laugh if I told them that the Middle English for horseback riding is “pricking,” and that someone who is a good rider is a “prickasore”. I don’t think Chaucer would play well to this crowd of fatuous cretins.
But then, just before I leave, someone new, someone who I have never seen before comes in and mumbles to himself: “Man, I ache in the places where I used to play.” I’m startled. Who would think Leonard Cohen would be referenced among naked apes? As I pass by on my way out, I take a brief look. The speaker is an older, balding man. He stands discreetly towelling himself, covering most of his privates.
We establish eye contact for a brief moment, my eyes on his face, ignoring the dark curl of public hair half hidden by a towel. The shower room echoes with the sound of someone blowing his nose and emitting a deep phlegmy rattle. One row down, Reg beats his chest and flexes his pecs to the mirror, to no one in particular.
It’s a guy thing, I think, as I grab my towel with the lavish flower imprints on it and walk out into the sunless afternoon.