In the locker room at YMCA. (Chase those singing villagers out of your head.)
An awkwardly arousing wrestling match of sickening and exciting starts in my stomach at the sight of male flesh exposed everywhere – some of it arranged in piles, some in wrinkles, some in slabs, some in shapes. But really, there are only two categories: The men who should never take their clothes off, and the men who should never put their clothes on. And this man, who can’t take his clothes off or put his clothes on around those men.
But shoes – I can do shoes. Unlace, loosen, but not remove. I am not even making sock contact with that floor. How absurd it would be to have athlete’s foot and not be an athlete.
Belt – I can do belt. Unbuckle, slide, brandish. Just try to challenge my manhood, just try. I’ll wrap this belt around your neck so fast – unless you’re into that – in which case I’ll beat you over the head with my iPod. It’s a 20G. The fucker is old and heavy. You’re not into that, are you.
I’m warily eyeing my pants when I realize this is like the nightmare where I haven’t studied and there’s a test. This metaphor is shrewder than any Shakespearean heroine. I haven’t been in a locker room since HIGH SCHOOL – that crock-pot filled with fear and seasoned with hormones.
My High School had a Young Men’s Christian Association. Not affiliated with the national organization, they focused less on being Christ and more on being an ass. They excluded me to identify them. I identified me by their exclusion. It wasn’t a fair trade. But I got out of there. And I got in here.
I’m thinking about all of this and still looking at my pants when I think I should look up. I do.
None of the men are looking at me.
Many times I’ve identified me by their exclusion.
This post made me feel like a middle schooler again. You can feel the tension and the self-centered perspective that only taking your clothes off in the midst of a uncaring strangers can produce. On a more practical note, it gets easier over time.
Don’t remind me of how much I hate my body now… or how much I hated my body then. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like I’m on display at the gym. I feel like I’m on display all the time even though now I’m aware I am not the eye-candy I once once. The hourglass is distorted.
Two years ago I was in Toronto on a mission trip, and we went to a public pool. Canadians are apparently much LESS modest in locker rooms than Americans. Plus, they strike up conversations with strangers, while completely (and apparently, comfortably) naked. It was a terrifying experience for me as a leader, and for my poor little sheltered Christian hs students. We may never recover. Thanks for the flashback. Heh.
Love the thing about your ipod, btw. It IS heavy.
I know it is not the most comfortable thing in the world to revisit the painful moments of the past, but it can be a sort of exorcism if done right. I am sorry you had to face those aches in school.
It sounds like you’re still angry about what happened. That’s understandable, but try to let go of the anger so that your former tormentors won’t keep haunting you.
Happy Easter, pal.
Ben Parman!!! This is lovely 🙂 Thank you for posting. We enjoyed it. When I see you next, I want more stories on these horror-locker-room experiences with wrinkles and crazy-shaped skin.
I’m addicted. And it’s your fault.
I just now read the title close enough to realize the significance of the title. Excellent, excellent.
My post is naked and waiting for your words.