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.

Win, Lose or Don't Care

“Don’t let the assholes win.”

I am so grateful he was eating a mushroom swiss burger when he said this, rather than salad or baked salmon. Beef always lends an aura of machismo authenticity.¹ Swearing does too, but it should be a special privilege, for it is a delicate poetry, requiring tender handling.²

I was admiring his command of traditional manhood when I realized I didn’t agree with him. I didn’t respond, because entering an argument with a man usually results in me realizing I’m not a man. I may be benefiting or suffering from years of not participating in athletics, but I don’t want to think about anything in terms of winning or losing. If I’m in control, I’m responsible. If God’s in control, He’s responsible. We could introduce pre-destination and free will into the discussion, but let’s not mix liquor and beer.

God’s in control. He’s responsible.

This looks and sounds like faith, but it is only fear doing a good impression (Like Cate Blanchett doing Bob Dylan† in I’m Not There, or Cate Blanchett doing Katharine Hepburn‡ in The Aviator, or Cate Blanchett doing…*). But – have you ever had faith that wasn’t preceded by fear? Aren’t they conjoined? How can you be seated in the certainty of your worldly circumstances and be filled with faith? Something has to be threatened** for you to even think about it. Ideally, difficult times create dependence on God, which is the definition of freedom.

So…the more you lose, the more you win?


A NOTE ABOUT THE FOOTNOTES: Since my writing is a manic secretary consumed with multi-tasking, the footnote is an effort to quarantine potentially hazardous thought processes. Should they have been ommitted altogether? Possibly, but do you want to be the one to tell them that?

1. Unless, I suppose, you’re a ravenously carniverous sissy; then the beef is petulant and will not lend its aura.

2. Like gluten-free products: “Keep frozen/refrigerated” “Best when toasted” “Microwaving not recommended” “Ask how it is doing before you eat it” “Do not open around wheat products as this creates an inferiority complex”

† That’s gross!

‡ No, that’s gross.

* Me. Now that’s not gross.

**Have a recession! It’s good for you!