"There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them."
Actually, this isn't one of them but if the imagery of middle-aged naked men parading naked around a locker room is unappealing or distasteful to you, you might want to look away or at the least, avert yours eyes. Because that's what I've been doing the last several weeks. Well, not entirely.
In an early blog post titled "Aging Gracefully", I wrote about my decision to join a fitness center, a gym for short, to change up my exercise regime after being just a long-distance runner for the past 34 years. And how for most of those 34 years I assumed running would be enough to last my lifetime, and that I didn't do gyms, and that I thought I could run forever. And that I was wrong and the time had come to make a change.
I'm pleased to report that so far it has been going better than I expected, that I'm already seeing progress and that I'm actually enjoying the challenge and change in routines. I had built up a long list of reasons why I didn't do gyms: too many people fighting over the equipment, too many beefcakes strutting around like peacocks, too much inconvenience when just throwing on your running shorts and shoes was all I needed before, and the list goes on.
To my surprise (and relief) what I discovered was not at all what I expected: there is a wide range of diversity in age, gender, physical condition, and fitness level at the gym I joined. Everyone seems to be there for their own reasons and goals- to get fit, improve their health, wellness, or whatever. And I have to admit I kind of like the feeling of being in a place where we are all working towards something positive even if we don't know each other.
Here comes the part where you might want to look away. What I wasn't prepared for and that I hadn't anticipated was the naked guy part. The walking into the locker room on my first night, ready to meet my trainer and get to work and the first thing I see are naked guys. Everywhere. There's nothing quite like being a 62 year old and feeling like you are right back in the first week of junior high again. Yep, required showers in PE class with Mr. Landis sitting there checking off your name as you exit the shower, sans towel.
I got a rude awakening in male culture when I transferred from the Catholic grade school into the public junior high school in 7th grade. I had no prior experience in locker room etiquette. I'm still resentful at my Dad for not teaching me about jock straps. And it was standard operating procedure to pile into an open shower room after PE with a bunch of other naked guys, in this case, classmates.
I instinctively learned that you always keep your eyes up, never looking down there and rarely looking right at another naked guy while showering. Kind of like the viewing of a solar eclipse...never look directly at it or else! Thus, the art of mastering the 20 second shower or finding away to skip it all together become a fine-tuned habit.
Since I was never a jock, showering eventually became a private moment for me, short of the few times as an adult when it was necessary to shower with strange naked guys. Or even familiar naked guys. Like the times while in my 40's I did long-distance bike rides with several thousand people and the guys all showered in high school locker rooms at night. I'll admit to paying $5 dollars for the use of a private shower rigged up on then back of a semi, just for a little privacy.
So here's what my routine is now. When I enter the locker room, eyes properly averted, I look for a row where there doesn't appear to be anyone using a locker, in hopes of a little privacy. But invariably, when I finish my workout or return from the shower, lo and behold, there's a naked guy. I guess the old adage "you can run but you can't hide" rings true.
There seems to be no agreed upon standard about wearing a towel around your waist on the way to and from the shower or simply letting it all hang out. Free as a bird! And today, there was a guy who went into the hot tub, which is located right next to the showers, naked! No shorts or whatever. Is that against the rules? Am I the only one who is concerned about this?
I hope those of you who dared to read on after I warned you earlier know that I'm being facetious about these concerns. And that there aren't any guys "parading around the locker room" as I alluded to earlier. Whatever awkwardness I've experienced has been worth the results and the good feeling I'm getting about changing my routines and growing as a person.
So if Aging Gracefully means getting used to naked guys, I'm ready to accept the challenge. I might even learn to become a naked guy amongst naked guys. And not feel like I'm junior high all over again.
*** I thought it was best not to include photographs in this post as is my usual practice, thus the pop art pieces instead.