Tuesday, March 1, 2016

As the Day You Were Born

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for March is called, "Dang." When power chords are poetry, the lyrics don't have to be.

My Grandpa London became a widower around age 70, and spent the next 15 years traveling as much as he could. Grandpa was a true world explorer, but he had a particular affinity for the Caribbean. He preferred the French and Dutch islands over the U.S. or British ones. When I was 14, he took our family to Guadeloupe, and I learned why he felt this way.

It was the breasts.  The first time we walked to the ocean, I was struck by how many of them there were! Some of them were sunbathing, some of them were casually strolling down the beach, and some of them were floating in the waves.  I must have known that they weren't free-standing structures, that they existed in the context of a larger organism. Yet, this awareness didn't sink in until noises began to emanate from above them. Nasal, sanctimonious noises. Yep, these breasts were attached to French people!

That week in Guadeloupe was emotionally draining for my underdeveloped teenage brain. By the end of the trip, I told my parents that if I never saw another breast, it would be too soon.

I should point out that I do not hold to traditional gender norms regarding toplessness. Women and men should have the same right to show off or not show off their nipples in public. That is the very definition of social justice.

The funny thing is, I didn't go bare-chested in Guadeloupe at all. In fact, I refused to swim without a T-shirt on until I was almost 17. I think I was embarrassed about something, but I can't remember what it was. I wasn't chubby and I had a perfectly normal belly button. Maybe I didn't want the world to know that didn't have hair on my back yet? That would be ironic, because  when I turned 35, I resumed swimming with a T-shirt on, and for the exact opposite reason.

My whole life, I've been troubled by social circumstances that warrant any level of public nudity. Why did every men's locker room have a naked middle-aged guy parading around like he owned the place? What made these men so comfortable with their bodies, and why did so many of them look like Danny Devito?

I've been thinking about this again, because Lauren and I bought a family gym membership a couple weeks ago. Before joining, we took a tour of the facilities. One of the trainers brought me into the men's locker room, and sure enough, there was a middle-aged naked man walking from the sauna to the showers. Granted, it was a busy day, and there were plenty of clothed people, as well, so I didn't think anything of it.

So we joined, and I came in Monday before work. When I entered the locker room that morning, there were two people in there, and one of them was naked. On Tuesday morning, there was only an older gentleman standing naked in front of the mirror, spraying his armpits with aerosol deodorant. The next day, a different guy was showering with the curtain wide open.  I have now been to the gym seven times, and there is always ALWAYS a naked middle-aged man in the locker room, going about his business as if he were in his own bathroom. Actually,  that's not even fair, because nobody would need to spend that much time naked in their own bathroom. Five naked minutes? Ten naked minutes? What are they trying to accomplish? I timed it myself. To remove a towel and put on underwear should take no longer than six seconds, and that's with a pulled hamstring.

Six naked seconds is all you need, guys.

Last Saturday morning, I went to drop off my bag in the locker room and sure enough, there was naked man standing on the scale, staring at his feet. A half hour later, I came back to change into my bathing suit so I could meet the kids at the pool.  The man was gone. In fact, everyone was gone. For the first time since we joined, I had the entire locker room to myself!

Just as I stripped down to put on my bathing suit, one of the trainers walked in with a prospective member. "So here's the men's locker room," he said, and started explaining where to find towels.

I stood there, bathing suit in hand, and realized that I had completed my transformation. Less than two weeks of gym membership, and I was one of them. I nodded at the prospective member and gave him a sober stare, imbued with worldly wisdom.

I'm a naked middle-aged man, and I own this place.

With warmest regards,