Friday, February 04, 2011

Shame Run

I have a YMCA membership. So besides being reminded of the Village People every time I walk in the place, I also have to be surrounded by unapologetically naked old men in the locker room. It’s normally after about the third septuagenarian that rounds the corner from the showers and, while I sit on the bench changing into my running clothes, stands next to me drying the hair on the back of their head with THEIR ONLY TOWEL that makes me sigh hopelessly. Each shift of the towel against their scalp is performed with a hip thrust that creates a mid-section swinging motion – oh, God, a swinging motion! – that brings me a smidgen closer to meeting their Mr. Wanky. I pay for this right? I’m sorry but, if you have only one towel when emerging from a public shower, it better not be wrapped around your head.

Part of me admires a person that is so comfortable in their own skin that they can stand in front of strangers naked as jaybird, free as a…ball, unencumbered by societal values and the long-standing unwritten rules of common decency. To not give a damn what crevice is exposed nor the audience viewing it must be an intoxicating feeling. I’ve been intoxicated; I know the feeling.

But part of me is also sickened and annoyed. I just came in for a run on the treadmill. I’m already feeling shameful about it because I wimped out of an outside run. I didn’t come in to be the unwitting judge of an Antiquated Genitalia beauty pageant. Apparently, my changing stool was front row on the runway. Where’s Cojo? I need my judging abacus.

I only use a treadmill a handful of times a year. Inevitably, every January and February, I’ll sprinkle in a few trips to the Y to get me past those really rough winter days. I always feel a bit dirty about it…like I’m cheating on running. I mean, the belt moves on its own. It’s padded. There’s a giant fan behind me with selectable settings. I’m watching Cupcake Wars. It just doesn’t feel right. It’s like hiring a call girl without a venereal disease. It’s supposed to be a bit dirty right?

I only did 6 ½ miles today. I didn’t feel like the treadmill deserved for me to round it off to an even mile. Fractions! Take that! If you run on a treadmill, I don’t think you should do it the honor of ending on an exact mile point either.

Then it was back to the YMCA locker room and the horrors within.

Normally, I sulk in with shoulders hunched and head bowed manifesting my shame run regret. I get in; I get out. The only thing I see is the feet of the nude old men as they walk across the floor sans shoes stepping in clumps of others’ abandoned hair with every step. Inwardly, my Edvard Munch is going crazy: NOOOO, don’t step there….yuck, it’s on your big toe…NOOOO, don’t step there either….Oh, that one’s attached to your heel. NOOOOO, that’s a Band-Aid, too late. NOOOO….

Today, I took a stand for the non-baby boomers everywhere. I marched in with head held high determined to not bring the shame from my adulterous run into the locker room. Bring on the old naked boomers! I kept my sight line at shoulder height. I half-smiled. I half-nodded. I tried to look distracted with my own belongings. I performed all of the acceptable ritualistic social greetings expected in a men’s locker room. I pretended not to notice when the old naked guy passed back and forth in front of me four times because he kept forgetting things in the shower but couldn't, at least, get his underwear on first. I watched his feet absorb the discarded pubes of others. I watched. I waited. I started changing.

Then, just after I had completely removed all of my clothes, I casually walked over in front of four Brat Pack fans that had paraded before me for the last ten minutes. I dropped my keys on the ground with a reverberating jangle. They all snapped their heads up in my direction. I bent over at the hips - without bending my knees - to pick them up. I was as exposed as exposed could be. Then, in full on right angle, I looked over my shoulder at the stunned Golden Boys, smiled, and slyly said, “I’m pre-Op.”

I didn’t wait for a reaction. I quickly dressed and hustled out to my car. At first, I felt intoxicated but that quickly gave way to more shame. I hate running on a treadmill. It makes me feel dirty.

Young man, there's no need to feel down.
I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground.
I said, young man, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy.

It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A.

It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A

Happy trails.

Here’s a much more thoughtful – and much truer – tale of interaction with a boomer runner from I enjoyed it and now you will too. Go here.


Sun Runner said...

Go here. Last one on the page. Enjoy!

Elizabeth said...

hahaha so so funny. I guess it helps that I only see the old timers fully dressed. My affection for them would probably change drastically if I had to see their old timey bull-eyes and twigs and berries. By the way, your description of the stuff getting stuck to the bottom of their feet literally made me shiver and gag a little...well done.

The Merry said...

I always said gyms were scary places... this only confirms my opinion. Which makes me feel good about my perspicacity, but doesn't quite obliterate that picture of the locker room floor.

inferca -- a new medication designed to prevent the uncomfortable side effects that often accompany an inference.

BrianFlash said...

You make me feel good about my continuing decision to stay away from public gyms!

The Sean said...

I am suddenly much happier about running in the rain today...


John at Hella Sound said...

@Sun Runner, I was going to share the exact same link. Hilarious!

David said...

You know, you say you stood up for your generation today. But I'm afraid you've really only taken the inevitable step closer to some old guy's pube.

Aileen Ruane said...

Ha. You said "Mr. Wanky".


Deb said...

"Antiquated Genitalia"!! Best band name ever.

Jess said...

Yeah, there's this one old woman at my gym...ugg.

Frankly, I'm impressed you only have to use the treadmill a few times over the winter up in Michigan.

Chanda M. DeFoor said...

I think this is interesting. Having only been in women's locker rooms (in the South), I felt like I was the odd ball. Women seem to be frightened of other naked women. They did not like me at the pool--why would I be NAKED? That's shameful!

Charlotte said...

You workout at my Y don't you?! Just the other day I saw an elderly woman using the gym blow dryers to dry under each boob. I'll wait while you picture that. You're welcome.

Marlene said...

This post is one giant cringe! Treadmill! 70 year old Mr. Wanky! Abandoned pubes and bandaids! YMCA!

Ainsley Drew said...

I go to the gym six days a week. Six days a week I see breasts that could pass for saddlebags, bushes of pubic hair that more closely resemble bleached steel wool, and wrinkly old lady buttocks that I could swear are made of deflating balloons. So I take off my clothes and flaunt my awesome, under-30 body with more pride than a Yankee being hand-fed by a blond at the Super Bowl. One day I'll look like them. Until then, I'll just pretend I'm already there.

Nickname the treadmill something like "Motherfucker." Or, given your recent locker-room antics, "Ricky Martin." Isn't Nitmos the third member of Wham!?

Pappy on the run! said...

Absolutely hysterical. You really need to write a book.