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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Under the Towel


There is an unwritten law of the men’s locker room that forbids viewing your fellow gym members below the waist. Fortunately this law isn’t enforced, or I would have been given a life sentence years ago. I work in law enforcement, and I know what happens to repeat offenders.

I would say the majority of the men at my gym are straight. Although with this metrosexual movement going on, my radyag (that’s reverse gaydar) has been known to blur.

What always grabs my attention in the locker room are the men who, for whatever reason, do not expose their genitals to others. And there are some masterful ways that men do this. I’ve seen men take their gym bags into a toilet stall to change clothes, sans audience. Others drape a towel behind them, cape-style, and stand in the corner while they get in or out of their underwear. And then there are the beach changers, those guys who wrap a towel around their waist after showering, then put on their underwear. They then remove the towel and put their pants back on.

These are the men I stare at more than that guy who peels off his sweat-soaked, long-sleeved Under Armor shirt that caresses every hard-worked, mountainous ripple and ridge that’s covered by tanned, firm but supple skin and… whoops, wait a minute. I just started writing for a different market. Anyway, these are the guys I’m apt to glare at: the information hiders. So if you’re one of them, you should realize that by hiding your goodies, you are simply drawing more attention to yourself. Because we’re thinking while we stare, “What’s that guy got that he’s not willing to share with the rest of us?” We won’t take our eyes off of you, because we think that maybe, just maybe, one time you will not fasten that towel tight enough, and the towel will fall, and if we’re not staring, we just might miss that split second when you’re accidentally exposed.

Men stare. Straight men stare at women’s parts. Gay men stare at men’s parts. It’s harmless. Men are visually stimulated. It doesn’t mean we are going to touch you or rape you or steal your underwear or compliment you or insult you or smile at you or lick our chops and flex our eyebrows at you. We’re all Chauncey Gardiner. We like to watch, Eve.

And gay men are masters at watching. We position ourselves so that if you turn your back to us, we’ll just shift our glance to the mirror so we can see the front of you. We are capable of darting our eyes so quickly downward to catch a glimpse that you just think we blinked. But in that nanosecond, we took the picture, developed it, and pasted it in the photo album to enjoy later. Our internal f-stops and shutter speeds are finely tuned with laser accuracy. You may think we are staring at our padlock, but we are just enjoying your image in its chrome reflection. I’m sorry if this makes you nervous, but we can’t help it. If a naked women was in the room, you’d behave just as badly. Or probably worse. We’ve had decades to perfect our stealth staring, beginning in 7th grade. Your sizing up naked women began much later in life, is more blatant and practiced in strip clubs, where staring is mandatory. You don’t have to be stealthy there. Our views may be quicker and more fleeting, but at least we don’t have to fork out large tips for the payoff.

Maybe you hide yourself because you are abnormally large or small. Maybe you signal for a left or right turn. Maybe it’s homosexual panic, but again: we look, but we don’t touch. Perhaps you’re hiding a unique deformity or a Keep On Truckin’ tattoo that you are now ashamed of. It’s okay. We don’t care. Show us, and we’ll move on. Hide it, and we’ll never take our eyes off you. Let me illustrate how masking yourself only turns you into a challenge for us.

To be fair, it’s not just straight men who cloak their gonads. I have a gay friend, and the only skin of his I’ve seen is the part not covered by shorts, t-shirt, shoes and socks. At pool parties, he never gets wet. He never even takes off his shoes. “Tee” has an incredible body, especially for a man in his 50’s. Now I’m not ordinarily obsessive; I take medication to control that. But before I die, I am going to see Tee naked. Or at least shirtless. He leaves me no choice. Recently he joined the gym I go to, so I figured that finally, I’m going to see another part of him. He’s at the gym frequently, but guess what? He doesn’t undress in the locker room. He doesn’t shower or swim there. He wears his workout clothes to the gym and leaves with them on. But don’t think for a minute that he doesn’t loiter in the locker room, chatting with friends, patting his sweat with a towel, and of course, stealth-staring. His body is more heavily guarded than Fort Knox. I’ve even asked people who were intimate with Tee for details. If I can’t see it live or in a photograph, I’ll settle for a mental picture. I could get out my sketch book and do an artist’s rendering from an eyewitness’ description. But the witnesses are mute. Not a word of information. Tee is a lawyer, and I gather that he makes anyone he’s intimate with sign a wicked non-disclosure agreement that carries a mandatory death sentence for violating it.

I’m not sure I know what it’s going to take to unmask that attorney. He’s very muscular and pretty strong and could probably fight off a posse of us. Maybe I’ll just have to enamor myself to him and have sex with him.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just up the dosage a bit.

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