My first time in a locker room was in 7th grade when I started junior high school. We had mandatory gym class and had to wear a white T-shirt, blue gym shorts with the white stripe and a jock strap.
In high school, there were also some mandatory gym classes (same outfit), but I started going to locker rooms voluntarily when I began a totally undistinguished career as a cross country and track runner.
In college, I played lacrosse and various pick-up sports, but more often than not the locker room was my dorm.
I played rugby one summer when I was back home from college. One time the “locker room” was the parking lot of the GE factory in Schenectady. Rugby is one of those sports where the “after-party” with the other team is an essential part of the game. There was, remarkably, a fair amount of alcohol, and also one team trying to outdo the other with NSFW ribald songs, all of which had to do with the possibility of relations with those of the opposite sex.
It wasn’t until I started working that I became a regular of locker rooms. I belonged to a gritty club located in what had been Boston’s Combat Zone. The members included an Attorney General, numerous lawyers, a judge, telephone company workers, letter carriers and government workers. When I say “gritty,” I’m talking about rats running around while a construction project was underway.
I became friendly with a number of the members. I guess when you are standing around naked or showering in a large public room, there is less room for pretense. There was a camaraderie that became as much a part of the appeal as the chance for a mid-day workout.
There was the usual foolishness and talk about sports. But there were also conversations about deeply personal matters including marriages, kids, work and health issues. I haven’t been there for a number of years, but if I were to meet someone on the street, we would still have a real conversation about what is going on in our lives.
There were a number of truly stupid things I heard in this locker room. There was the guy who talked about the conflict that had been raging in Beirut for several years, who observed, “Before you know it, there’s going to be a civil war.” Another responded to a question about why he never took a vacation by saying, “I’ve got a routine.”
One day, there were reports of a local man who piloted a plane that he crashed into the home occupied by his wife. Someone denied that this was an act of domestic violence.
While that last comment showed a remarkable obtuseness for what is domestic violence, in all of my experiences in locker rooms going back several decades, I have never heard anyone brag about forcing himself on an unwilling woman as Republic nominee Donald J. Trump did in the infamous recording about grabbing an unwitting woman “by the pussy.”
Part of the reason for that, of course, is that there are few men who would admit they need subterfuge or force for sexual satisfaction.
The other reason, however, is that there are few men, for all of our faults, who are the repulsive and repugnant character that Donald Trump has revealed himself to be during this campaign. He has now demeaned women and men, which pretty much takes care of the entire population.
I realize it is hopeless to wish this, but he should stop blaming all men for his vile behavior and, for once, take responsibility for his words and actions.
Nice bit of work Tom. Congratulations for a great column.
Sent from my iPhone
You are certainly making this up as most gyms even in college where the talk was 90% about girls was common place and in our local YMCA it continues to this day. I hope the gyms you frequented talked about girls and not boys. It’s ok if you did but please, locker room talk is locker room talk.
Even Howard Stern – someone I never thought I would refer to favorably – acknowledges that bragging about sexual assault is not “locker room talk.”