There are two types of guys—bank walkers, as they say in Texas, are guys who are unashamed about their nakedness. Drew Diaz on the man code and gym culture.
In the People’s Republic of Mass years ago, visiting my brother, I end up going to the pool club with my wife, daughter, infant son, sister-in-law, nephew and infant niece.
As we ready to leave, the babies are with the mommies and my nephew and I are in the men’s locker room. I’m a little peeved because if I weren’t here this eight year old would be in the women’s room.
In the locker room I tell the kid to drop his suit near our locker —we don’t care about being naked—and not to wrap his towel around his wet body. You want it dry after a shower.
We finish showering, go back to the locker, and I put my shorts on immediately. My nephew starts with his T-shirt. In maybe a minute I’m dressed and he’s still dicking around with his top. So I ask what he’s doing and he hems and haws a bit until I ask, “Hasn’t your father taught you anything?
“First thing you put on your pants. There are two theories about this:
“Number 1. if this place catches fire you can walk right out with your money and car keys.
“Number 2. If there is some guy scoping your package in here, you don’t want to lead him on.
“Next you put on your shoes.
Number 1. if you’re leaving in a fire, shoes are handy.
Number 2. You don’t know what’s growing on the floor here.
“Your shirt is last; you hung out at the pool without a shirt.
“And most importantly: we must be waiting when your mom and aunt come out of their locker room. Job one is to be sitting outside and asking them, ‘What took you so long?’”
And I hear a gentle voice inquire, “Does he really need to hear that kind of thing?” I turn and consider this character, maybe five years older than I, which makes him prime hippie age, in a (I shit you not) “Save the Whales” T-shirt. For all I know he’s my brother’s neighbor, but I just have to reply.
“Yes, I think he does. This is how it was explained to me and it’s worked out pretty well and I intend to have harsh words with my brother about him not knowing this. And now I’m going outside with my nephew and discuss how it might or might not mean something when a stranger strikes up a conversation in the locker room.”
To the best of my knowledge I will now have a heart attack on an elliptical machine for divulging these secrets to a mixed gender crowd.
There are two types of guys—bank walkers, as they say in Texas, are guys who are unashamed about their nakedness. My father was a bank walker, as are my brother and I; so are my sons.
[Evidently, LBJ was a bank walker with a hog that would fill a ten gallon hat. I picked up the term from an interview with one of his aides. It’s a reference to the fact that while most boys will hide their nakedness and enter and leave the creek as close as possible to their clothes, “bank walkers “strut up and down looking for a better place to dive in or to show off their manhood. LBJ may be the all time bank walker. He would leave the door to the bathroom, in the Oval Office, open and insist his aides continue conversations while he took a shit. That’s a little too intimate for me.]
The rest of the guys may or may not be sissies. At one time I thought only latent homosexuals were worried about hiding nascent erections caused by being around other naked men and consequently were embarrassed by nudity. On a business trip with my father we stayed at the Union League Club with a male only, no swim suit pool and it seems to me that there were Ys (before the Village People) where one swam naked. Years later I ended up utilizing a gym in Chelsea where I was one of the few straights and noticed there were walkers and hiders in that crew, too. (So I backed off the homosexual angle and now blame poor upbringing.) This was a place where the steam room was closed by order of the health department and there were signs in the locker room advising that sex would not be tolerated, and I don’t recall any erections. Say what you want about me and that last and next observation. I don’t maintain eye contact with strange men—I watch their center of gravity and hands, where an attack will originate. There are Chelsea bank walkers with bull pizzles and with peckers like a scared turtle.
The Chelsea club was pretty humorous—hard boys in Daisy Mae cutoffs, sleeveless flannels and Timberlands. Older guys in designer exercise outfits. Everybody is chatting with, spotting for, and wiping sweat up after each other. I’m on the treadmill one day and remark to one of the few women there that I must really be over the hill, not one guy has said hello in the six months I’ve been a member. She asked how did I think she felt, not one guy had even eyed her. Well, I opined, nothing personal, but you’re the wrong flavor for this crowd; me, I couldn’t get laid here or a woman’s prison, if I stapled a $50 bill to my forehead. She didn’t disagree.
My sons are now involved in high school athletics. They are bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled then my teammates and I ever were. The equipment and uniforms are space aged. Hell, my first year playing football there was a galvanized water tub, a dipper and salt tabs. There is one thing missing: towels. Wet towels on hot days draped over their heads, and towels around the coaches’ necks on cold days. Towels filled with ice on abrasions and bruises.
Evidently high school kids no longer shower at school —one of my sons is a rare user of the locker room shower and has to bring his towel. For me, showers were a luxury, as were clean towels. Unlimited hot water was a rare commodity. The folks went out and I took a tank draining shower. I stood under a scalding shower between classes to sweat off pounds and jumped rope in the shower room with eight heads going to make weight. My mother assigned each of us a towel for the week and in school I got a clean towel daily. As my rank on the athletic food chain rose so did the number of towels the managers would give me. The season I won the States (a small trophy in a small division) I received an armload of towels daily, some of which went to insulating my rubber suit. Nothing said varsity letter like one towel around your hips, another around your neck and a third drying your hair.
My old wrestling coach blamed MTV for kids not showering at school anymore: “They are embarrassed at not having that MTV six pack.” I believe that MRSA and ringworm attacks are directly linked to not showering immediately. Of course Jerry Sandusky types may also have had something to do with the drop off in hanging around the locker room.
Read more: Male Nudity in Public, By Jamie Utt.
Image of man with hat looking silly courtesy of Shutterstock