Bank Walkers and the Code of the Locker Room

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?

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.

“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

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About J. A. Drew Diaz

"I’m a guy ... I’m a guy you want around when the ship runs aground, the garage catches fire, a fight breaks out, if your dog is full of porcupine quills. If there’s a raccoon crazed  on rat bait in your garage I’m the guy you want next door. I make my living with a cell phone and a computer---and in my garage I have tools for making tools. Every vehicle I have ever owned has a punctured seat because I jumped in with a tool in my pocket. My raw feed appears at standup2p.wordpress.com.

Comments

  1. There’s no denying that taking showers with other men or otherwise appearing naked is a necessity of military life and participating in a school sport. But some guys never serve in the military or play a school sport.

    Perhaps the reason why some men avoid public showers is because they have a sense of modesty. They don’t care to look at guys who are completely naked (as opposed to being merely shirtless) and don’t want to expose themselves to other guys. Boys whose physiques fall short of the athletic ideal may feel badly about themselves or simply don’t care to subject themselves to almost certain ridicule by appearing naked before bullies. So What? Everyone’s entitled to their own preferences. I work out regularly at a health club pumping iron. I always work up a sweat. Showers are available, of course; but I wait until I get home.

    I’m just curious … What is a “sissy” supposed to be?

  2. @bill- everyone is entitled to their own preferences. This is a story, as most of mine are, of MY value & skill sets; I’m working through what is important to me. I published the first version of this over a year ago & don’t know if a dozen people read it. It’s also a story of passing the torch and I’m going to pass the torch I believe in- if I can. Me I swam naked before I ever played a school sport.
    Oh & I guess it’s a comment on my penury vis hot water & clean towels.
    In the context of this tale sissies are guys ashamed of their bodies and that is according to my value set unfortunate- body shame seems to be more common today than in my day. Can’t see an advantage to being modest- but then as I opine in another piece modesty is subjective and situationally appropriate. I don’t streak, skydive, act or perform music; activities that I often consider exhibitionistic.
    In some of my stories sissies are guys who can’t run chain saws or hammer nails.
    My sons think I’m a sissy because I can’t afford a Benz.
    Whatever else we may be- few of us want to be incompetent at things that mean something to ourselves.

  3. It’s interesting that you say that “high school kids no longer shower at school”. In my kids’ school, not showering after sports is not an option – no matter if it’s 4th grade or high school. And of course, when they go swimming they’re not even allowed in the water unless they shower first.

    I’m not sure there’s one right way to do this, or if this is necessarily gendered. But I do think it’s very helpful for children to be comfortable with this type of public nudity; if you’re not, you end up feeling restricted. And I agree that as parents, it’s our job to help kids with this.

    OTOH, it”s also worth noting that there are big cultural differences here. For example, middle-eastern / Islamic culture has very different attitude to public nudity than what is common in north-western Europe. This can lead to some tension when you mix cultures.

  4. @lars- in re “not an option” good,for your district, pre-swimming- in their suits? Hygiene is not a liberal dose of Axe.
    As to cultural mixing; I trend to the When in Rome school of thought.
    My experience in locker rooms across the US is homogenous.
    In re gendered- I have no idea what goes on in the women’s locker room- the scene from Porky’s is the only reference I have & I don’t think it was documentary.

    • In my experience, some women walk around naked in locker rooms and others try to be discreet. I’m in the latter category. Actually I avoid showering in locker rooms, partly because I am too modest and partly because locker room showers gross me out!

      We were not required to shower when I was in P.E. In HS, except when we did swimming and then we were allowed to keep our bathing suits on. Many girls would only change their clothes in a bathroom stall. I don’t remember anyone being nude. Any girl who walked around nude in the locker room would have been mocked. This was the 80’s and we were a conservative generation at that age.

    • Nope, showing in your swimming suit is not considered good enough here – not in schools, nor in public swimming facilities.

      We tend to not quite lean to the “when in Rome” school here – in part, I think, because muslim minorities already tend to take their kids – especially the girls – out of sports activities as it is, and that can’t be good for the kids. They’ve come up with a kind of “loin cloth” that you’re allowed to wear most place when showing before using a public swimming facility, and I understand that that’s being used in schools, too.

      • Amr Madkour says:

        @Lars – I’m curious to know where all your expertise on Middle Eastern culture comes from. I grew up in a very conservative muslim country, and we all played sports (even girls) and took showers after gym. With regards to public nudity, there are a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa where public baths are still common and men and women bathe separately. Like everywhere else, people have different degree of comfort with nudity.

        In other public arenas, there is no doubt that many Middle Eastern cultures can be more conservative in dress and appearance. But there are also those on the other side of the spectrum that would surprise you. A very large number of middle class families from the Middle East travel as tourists to other countries and are exposed to other cultures, and many more from all socioeconomic backgrounds immigrate all over the world. More often than not “tension when you mix cultures” doesn’t occur. And when it does, you can bet that bigotry and intolerance are significant factors. Regardless, my point is to say that your attempt to generalize about a culture and religion that encompasses more than one billion people is laughable at best, but at its worst belies a deep seated ignorance and xenophobia.

  5. I’m on the train this morning; a woman has her makeup laid out across the adjacent seat.
    There is a forced intimacy, exhibitionism & voyeurism associated with this that makes me uncomfortable.
    I’m intrigued by tools & their use and repulsed by forced knowledge of secrets I’d rather not know.
    Other than touch up her lipstick I never saw Mother applying makeup.
    When I got to the sleeping over & using her bathroom stage of dating I was intrigued by all the shit women had- for the life of me I could not figure out that weird pliers kind of thing- tampon puller?- that turned out to be an eye lash curler.

  6. I never had to shower for PE, ever. I also didn’t, ever.

    I had to “get wet” (not really shower, just be wet enough to jump in the water) before swimming in day camp, this was done in suit, no soap.

    I’m a trans woman, and I can say that besides my own,and my brother who is close in age, I’d never seen a penis in real life before 25. I didn’t show mine in locker rooms, nor did I see others.

    I was already pretty self-conscious about being topless (I have a chest malformation where the sternum goes inwards), I didn’t want to think about anything else than just getting the fuck out, right then.

    I’ve never sweat much for comparable exercise and heat, as many others do. I also lack much body hair (say armpit), so this always helped for odors. I never thought I was “inflicting” my presence on others, given I was required to stay in school, or wherever I was. I always bathed at home, never elsewhere (to bath at someone else’s home I have to stay a few days, which never happens – never been on a trip to a motel or hotel).

  7. @ Schala- well guess our experience of locker rooms was different.,I just work from my limited experience- which in the case of comparing it to yours is pretty uni-linear? different? I do know I was & am shameless- not better, just better for me. Too cool, that I am now in contact with a 2nd trans woman this month…l
    I do love,this world….

  8. Maybe it’s simply a generation thing. Hell, back in grade school (cars still had fins) we used the local YMCA and back then we couldn’t, as in not allowed, wear trunks in the pool. I guess you could say that my dad was a bank walker too … none of us boys (7 of us) were shy. Heck, back when we’d camp in the true wilderness, the only place to wash up was the river or what ever bodey of water was available, We did a lot of camping and that meant ZERO privacy. I agree, kids these days are really shy about locker rooms.

  9. @ Tom B- thx, that is how I recall the Y, but we moved to the burbs for my 1st grade.
    (on another thread we’ll tell these kids how God Damned heavy canvas tents & Coleman lanterns were.
    Not to flog my shameless self But this is how we bathed in the San Miguel- http://standup2p.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/bank-walkers-and-locker-room-code-draft/
    – or at least I did….

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