Dear Young Kozo,
Although I know your body is as tender and hairless as a fresh cut piece of sushi and you are one of the smallest kids in your class, I urge you to drop your drawers and start showering in the boy’s locker room now.
I know this idea seems preposterous, but I assure you that the benefits will far outweigh any ridicule, embarrassment, or torture you may encounter. Here are five powerful resources you will gain from this simple act.
I know what you are thinking: I will wait until I’m a little older/bigger/popular to start showering in the locker room. The problem is that if you start this thinking now, you will never be big enough, old enough, or popular enough—you will never be enough. You will be 49 years old and still hesitant to show your true self to others.
You are enough right now. Your body is perfect just the way it is. You have a birthright to be yourself without restrictions. Others may disagree, but they don’t know you as well as I do.
When you see your naked body in relation to other naked bodies, you will realize that bodies and people come in all different shapes and sizes. There is no one size or shape that defines beauty. Beauty is a combination of elements. Beauty can only exist in wholeness. Imagine if you lopped off someone’s nose or breasts. Would that piece be beautiful even if it was “perfectly” proportioned, colored, or textured?
You will come to see that your body makes sense in a way that only your body can. Your skinny legs, angular cheek bones, and lack of body hair go together like pieces of a 3-D puzzle. If you replace any of these pieces, the puzzle wouldn’t be the beautiful masterpiece that it is.
At first, you might feel alone. Everyone in the locker room might ridicule you. They might even start a rumor that spreads around the whole school.
You might be known as the hairless Asian kid with a small penis, but you will be known. You will quickly find out that a majority of your class, school, and nation are ashamed of parts of their bodies, even the most popular girls and manly boys. Your vulnerability, courage, and honesty will resonate with countless others who will seek you out. They might not know what to say, but they will be your friends.
For every jerk who whips you with their towel or shoves you in a locker, there will be 20 other kids who will share your pain. This camaraderie will extend beyond the locker room. You will realize that you have a common bond with all of humanity in your desire to be accepted, loved, and happy.
The friends you make now will be true friends who like you for who you are rather than who you pretend to be. They will mirror your authenticity with their own. You will connect as humans, not as opportunities to gain more status or popularity.
Unbeknownst to you, you have been boxed into tighter and tighter prisons since the day you were born. You have been restricted in your actions, feelings, and thoughts by the act-like-a-man box, the size-matters box, the minority box, and the athletics-rule-high-school box.
Being courageous enough to stand naked in front of others is like a sledge hammer that breaks down the walls of all these boxes. You will finally be free to be who you are. After confronting whatever judgment you will receive from this locker room experience, you will have taken a huge step towards the freedom to dance how you want to dance, date whom you want to date, study what you want to study, and say what you want to say.
An added bonus will be the freedom from the opinions of others. Others will think things about you whether you shower naked or not. But when you disregard what others think and do what you want to do, you will realize that the opinions of others can only affect you if you let them.
Experiencing the suffering of exclusion, ridicule, and, maybe even, physical abuse in the locker room as a freshman will help you understand the fear, hesitation, and pain of other students when you become a senior. You will be less likely to judge, ridicule, and abuse others.
This ability to feel what others feel will serve you for the rest of your life. It will prevent you from telling your college girlfriend that she needs to lose some weight. It will stop you from yelling at your 5 year old son to “quit crying like a little girl.” Empathy will make you a better friend, partner, father, colleague, and human.
Later in economics, you will learn a term called ROI. It stands for return on investment. I guarantee you that the investments of courage, vulnerability, and resilience that you make in this one action will pay you dividends of love, friendship, happiness, and well-being for the rest of your life.
May the Force Be With You,
49 Year Old Kozo