It must admit that I have never been comfortable around nude men.
Perhaps what I should really say is that I'm incapable of being blasé about male nudity.
I've just never learned the knack of being casually undressed or being around people who are.
I've never been on a sports team, so I don't have any experience with towel snapping or joshing around under the shower with my teammates after the big game.
In high school, I had only one semester of P.E., and I never once showered with the other boys. I had an official exemption from showering--a precious doctor's note that told of my permanently perforated right ear drum and the potentially dire consequences of getting water deep inside my noggin.
(It's true about the ear drum, but the only time I ever had an ear infection from water infiltration was in sixth grade, when I swam at a murky public pool in Tucker, Georgia.)
No, I wasn't afraid of the water; I was just terrified of the enforced group nudity.
Of course, even though I didn't have to strip down, the other guys did. The combination of lust and stress I experienced in that locker room permanently seared images from 1980 into my brain.
Even then I was fully aware that I was gay (so very, very gay), and seeing my classmates standing around, casually chatting while they dried their bits and pieces was enough to make me frantic. I always changed clothes as quickly as Clark Kent and dashed back to the fully clothed sanctuary of home-room.
Now that I'm an adult, my comfort level in the locker room still hasn't improved that much.
Sure, when I'm changing clothes at the gym, I let my eyes wander a bit more freely than I did in high school, but I don't gawk, I don't dawdle, I don't sit in the sauna or whirlpool, and I never, ever shower.
I live three miles from my health club, and I'm totally okay with funking up my car for the five minutes it takes to get to my house, where I can shower in privacy (though Hudson usually stares at me through the shower door, waiting for his chance to lick water off my calves and roll around on the wet bathmat).
This is all just a long prelude to describing something awkward that happened to me at the gym yesterday.
A couple years back, I noticed a handsome young fellow wearing a t-shirt with my high school's name on it. It took me a moment to place him, but I soon remembered that he was a classmate of my youngest sister. I recalled him being something of a jerk, but he grew up to look plenty fine.
One day, as he walked past me, I decided to say hi, and we chatted for a minute or two. Like 90% of people who went to the community college in Austin, MN over the past 40 years, he'd had my dad as a teacher. (He'd also been on the tennis team when my dad coached it. I think I may even have played against him a time or two.)
After that chat, we occasionally said hi to each other in passing, but we never had another conversation. In the last year or so, we had even stopped the greetings.
So imagine my surprise yesterday, as I was tying my shoes and studiously NOT looking directly at the genitals hovering at the edge of my peripheral vision, when the owner of those parts addressed me from above.
"Hey, how's your dad doing lately? Is he still teaching?"
Okay, let's recap: I'm seated; he's standing right beside me, and he's nude. Now I'm supposed to look up and talk to him while his junk dangles in my face?
I quickly stood up rather than talk into his crotch, and did my best to conduct a normal conversation. Unfortunately, a lot has happened over the past few years in my family, so catching him up (and he had follow up questions!) took some time.
For nearly all of that time, he stood there stark naked.
I mean, what the HELL? Could you at least put on some damn boxers?!?
I could no more have stood there like that than I could have held my hand on a hot stove while conducting a conversation. I simply don't understand how it's possible to be so at ease while wearing nothing. I envy that ability, but I will never share it.
Finally, he opened his locker and started taking out his clothes.
By the time we said good-bye, he had put on some underwear, but by then the damage was done. I was in a nelly tizzy.
I was nearly out of the locker room before I realized I'd left my car keys on the bench next to him, so I had to go back.