Confessions of a Naked Man: Locker Room Vulnerability
The Chest Hair Dialogues
I often hear wives bemoan the fact that they can't get their husbands to talk to them. They want to know what it would take to hear their men "really open up."
Personally, I think most wives get far more satisfaction from dissing their spouse's communications skills than they could ever derive from hearing what their guys actually have to say. But if you insist on knowing, I will let you in on one of our manly little secrets.
There's one situation where men truly and consistently talk a lot. And that's when they're naked, hanging around in the locker room.
Ever since I was a teenager and got my first chance to sit in a community center's steam room, I've been aware of how differently men speak to one another when they're dressed only in towels. Maybe nudity humbles us, because there's no hiding how far we've strayed from Michelangelo's David-like perfection, and at the same time it frees us. But no matter the reason, the chatter in the locker room has a different quality from the conversations men have, say, when they drink together. There's a terry-cloth truth about these discussions that you just can't get anywhere else.
When I tell my wife, Diane, about the Chest Hair Dialogues, she's always fascinated and a little jealous. She says whenever she's in women's locker rooms, nobody says much: It's hushed and almost clinical.
Diane has also figured out that many of the discussions I have in the locker room are the mundane chats she routinely fails to engage me in at home. She thinks I'm cheating on her conversationally, yakking about politics, business, world affairs, even the weather with naked guys -- some of whom I barely know -- topics I almost never talk about with her, especially as we get past 9 p.m., when my head begins the "TV nod" like one of those drinking-bird toys.
I also suspect Diane finds it hard to believe I could be that comfortable sitting around naked with anyone -- because she knows I'm not that way around her. I'm the kind of guy who puts his clothes back on immediately after sex, and I haven't taken my shirt off at the beach in, like, 30 years. I don't know why I'm that way (maybe I need a body-image therapist) any more than I understand how I somehow have grown unselfconscious enough in the locker room that I don't even bother putting a towel around my waist.