Confessions of a Naked Man: Locker Room Vulnerability
Locker Room Sociology
Over the years I've also become something of a student of the sociology of men talking to one another naked. There are several different areas where guys converse, each with its own unwritten rules. The main stage is the locker and bench zone, where unrobed conversations take place within earshot of anyone who happens to be nearby. There's a lot of trash talk and one-upsmanship, more about sports than anything else -- although, interestingly, it's rarely about the sports that the guys just played. It's usually about pro sports that they recently watched (or have an opinion on even if they didn't).
Besides the sports talk, you also hear occasional outbursts of what I call competitive praise. Two guys, generally 50-plus, will stand there hurtling compliments at each other -- "you look great," "no, no, you look great" -- until one has managed to aggressively out-flatter the other. The fact that they're buck naked and demonstrably do not look great just makes it all the more entertaining.
Then there are the whisperers. Although I understand wanting to create a little privacy in this nakedly public setting, their whispering becomes so conspicuous that everyone immediately wonders what they're plotting. And sometimes the wondering is justified. Just a couple of weeks ago a guy with a locker near mine was indicted.
I especially distrust the whisperers because there are so many other places in the locker room where you can talk more privately. If you and your friends manage to get the steam room or the sauna to yourselves, either is a great place to talk -- until an interloper arrives. Then the situation usually becomes too awkward for anyone to say anything.
My favorite place is the whirlpool, which bubbles loudly enough that it serves as a watery cone of silence. Our whirlpool is rectangular, so groups of three or four can huddle at either end and, as long as no strangers wander into your whirling space, it feels pretty private. Whirlpool time can be sacred: In our regular basketball group it's not uncommon for guys who are hurt and can't play to show up just for the whirlpool chatter.