Confessions of a Naked Man: Locker Room Vulnerability
I brought up my theory of naked-male communication in the whirlpool recently. One of my basketball buddies immediately said, "Bulls--. Men don't talk to each other any differently when they're naked. In fact, they never talk to each other at all. They only talk at each other."
I tried to get him to shut up long enough for him to admit there was some truth to that (for both men and women), but he was too busy pontificating on why his single social life caused him to miss a recent morning game. "The only thing I want to see that early," he said, "is coffee, the paper, and tits."
"I so want to be you," shot back one of the married guys.
In all fairness I've heard naked guys say wonderfully moving things about their wives and families -- things they'd probably never say to their wives and families. One of the most amazing moments I ever saw was the outpouring of support for one of our favorite yakkers, a 50-year-old guy who suffered a stroke after playing the early-morning full-court game. People he barely knew visited him in the hospital, and one club regular -- a former pharmaceutical executive who seems to have actually retired to the locker room (he's always there, and nobody has seen him get dressed in almost a year) -- started a betoweled fund-raising drive. We paid the injured guy's gym membership for the next few years as he rehabs.
Every once in a while, moving confessions come out in unpredictable ways.
Recently a guy a few lockers down from mine, clad only in socks, asked me very casually what my plans were for the evening. I told him my wife was out of town for a few days, visiting her parents.
"So you're a bachelor," he said. And I thought I knew where this was headed. But actually, I was wrong.
"Well, don't do anything stupid while she's away," he implored. "It's not worth it. Believe me, I know."
I found this moment so unexpected and poignant that, afterward, when I called Diane, I temporarily suspended the court-recognized right of naked-guy privilege and shared the exchange with her.
"It sounds like you guys have your own version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," she said.
I told her I think of it more as the Yada-Yada Brotherhood. And I'm proud to be a member.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, April 2006.