Many years back when I first took swim lessons with the aim of becoming a triathlete, I swam at a local recreation center attached to a high school. The pool was a 50 meter wonder once used by the perennial state-level St. Charles High School swim program. Most of the time the pool was split down the middle to a 25 meter length for daily use. But one could sense the history in the place, and how that water was once shredded by future Olympians and such.
And then there was the locker room. I’d get there and change for my swim lesson. There would be a gang of really old guys literally hanging around their lockers in the nude. This seemed to be some sort of ritual for them. Because after the half hour swim lesson I’d come back to the locker room and all the same guys would still be hanging out naked in the locker room, chatting away their sagging manhood on full display.
As for me, I’d change and be on my way. But the impression I got from those old guys was that life had become a strange combination of joy and sadness at the same time.
The Senior Pool
Which reminds me of the recreation center where I swim these days. I’ve gotten to know some of the older guys through conversations over the last couple years. I always ask how they’re doing and how their workout routines are going. Several of them visit what I’d call the Senior Pool every day. The rec center keeps the water warm for people who aren’t really into swimming but do participate in rehab work and light cardio.
This morning one of my favorite guys was sitting by his locker chuckling when I arrived back from my swim. He looked up and laughed, saying, “I guess it isn’t the 1950s anymore!”
Turns out he was headed to the pool when one of his buddies pointed out the fact that he wasn’t wearing any swim trunks. Just carrying his towel with his portly old belly hanging out and his junk on display for the whole world to see.
Out on the pool deck
That would have been quite a scene had he made it to the pool deck. The lifeguards are on probation by the pool manager for not paying enough attention while on duty. All the deck chairs have been removed and the guards stalk the pool edge like prison guards watching over the yard.
And had my white-haired friend made it out there in the nude it would have been an interesting scene. He raised his own eyebrows at the thought of it as he described that near miss to me. “We used to swim in the nude back in the day,” he related. “And I always get rid of my trunks in the ocean,” he said.
The dating scene
I get a kick out of him and his buddies. They’re often carrying on these loud conversations in the locker room. A couple weeks ago one of them was checking in with my white-haired friend about a relationship that he’d struck up with one of the ladies at the pool. “How’s that going?” one of the fellow geezers teased. It was obvious what he meant.
“All good,” my white-haired friend told him. “I fed her. Gave her a rubdown. It was all good.” Then he chuckled. It seemed like there was more to the story. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know all the details.
There’s a sort of naked wisdom in the honesty among all these old guys. At some point it just doesn’t pay to hide your intentions or anything else in this world. This worldview draws on the symbolic truth that once upon a time people wandered around locker rooms naked without worrying that anyone else was looking at them. That’s all changed thanks to decades of conservative fear-mongering about the supposed dangers of locker rooms and the dread that someone might be looking at you with some sort of intention.
In other words, we’ve traded what used to be an honest world for one ruled by ignorance, fear and prejudice. I think the Old Guys have it right instead. They might have a tendency to overstay their naked welcome in the locker room, but at least they have the confidence to know that a naked body is not a sin unto itself, nor a temptation in a practical context such as a locker room.