On Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to the LA Fitness in Mesa. During my waits between ‘reps’ I can look around and scope out my fellow gym-goers.  Before and after work outs, I observe locker room activity. I feel like Margaret Meade among the Bantus. The protocols of a male locker room would make a good paper for a sociologist or anthropologist.

In the locker room, only the old men take showers. The young and the brawny ones never disrobe or even seem to change their work out clothing. Another curiosity: the men coming in from the pool or shower area will keep their towels while putting on their undergarments. Only then do they discard their towels. Is this a Mormon thing? I have never witnessed this anywhere but Mesa.

The sauna is another place of modesty. There men keep covered, literally. They sit in the sauna fully clothed, sneakers too, apparently to “warm up” before their exercise. No one seems go there to relax after the workout, nor do they sit in the customary towel-only fashion.

I sense all this cover-up is not from anxiety about being ogled by queers, but from body image issues. I suspect the jocks have great anxieties about their physiques, despite their manifest brawn or youth. The only men I see nude or exposed in the process or dressing/undressing are the old men, who don’t give a damn about their looks.

Do women talk to each other in the locker room? Men generally do not. If they do converse, they talk to their work out buddy who came in with them. Overheard conversations are never of interest. They are mostly about sports or work out matters.  Several weight lifters drink concoctions brought with them into the locker room.  I find consuming food in a locker room a bit creepy.

On the wall are various warning signs. One tells us the lockers are for day use only.  There is a sign informing us steroids are hazardous to one’s health.  A third sign asks us not to bring glass containers into the pool area.  Outside the sauna there is a sign requesting us not to dry clothes in the sauna.

In one of the old Bally’s the sign outside the sauna cryptically warns  patrons will be asked to leave if they are caught using the sauna for ‘inappropriate use’.   The mind reels what that was all about.

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