When I walked into the YMCA shower room yesterday morning, a little boy immediately locked his eyes on my crotch. He watched intensely, and his head turned to follow me as I walked by him. He was about 4 years old. His father was showering beside him.
After I walked by him, the boy turned to his father and said, “Daddy, that man is old!”
“Shhhhhh!” said his father.
And then the boy continued to stare at my crotch as I showered. He never stopped staring the whole time I was in the shower. I pretended not to notice, but it bothered me having my crotch watched so intently.
The boy was right. I am old—at least compared to his age.
What standards did he use to judge my age from staring at my crotch? You can tell the age of a tree by counting the rings in its trunk. I have no rings in my crotch, but I do have wrinkles. Did the boy count the wrinkles to determine my age? Who knows?
It’s been over a month since Steve, a gay man at the YMCA, has made sexual comments about my “down below” and what he wants to do to me. I have blogged about Steve and his harassment before.
We interrupt this blog for a digression:
“Down below” is what my mother called down below. She used this term for both my sisters, too. “Did you wash your down below?” Mom would ask when we were old enough to take baths by ourselves. Sometimes Mom would omit the “your” and just ask, “Did you wash down below?” Whenever Mom asked this question, she would have a serious expression and raise her eyebrows. We grew up in a time before someone invented the words “penis” and “vagina”.
We now return to our regularly scheduled blog:
What stopped Steve from sexually harassing me?
About a month ago I was in the shower room alone when Steve came in. We were the only men there.
“Gary,” said Steve, “I have to tell you. I love you.”
I immediately responded with words that dealt with sex and travel.
“No, no, I’m serious,” said Steve. “I love you. You’re a wonderful man. You’re good-natured and sensitive and such a beautiful person. I love you. I would kiss you if you let me.”
Once again I used words dealing with sex and travel.
“I’m not joking!” said Steve. He looked so intense.
“Look Steve,” I said, “this is weird. I have never been naked while another naked man tells me how wonderful I am and how much he loves me. It’s weird!”
“Perhaps you should get used to it,” he said.
“Not as long as I am breathing thank you very much.”
It seems that Steve needed to seriously express his feelings for me. He had to get it out of his system. Since that time he has made no comments. We say hi and sometimes engage in small talk, but he has made no embarrassing sexual comments. How long will this last? As long as I am breathing, I hope.
On Tuesday, a non-Asian man stared at me in the shower at the YMCA. He wore black-framed glasses. I could see him with a pen pouch full of pens in his shirt pocket, and not dressed in the latest style. In other words, he looked like a geek.
He just stood and stared while the shower water bounced off his back. He never washed or moved. He had lust in his eyes. I tried to enjoy my shower, but found his staring disturbing. I did my best to ignore him, finished my shower, and left with him still standing and staring.
On Wednesday, an Asian man stared at me in the shower. He was not wearing glasses. Unlike Tuesday’s geek, this man moved and showered. At times his head faced me while the front of his body faced the wall. Once again, I found it disturbing the way he kept staring at me. He, too, stayed in the shower after I finished.
Today, an Asian man wearing black-framed glasses stared at me. He, too, moved while showering. At times his head turned 180 degrees to keep me in his gaze.
This is payback for all the times I made women feel uncomfortable by gawking at them. I now understand how uncomfortable they felt.
I promise never to stare at another woman again—at least not long stares. Perhaps just a few polite quick gawks so the women don’t feel uncomfortable.
In the meantime, I will endure my fate giving thanks that all the men do is stare at me, and don’t do anything else.
The other day I wrote how older men stare at me in the shower at the YMCA. Yesterday, a younger man stared at me. He looked like Frankenstein except he did not have the bolts in his neck and the green skin. He did not stare with lust in his eyes like the older men. He had that blank Frankenstein stare.
Frankenstein never moved his head. He followed me with his eyes. His face remained blank. When I looked at him he looked away. Then he would resume staring at me once I looked away. He stood motionless, with the shower water hitting his back, staring at me. His eyes followed me when I finished and walked to the towel-drying area. Again, he would look away when I looked back.
What the hell was Frankenstein thinking while he stared at me? Did I remind him of an electrical wire? A dark lightning bolt? A chocolate bar? Who knows?
It’s been a month of working out at the YMCA. I am slowly getting used to being naked with no privacy. I may never get used to being stared at while I am naked.
Almost every day, while I shower after a workout, some men will ogle me. The men who do this are older. I pretend that they aren’t there hoping that they will get the message that I am not interested in what their eyes are suggesting?
And there’s an older man who loves to talk while he is naked. Whether you are in the dressing room or in the shower, he will come up to you and start talking about how Donald Trump is ruining the world. I try not to say too much hoping that he will go away. Political discussions with naked men are not high on my list of things to do. They have only stared and never touched.
I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I was with my body until I started going to the YMCA. I will be completely comfortable when I learn to love and accept myself.
When you are a nomad, and can’t shower every day, the three areas to keep clean are your armpits, your crotch, and your butt. You can get by without a shower if you wash these areas daily. The only problem with washing in public washrooms is dodging zealous security guards. These security guards want to make the Universe a better place.
“You can’t wash in here,” shouts the security guard.
“But it’s a washroom,” I say.
“That doesn’t mean you can wash in here,” says the security guard.
His logic escapes me, but then I never went to security-guard school.
I showered at a friend’s place on May 31. For the month of June, I washed in public washrooms. I must have smelled okay. I went to two social functions during June and none of my friends said anything. Were they being polite?
I longed for a shower, a nice long hot shower.
I started making some extra money and had enough money to join the YMCA. On Friday June 30, I joined. While I was filling out the paperwork I kept thinking, “Tomorrow, I’m going to have a shower! Tomorrow, I’m going to have a shower!”
I could not fall asleep Friday night because I was so excited about being able to have a shower. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve anticipating Christmas morning.
“I’m going to have a shower! I’m going to have a shower!”
I finally fell asleep, but was up early Saturday morning.
“I’m going to have a shower! I’m going to have a shower!”
I was so excited thinking about a shower, as I took the subway to the YMCA, that I wanted to run up to people on the subway and shout, “Hey Mister, I’m going to have a shower! Hey Lady, I’m going to have a shower! Hey World, I’m going to have a shower!” But I contained myself.
It’s a short walk from the subway to the YMCA. As soon as I saw the YMCA I thought, “That’s the building where I’m going to have a shower! That’s the building where I am going to have a shower!”
I went in. I worked out. And then? And then I had the longest shower in history. I soaped up and rinsed off a thousand times, and then I stood under the shower for a long time with the water bouncing off me. I was in Heaven!
Funny how such a simple thing like shower can bring such joy.