Cool thing happened in the hockey locker room a couple Sundays ago.
We’d just lost the first game of a new season (the previous season having ended the week before). The locker room was full of the same old teammates from season after season (after season), plus a handful of newbies. Shaking off Velcro pads and packing sweaty gear into bags, folks tossed around the usual locker-room BS, along with balls of tape and a can of beer here and there.
Everyone was laughing, when suddenly one of the new kids—kind of a hot shot, but with a good attitude—busted out with, “Um, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but how do we…like, do you care if we shower?” Things went quiet for a sec, and I only then realized I was the only woman in the room (Mrs. Harrible was out of town).
“Oh, dude, I don’t care, y’know…eyes on the floor, minding my stuff.”
“Yeah, no worries,” seconded Captain Boy Scout from across the room. “Hannah’s just one of the guys.”
I think the rest of the guys might be tired of hearing about this, and I know we’re getting into a weird area here (locker room confidentiality notwithstanding), but that was pretty cool.
Mrs. Harrible and I talk about this a lot—feeling accepted, being “one of the guys,” and, like any team, what a great thing that is. But more than that, sharing a locker room, and as relaxed as us gals and (hopefully most of) the guys are about that…it feels like some elevated state of being. Zen and the art of sports bra conversations.
‘Course depending on your viewpoint, you might consider it depravity, but heck, we don’t usually mind being called morally rebellious, either.
In these situations, I don’t shower—I think that’d be pretty weird, but that’s just me. Lots of guys do shower, but not all of them. Several folks making wholesale wardrobe changes use the locker room’s bathroom stall. Others don’t. Leave it up to people to do what makes them comfortable and not overstep anyone else’s bounds. Easy as that.
It certainly does bring some sexual socialization right out there in the open, so to speak. (Hi, Mom!) Y’know, girls and boys…don’t do that. We have separate bathrooms. When I was a tomboy child, way before high school, most of my friends were boys then, too, and attending friends’ slumber parties was not necessarily a given. It was such a majorly controversial concept that if I were allowed to go, there was this feeling of secrecy, like my parents were teaching me cannibalism or something. I mean, I was 10, what the hell. I just wanted a big cookie cake and some 2 a.m. Nerf-gun war games.
I mean, yeah, I can totally see that boy/girl thing—at any age—being kind of iffy. It wasn’t iffy for me, and I think my parents kind of got that, but overall, society-wise, let’s not broadcast it, hmm?
But as adults, we’ve gotten past the Way Too Young for That childhood stage, past the especially scary, super-hormonal puberty stage, and even past the…I dunno…aggressiveness? Experimentation? Of early adulthood. At this point, everyone’s gotta be pretty well self-governing.
Here’s the thing with locker rooms: I don’t care what gender you are, sexual preference or whatever, you don’t stare. I’m pretty sure that’s a strict rule in all-male locker rooms to begin with. The Ms. Conduct gals aren’t dancing around nekkid or anything, either. (Sorry, boys.) And, when it comes to sexuality, y’know, especially on women’s teams: Hello, lesbians. I’ve never felt uncomfortable, never felt like I was being eyed or ogled in either situation, just like I've never been tempted to give the flirty stare-down in a moldy, sweaty locker room, either. I mean, there’s people’s sexuality, and then there’s creepy shower gazers. Two different things.
(It sort of reminds me of that thing about looking women in the eyes—not the chest. You don’t have to follow that rule, and people are going to respond differently, but you do run the real risk of being a creepy lech, and someone might hit you.)
I would never insist that establishments make zero separation of the sexes, but I do question (once again) just how readily we accept that that separation is a must. Our early morning pick-up session at a Huntsville rink left me, already insecure about trying to fit in on the ice, all alone (and freezing) in a separate locker room. From the rink’s perspective, I don’t know how they could’ve handled that differently. But from my perspective, I would gladly have thrown on my gear in front of strangers. Hell, when it’s that cold, nobody wants to stand around too long wearing the equivalent of a bikini, anyway.
In Ellenton, there’s a lot to be said for being surrounded by friends—brothers, almost (not to mention boyfriends and husbands). That’s a community. And when strangers do show up? I’m comfortable that it’s up to them to fit in. Our locker room is like a different culture, an established society. Sports bra and panties; eyes on the floor. Fellas, do your thing.
Like so many things, there isn’t a hard and fast rule. Every situation is going to be different, a combination of people figuring out where the balance is. But what the heck, that’s a team.