Lifetime Fitness is a chain of health clubs based out of Chanhassen, Minnesota, and has a location near my house in the Chicago suburbs. Though the following typology will evaluate the different cohorts of males in this particular location’s locker room, it can be applied to any locker room, or to any set of males, inside or outside a locker room environment. The sample set analyzed falls within a two dimensional space (Age-Fitness). Each falls somewhere on the continuum between infant and practically dead, and, secondarily, on a continuum between concentration camp survivor-skinny and grotesquely overweight. The three social traits analyzed here are: degree of nakedness, amount and subject matter of conversation, and relative degree of homophobia, which is correlated- but not mutually inclusive with degree of nakedness.
We fix our analysis of the first trait, degree of nakedness, by assuming that nakedness here is the result of close temporal proximity to showering or clothes-changing activities. To wit, this is more an analysis of the extent to which towels are implemented, rather than one of absolute nakedness. Although empirical data is unavailable–in situ, it was difficult to quantify towel coverage with respect to total surface area of the male subject–the following qualitative evaluations should suffice. The men who used two towels were, predominantly, rotund or elderly, or some combination thereof. However, a complicating factor–whether one used the steam room, and, consequently, whether one had qualms about using the same towel in the steam room and for drying off after a shower–contradicts this general trend. Several otherwise young and fit gentlemen were seen wandering about the locker room, one towel around the waist and the other slung over one or both shoulders, headed in the general direction of the steam room. The population who used one towel was remarkably heterogeneous, and thus eludes any application of a general predictive rule.
However, the most striking contrast existed in the un-toweled cohort. Roughly a quarter of the males visibly under age 35 chose to trot about without a towel; whether it was for the sake of political expression or narcissistic self-confidence remains unclear. At least one was seen visibly strutting between his locker and the showers, no towel of which to speak, and could be seen “sucking in” his stomach so as to appear slimmer. Of the men over 40, roughly a third of the moderately to significantly overweight men did not wear towels. This un-toweled population was overwhelmingly tan, and seemed to carry a “you know what, fuckface, I don’t give a shit that I’m subjecting the locker room to a view of my [shriveled and somewhat depressing] genitalia” kind of swagger to their collective bearing. The overwhelming majority of overweight men over 70 seemed not to notice that they weren’t wearing towels, which is to say that the majority of them weren’t. Curiously, the majority of skinny old men wore towels.
Much as the degree of nakedness was positively correlated to age and BMI–young nudist outliers notwithstanding–so too was amount and subject matter of conversation. However, the distribution of speech and volume is a normal distribution, presenting slight positive kurtosis, and skewed to the right. Young men, it was observed, tend to go about their locker room activities in near monastic silence, even when with a group of friends. Just as old men didn’t seem to notice their nudity, they existed, conversationally, only fleetingly, and, even then, absentmindedly. There was, however, a very small minority of elderly gentlemen who were inappropriately talkative, and all of these men failed to wear towels. We postulate that this double-flouting of social norms indicates either supreme self-possession or senility.
The most aggressively naked, the aforementioned “you know what, fuckface […]” cohort, tended also to speak most voluminously, at volumes the majority of the locker room users found boorish, and about a relatively narrow range of subjects, which ranged from finance to geopolitics, religion, and copulatory matters. The field researcher shits you not, the following is a direct quote:
“Hey, buddy, have you been down to the exchange recently? [compatriot replies] Yeah, I know, it’s a ghost town lately. Damned nerds with their computers. Assholes! Hey, what you trading recently. [compatriot replies] Yeah, I got some oil on. Fuckin’ nightmare, what’s happening in Libya and Japan. Damned towelheads, should bomb the shit out of ‘em.” That particular gentleman was unclear as to whom he was calling “towelheads”, and, accordingly, failed to specify whether Japan or Libya, according to his particularly insightful strategy, should be bombed. by the United States.
Here, the field researcher uses physical proximity as a proxy for homophobic tendencies. Specifically, the metric used here is the proportion of individuals who distanced themselves more than the customary, socially-accepted mean of not less than ten inches from a nude, toweled, or disrobing health club member.
All but a few, irrespective of placement on the fitness-age matrix, did not instinctually gaze deeply into the pile of the carpet when in close proximity to a naked, toweled, or disrobing individual. This is less an explicit expression of homophobia than a tacit concession to the fact that men with wandering eyes are looked upon with suspicion, and that, in suburban health clubs of this variety, suspicion is, de facto, grounds for repudiation.
Contrary to the researcher’s earlier findings, the populations least sensitive to proximity, and most likely to make physical contact with other naked, toweled, or disrobing men were young athletes and the aggressively naked. In the case of the former, a small group of high school-aged athletes, each wearing basketball shoes, situated themselves close to the field researcher. Though covered, the group was in various stages of disrobing; one, who was already wearing a towel, insisted that his friends “check out [his] delt’s”, whereupon this request the group proceeded to look at and then poke or squeeze the young man’s shoulder. In an instance concerning the latter cohort, one toweled gentleman gleefully punched his friend’s arm while proclaiming that he (i.e. the friend) was “one sly motherfucker.”
Hypotheses // Directions for Further Research
i) Self-confidence and perceived power, taken as the aggregate of 1) propensity toward nudity, 2) volume and 3) volume of words spoken, and 4) the extent to which an individual male transgresses social norms without repudiation, peaks some time around fifty years of age in men of slightly to moderately overweight build.
ii) Conformity to social norms peaks in males’ mid thirties, experiences logarithmic decline through males’ early forties through late sixties, and reaches its nadir at around seventy years of age.
iii) Explicit homophobia and both explicit and implicit homoeroticism are curiously intertwined, and correlate loosely with self-confidence and participation in team sports.