You’ve just finished your workout. It was chest day, and you knocked out some great sets on the bench. You finished up with some core work because that girl who was staring at you from the cardio loft (she was totally staring at you) was doing abs, too. You grab your towel and bottle of water and head off to the locker room, content with the work you’ve done.
You turn the corner and head to your locker, #116. Nothing odd here. No sights to see. You sit down on the bench in front of your locker, unlock the locker, and grab your protein. You throw two scoops into your Blender Bottle (because Dom Mazzetti said so). You’re halfway through that shake when you turn around and see what you were hoping to avoid that day.
A naked, flabby, hairy, old guy.
An old guy who probably didn’t work out that day.
An old guy who came to the gym specifically to be naked.
You’re a little perturbed, but you’ve become pretty tolerant of the old naked dudes at your gym. “They’ve got nowhere else to be naked,” you think.
It’s weird, but it’s like a central cog in the culture of being old–old dudes head to the gym specifically to be naked.
You finish your shake and head over to the sink to rinse out your shaker cup. On the way there, you see four more old naked guys. Their workout for the day? Two sets of removing a shoe. They shed the rest of their wardrobe and begin their takeover of the locker room. Content with getting in their cardio by pacing in front of the mirror, these old guys always seem to be looking for something. Something they can’t find. Maybe they’re the only ones who see it.
Now I’m not one to judge. I hope, one day, that I’ll be comfortable (and crazy) enough to meander around a locker room naked just because I can. That’s a perk only the elderly can truly enjoy. But these old dudes are always in the way. You picked a locker in the middle of the row because there weren’t locks on the adjacent lockers? Great, some old dude will take the locker next to yours and be sitting there—you guessed it, naked—when you return from hammering your shoulders.
Maybe we’re the weird ones—those of us who go to the gym to workout, and, I don’t know, remain clothed. Maybe the contingent of old naked dudes from each gym nationwide meets every Sunday night to discuss the following week’s plan for nakedness. The times, the specific areas of the locker room, the right topics to discuss. Maybe they talk about how long they can sit in the sauna before it looks like they actually came to the gym to do something.
There was probably one really bold old, naked dude who thought about actually working out. He probably left the locker room one day wearing the shortest shorts he could find, a sleeveless shirt he used to paint houses in the late 1960s, and a headband. He probably wore Nike Air Monarchs. I’m assuming he was shunned. He probably had to leave that gym and find another gym where he could be naked, assuming he learned from his mistake.
Old dudes love being naked; that’s something that anyone can surmise from just one visit to a gym, health club, or pool locker room. But in those locker rooms lies an existential question: why—why do old dudes love being naked?
Furthermore, why do these oldtimers insist upon being naked and in the way? It would be one thing if they congregated in the far corner of the locker room, discussing Citizen Kane or reflecting on their first trip to a Brooklyn Dodgers game. But that’s not what they do. That would be too easy. That would make sense.
No, old naked dudes have to be in front of the mirror. Old naked dudes have to be lurking over your shoulder, always on the verge of asking you how cell phones work. Old naked dudes have to be in front of the mirror, staring at themselves. Or maybe staring through themselves, figuring something out. Maybe that’s where the world’s smartest go just to think.
But any solution for why they’re in the locker room still doesn’t resolve the fact that they’re never wearing clothes. Venturing into a locker room at an L.A. Fitness is like an episode of Naked and Afraid—except you’re clothed, while still being very, very afraid.
One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in a locker room involved the untimely appearance of two old naked dudes at a basketball tournament when I was 13. My team played poorly against one of the better travel teams in the area, and our coaches took us to the men’s locker room at CCBC (Community College of Baltimore County) Dundalk to yell at us for our performance. Halfway through our coach’s talk, two old, naked guys stumbled on out of the shower and headed toward our huddle.
The locker room was small, and there wasn’t a way to get to the other room besides going directly through our huddle. We knew this. The old naked dudes knew this. After a short standoff, our huddle shrunk a great deal, and the old dudes found a way to skate by, almost pressed up against the wall. Some of my teammates, unfamiliar with the typical locker room procedures and etiquette common to the old naked dude, demanded we leave the locker room. Our post-game talk was moved to the hallway.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering why this phenomenon exists, and I don’t have answers. In fact, even the most advanced scientists struggle daily when trying to decode this mystery. It may be one of those questions that just remains unanswered—because no answer will ever be good enough. Some people have even deemed it the eighth wonder of the world.
If my reasoning isn’t good enough, check out these wise words from comedian Dana Carvey, who offers his analysis on one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
Known as one of the world’s foremost authorities on this issue, Carvey’s wise words start around the 12:15 mark of his act.
Good luck out there, young locker-room goers. Just remember, keep your gaze eye-level. That’s said to neutralize an old dude’s longing to remain naked.