Please, someone, save us from the hell on earth that is public men's changing rooms
So many different willies, all far too close to your face
Changing rooms are terrible places. We all know that. Places where you and your insecurities are laid bare in a dystopian landscape of bad hygiene and assorted body parts. I’m not talking about posh private gyms where men stand with their balls out discussing business – I’m sure they’re just as bad but I’ve never prised open my tight fist to pay to join one – I’m talking about your average, open to the public, leisure centres where most people go to exercise. And, it seems, carry out intimate grooming regimes.
Lots of men treat them like their own private lad caves. Caves with intermittently hot running water, where they are free from irritating domestic norms – such as the expectation you will wee directly into a toilet AND clear up after you’ve shaved your pubes – and can finally be themselves. By which I mean totally revolting.
The fact my children go to swimming lessons at the local pool – last refurbished circa 1824 – adds another level of anxiety to the mix. Will today be the day they get hold of a urinal cake? Can they refrain from pointing out an innocent man’s excessively hairy back (again)? Will this be the week I make eye contact with my father-in-law’s penis? (I have twins. He comes along to help.)
In other words, a lot of bad things go on. Let’s look at some I’ve witnessed a little more closely.
The clipping of toe nails
I don’t like pointing the finger of blame at old men. But… old men need to stop clipping their toe nails after a swim. Especially since those I’ve witnessed don’t even collect their trimmings, allowing them to fly off in all directions like tiny shrapnel. Still, better to be hit by one of those than come into contact with a thick, gnarly pork scratching they really had to work at to yank off.
Shaving in the shower
I’m a reasonable human. I can accept some people will want to shave after their shower, as long as they give the sink a good rinse once they’re finished (which they won’t). But I can’t accept a man shaving his chest while I am standing next to him in the shower, his discarded follicles swirling around my feet before reconvening at the drain like a small, bedraggled rodent.
I’m very happy for men who are secure enough to gather together after an OAP Zumba class (again old men, I have nothing against you) and shoot the breeze au naturel. I admire them – lots of people would pay for that kind of body confidence.But in the confines of a changing room, where tightly packed benches and lockers leave little room to pass, it creates an awkward fleshy obstacle to squeeze by while pretending not to look at the astounding variety of willies on show. And definitely not commenting on them. Something my children find impossible.
There’s only so much towelling any man’s undercarriage needs. It’s as if some of them are trying to start a fire down there.
Pissing and missing
The innocence of youth is both beautiful and heart breaking. To most small children the world is a benevolent place. To parents it is brimming with a multitude of dangers their carefree offspring will soon discover, each new revelation chipping away at their deluded faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.
There is no better illustration of this than the changing room toilet (yeah wars are bad too, I SUPPOSE), which children will happily scamper around bare-footed until you warn them that the moistness underfoot is, mostly, wee. Actual wee that grown men have actually weed onto the floor.
“But why daddy, why would anyone do that?” Because there are some bad people in this world. People who just don’t take care when they aim. Probably the same people who leave the floaters.
One hook for his coat, one for his bag, another for his goggles; towel laid out across the bench next to his shoes, which obviously need a seat. The rest of us will just get changed over here in the corner, shall we?
Yeah, I get that sweeping dirty water away with a giant floor squeegee isn’t the most stimulating job. But it would be nice if you noticed I was standing right in front of you before sending a tsunami of filth and used plasters in my direction.
Teenagers armed with deodorant
I remember the moment I first noticed my own body odour. I opened my school blazer to get something out of the inside pocket and almost fainted. From then on, until I realised regular washing was the best way to go, I unloaded half a can of Lynx on myself every day.
The smell of old sweat, and the havoc it can play with your street cred, is as terrifying to teenagers today as it was to me back in the ‘90s. It’s reassuring some things don’t change, but also horrific for your respiratory system if several start spraying at once in the confined space of a changing room.
Men wanting money
I hoard old pound coins. I store them in a secret pocket in my wallet. I lie when my wife asks if I have any spare change. I wouldn’t swap one for a tenner… Why? Because lockers that haven’t been replaced since The Krankies were on telly won’t operate without them.
But, every week, someone who hasn’t thought ahead, who hasn’t carefully tended to his precious supply, will ask if I wouldn’t mind swapping mine for a new one. OF COURSE I MIND, I think, before handing it over.
So, men, let’s take a look at ourselves in the changing room mirror. But don’t start plucking your nose hairs, this isn’t your private fucking bathroom.