Locker Room Talk
In September of 2004 I started taking HapKiDo classes downtown. When I arrive at the DoJang the TaeKwonDo students are finishing their class so we mingle in the locker room as I change into my DoBok and they are changing out of theirs.
As I was changing a high-school aged TKD student approached me and introduced himself.
"Hi my name is Roooobert." he said. (The multiple o's do not signify a vowel sound as in 'new', but rather the length of time he devoted to the pronunciation of the first syllable of his name.) A slow pronunciation of someone's own name can offer certain insights into what to expect from them in a conversation. Yet even in this case, warned as I was, I had no clue what was heading my way.
I told him my name and the conversation was going somewhat ok I thought. I mean it is rather awkward to talk to another guy while you are both changing clothes, and certainly none of the other guys in the locker room were anxious to join in on the conversation. I could tell that Robert was a friendly fellow, but perhaps had missed a few of the rules of conduct in public that get subtlely passed on as one accrues embarrasments. I had no idea how suddenly the conversation was to turn cataclysmic.
As Robert was availing me of his plans to buy a sportscar I was switching my jeans for the pant portion of the DoBok. In mid-sentence Robert broke off and said,
"Oh hey man, nice underwear."
I froze, eyes wide. I had to seriously resist the urge to shriek like a slapped newborn and run out into the night pantless. My mouth dropped open and I looked around horrified to see the looks on the faces of all the other men in the changing room. Heads were shaking, glances were nervous, an obvious rule of male conduct had been broken. Disapproval reigned and I had no way to distance myself from the guilt by association. I looked back at Robert and his open vulnerable face seemed to indicate that he had no idea of his horrible transgression. There was just that mixture of innocence, and hope on his face that he found someone who was nice to him.
Now normally I am verbose to the extreme. However in this instance I had no words. What do you say to something like that?
Obviously he deserved a stern rebuttal; only that would satisfy the masses. And yet it was also obvious that he was ignorant of his crime and would not understand why he was being punished. Adding to the difficulty was the slight insistence in those other faces that my response would be weighed and my very sexuality was on trial.
You just do not go through life expecting that such a situation can so lightly and easily be dropped upon you from out of the blue. Thank you oh, so very much ye non-self aware for trials like these!
After a moment's pause I just looked at Robert and said, "Well thank you Robert, I don't know that I have ever had that compliment before."
The guys all snickered and I saw that something was starting to dawn on Robert
"Oh, heh, sorry man." he said. By George I think there's hope for the boy yet.
But that does bring up an interesting question. In preparing for future awkwardnesses from the Non-Self Aware, what does one say to something like that?
Hey man, nice underwear:
- Thanks let me see yours!
- What these old things?
- It's not the undies that count, but what's in them!
- Oh you like them? Well take them I insist.
- And now, you die.
- Oh! I forgot I was wearing any.
- Yeah! And you know the best part? They aren't even mine.
- Oh I'm just glad I got them on frontways this time.