by K.M. Zahrt
Dear Old Man,
You shocked me. Minding my own business, I absent-mindedly ventured into the men’s locker room to relieve my bladder before beginning my workout. I thought I was alone. I thought the locker room was empty. But when I turned the corner, I saw you. There you were, standing at the sink, stark naked—no shirt, no shoes, no nothing. You looked like an older, chubbier version of Andre Agassi with a Pete Sampras-style man-sweater, tennis balls and racquet in tow.
How unusual! How extraordinary! You seemed to have no reservations about conducting your personal business in such a semi-public place. You brought your hair trimmer into the locker room for this expressed purpose. No bones about it. No pun intended. There you stood, shaving your back hair, your shoulder hair, your chest hair, and who-knows-what other hairs.
And I only have one thing to say to you—old man who shaves his body hair butt naked in the men’s locker room—you, my friend, are a genius. Pure genius. You have opened my eyes. I too have tropical follicles growing wildly over my man-land. And I too have hairy hedges that need lawn care. Why do I do my dirty work at home, in my own bathroom, over my own sink, behind a locked door, secretly in shame? Why do I fumble with damp TP to collect all the shavings? Why do I do this to myself when I could use the gym’s facilities and I could leave the mess for their maintenance staff? You’ve so brilliantly conceived of and executed the perfect solution. Why didn’t I think of it sooner?
As I watched you sweep your human mulch under the sink for someone else to deal with, all I could think was, “You, my friend, are a man among boys.”
Thank you, my hygienic hero. You’ve changed my life. I want to thank you for your courage, your pioneering spirit, and your willingness to go where every man should go, but few do. I want to thank you for not judging me when I b-lined to the urinal, uncomfortable with your bold act of male bravado. Thank you for understanding when I skipped out on washing my hands to avoid standing next to you (I used the hand sanitizer, I swear). Thank you for showing me, at age 26, what manhood really looks like.
Next time you need to fix up your forest, maybe—just maybe—you’ll have a friend there with you, trimming the trees. I think I’m ready. I think I’m man enough to confidently stride into the locker room nude, as if to say, “Here I am. I shave my body hair, and I am man.”
Note: This letter was written for and published in the original The Fly Came Near It: A Cultural Journal for and by Michiganders in 2011. It has been modified only slightly from the earlier version. Other letters by K.M. Zahrt have been published in The Believer and in Michiganders Post.