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Tuesday, 31 January
Don't Look Now

Some kindly friends of mine sent me a copy of Stephen Fry's memoir recently, presumably reasoning that I could get a reminder of what it's like to actually be clever rather than just stab blindly at the concept. It is titled Moab is My Washpot, in that typically puckish British way. He's probably bummed out that Beyond the Fringe got to "But my brother Esau is an hairy man" first.

Anyway, I'm quite enjoying it. I've only just started, so he's still regaling me with tales of horror from going to prep schools as a kid, where he's stuck commingling with dozens and dozens of boys, all boys, for months on end.

"They fuck you up, your mum and dad," wrote Philip Larkin famously. And sure. Boy howdy, do they ever. But I don't think Larkin went far enough. (Or maybe his parents really were extraordinarily hideous.) As I read, I thought, Really, what didn't fuck me up? And if I am honest, I have to answer: nothing. Everything fucked me up. This is what's great about living in the modern age: there is always something somewhere to attach blame to, even if it's lodged securely in the past, beyond any scrutiny.

But if I'm really honest, what really fucked me up was other children. Where Larkin was a little myopic--your parents? That's the best you can do? You're not looking hard enough!--Sartre (to haul another unwilling victim into this bunch of claptrap) overreached in a lovably Gallic fashion: "Hell is other people." Dude! Even Catherine Keener? Because I think she's swell.

No, hell is, to me, other children. Particularly other children that you are forced to shower with at an earlyish age.

Here follows some tales from having to take showers with a bunch of guys over the years. Fry hasn't gotten there yet in his autobiography, but I'm sure he will. Because what happens there is . . . well, it's damaging. I was lucky enough never to have experienced anything quite as mind-wrecking as, say, Carrie White, but then again . . . I don't know. I fear I'm ruining whatever point it is that I don't have, so let's just go.


Junior high is around when young American males are first forced to endure the horrid experience of public showers with other young males, hopefully after P.E. (If you were taking showers after band, uh . . . you may have a future in the priesthood.) There's a whole panoply of nasty things going on with this situation, and I'm not sure they're avoidable. Among these are various warring mental dilemmas, such as: Don't Look At Dicks! vs. I Wonder If Mine Is Tiny. And: If I Was First In Line Can I Get The Next Shower? vs. The Guy Behind Me Is A Senior, And Mean. Or: Am I Really Cleaning Myself With This Soap When I Just Watched Another Guy Clean His Balls With It, Or Am I Just Rubbing His Dick Skin All Over Me?

Look, I'm not trying to be the homophobe clearinghouse over here. I'm just saying, you get thrown into this fucking situation without any guidance or rules or anything, and it's freaky. You deal with ALL THIS STUFF.

Like this new kid, S. S. was endomorphic and shy and wore glasses, so of course he was doomed from the beginning. Once he started attending my P.E. class, word mysteriously spread: "Check it out! S. has only one ball!" I don't even remember who clued me into this, nor did I think to wonder, "Say! How the fuck does anyone even know?" However, for a few weeks, I would be in the showers with S. and would try and take a surreptitious look. BUT ALWAYS MINDFUL OF NOT STARING AT SOMEONE'S DICK. Well, you see the problem right off.

How was I supposed to stare not even at his dick, but somehow under his dick? The whole thing gave me a headache. What evil bastard had started this terrible bit of brain-eating slander, and how come he didn't get vilified for dick-looking when he ostensibly confessed this observation?

It will soothe exactly nobody to learn that I eventually gave up trying to solve this unitesticular conundrum in favor of retaining my own tenuous sanity. And it would please Mr. Sartre to learn that this particularly unSkotlike bit of Letting It Go did not prevent S. from being referred to as "One-Ball" until we graduated.


After a few years or so of getting inured to the psychological harm of showering with other males, it's nice to sort of get numb to the whole situation. So when I got to college and had to do the dorm thing, showering with a bunch of other dudes no longer wore on me so much. I had, after all, endured such spectacles as one junior high kid tormented another kid, who was basically borderline retarded by asking him devilishly mean circular questions: "Hey, D. Do you wash your nuts?'' (Thought.) "Yeah." "Oh, man! You wash your nuts? (Worried thought.) "Uh . . . no." "Are you serious? You don't wash your nuts?" (Thought, and purest anguish.) "I do! I do!" "Are you telling me . . . that you wash your nuts?" "I . . . " (Pained silence, then the laughter of boys.)

That's never going to leave me.

Anyway. So by the time I got to college, yeah, whatever. Here's the group showers, and here are the weird, anonymous penises that I'm not supposed to look at. Not that I wanted to look at penises, see, but on the other hand . . . how can you not look at penises? They're hilarious. But it's all just impossible (and I may be losing all my friends as I write this). Who doesn't cast a jaundiced eye upon someone who happens to be standing around naked right in front of you? How do you not give a glance over to some strange member, maybe if only to catch some ill-placed mole or an unexpected thickness or bend? What if the guy has, like, three scorpion-tailed penises? It could happen!

(Yeah, I'm losing all my friends.)

With all that said, it was a real pleasure to find someone--my best friend, actually--with whom it was an uncomplicated riot to take a shower with, there in those awful tiled dorm bathrooms. J. was a nice fellow, and we would take these showers (under separate faucets, you bastards!) for like an hour, and we would do things like craft shampoo-aided mohawks. My hair was longer than his at the time, so my mohawks always won. J. was the one, however, who introduced the art of pretending to be shot to death on film. This was a fairly brainless game of filling one's mouth with water, and then juddering violently, as if being riddled with machine-gun fire, slumping to the floor, and letting the water leak out of one's mouth, Hollywood style.

J. and I did this a number of times, and that guy could die with some serious style. Also, his penis was bigger than mine (WE PEEK, OKAY?), which I tried several times to console myself about, given my shampoo mohawk superiority, but that never really made me feel any better either.


One more from the college dorms. There was this guy, and to be honest, I don't even remember his name. I'm calling him "Plankton." (The reason for this is just stupid. 1. I remember his dull blonde hair, and that he was lanky. So, "Lanky." 2. But then my brain dubbed him "Lankton," for really no good reason. 3. "Lankton" became "Plankton." Great.

Anyway, Plankton lived a few doors down from me, and we obviously had similar schedules, because we were always in the damn shower together. Whatever. (Oh, all right: he was bigger than me too.)

Plankton was actually always a decent guy, but he had the weirdest habit: he cleaned his fucking asshole more than . . . more than I know how to finish this sentence.

Plankton washed his asshole as if it had a wasp's nest lodged in it. I mean, he scrubbed the hell out of it. Ostentatiously. He would lift one leg and brace his hand against the wall and just scour it. scrub scrub scrub I didn't know what to do about this. (What can you do?) I became consumed with self-doubt: Am I not cleaning my asshole rigorously enough? Consultation with close friends confirmed that I was not alone in my disquiet. "That guy really scrubs the hell out of his asshole," was the assessment of my friend D.

Somehow, what was worse was, he toweled the living hell out of his nether regions as well. After giving his asshole a good, soapy attack, he would apply his towel in the most abusive fashion possible--dry dry dry--all the while, as with his ablutions, with a distant, unconcerned look on his face. What the fuck is up with that guy's asshole? We all wondered. I confess even this: I squinted at this towel, wondering if I would find shit stains. Of course I didn't. The guy had spent several minutes ratting at it with soap and water and sheer determination.

We all declined to really spend much time with Plankton after we shared our shower gossip. Too fucking creepy. I myself was pleased; another example of being delighted with exclusionary male politics: Plankton's ass weirdness was enough to get him dibarred from our group, and so he would not be welcome into our group antics, such as taking acid and playing frisbee (and pretending to be X-Men).

Just as well. Fucker's dick was bigger than mine.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


Hey, Skot, what happened to all your friends?

Comment number: 006276   Posted by: on February 1, 2006 06:36 AM from IP:

There are no words for how traumatized I am after reading this......and to think I gave birth to a male and what he will have to endure....well the mind boggles........thanks.

Comment number: 006277   Posted by: Lala on February 1, 2006 09:02 AM from IP:

You're ruined a perfectly good $7.50 chicken parmigiana sandwich. Thanks.

Comment number: 006278   Posted by: johnny on February 1, 2006 12:16 PM from IP:

Although the part regarding your shower shenanigans with your "best friend" did have me wondering a little, I rather enjoyed this glimpse into the horrors of being male.

Comment number: 006279   Posted by: Amanda on February 1, 2006 12:33 PM from IP:

This is another of those boys'-locker-room stories to which my first reaction is to gape, "Wow, boys are almost as bad as girls. Who knew?" I could tell you my shower trauma involving two girls at camp, but instead I'll tell a second-hand story from my former boss.

My boss thought he might need glasses and was apprehensive, because the eye doctor was an old classmate of his from high school. He was afraid that while getting his eyes checked he'd be unable to stop himself from bursting out laughing, because he still always thought of the doctor as "the guy who got a bar of soap shoved up his ass in the gym shower."

Comment number: 006280   Posted by: on February 1, 2006 02:49 PM from IP:

Last couple of postings have been dead funny m'man.

And From the World of Coincidence: I am pretty sure that "Unitesticular Conundrum" was Emerson, Lake & Palmer's follow-up to "Brain Salad Surgery."

Look for it on iTunes!

Comment number: 006281   Posted by: Buzzy on February 1, 2006 05:42 PM from IP:

This was one of the funniest things I've ever read. I probably freaked out my neighbors I laughed so loud.

Comment number: 006282   Posted by: yensen on February 1, 2006 08:09 PM from IP:

I started my period twenty minutes ago and I'm still glad I'm a girl and not a boy.

Comment number: 006283   Posted by: Amy on February 2, 2006 07:35 AM from IP:

The unitesticular rumor seems incredibly common. We had one in our school and I've heard similar stories elsewhere. (only being European we didn’t called him ‘One-ball’ but simply ‘Bollock’)

Comment number: 006284   Posted by: Lung the Younger on February 3, 2006 12:58 AM from IP:

Suddenly, I'm very glad that my high school didn't have gym showers (which, looking back, seems kind of unsanitary, but it WAS a Catholic school.) And that I'm a girl.

Comment number: 006285   Posted by: CG on February 4, 2006 11:49 PM from IP:

Ok, The reason he probably cleaned his "hole" so much is to try to get his friends cum off of it! And secondly, you have too much time on your hands!

Comment number: 006286   Posted by: on February 16, 2006 04:58 PM from IP:

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