Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strangeness in the Burbs

I am in the locker room of a suburban pool with two kids, the 15- and 12-year-old boys of a friend, and at the sink a man is shaving his chest with a Gillette Mach III. A few feet away, an Asian gentleman is ventilating his pubic hair with a hair dryer. I have just crossed over to the weird zone.

Neither men is outstanding in any way. The Asian guy has a hawkish nose, the white one wears faded tattoos on both arms. There are probably societal rules to deal with such behavior, but I don't know them. The 12-year-old goes, "Gross!" loud enough for both men to hear over the whooshing of the hair dryer, but they continue their odd rituals. I wonder if this is something the teen-age lifeguard should deal with but decide it probably isn't. I return to my chair poolside. The 15-year-old says, "That guy is sooo strange." I ask, which one; he says, both.

It turns out the shaver does this at least twice a week. He comes to the pool with his mate and I wonder whether she performs some similar grooming rite in the women's locker room. The Asian man does not speak English and has a guest pass. He is at the pool daily from two to five and always buys an ice cream from the Good Humor truck at four. I learn this from the 15-year-old, who adds, "I am not going to be in the same room with him." The boy's father, I know, has a thing about sexual predators, whom he describes as anyone behaving in an unusual way. I ask the kid if he's told his father about the two men and he shakes his head. "He'd never let us come to the pool again."

I wonder if someone should speak to these two guys, but who? Nowhere is it posted (I looked) that blow-drying your pubes is forbidden, or that shaving your chest is frowned upon. Established pool rules do not come out of the blue--they are argued over by community boards and designed to (1) protect the community from law suits and (2) ensure some basic safety. Neither gent is in anyway jeopardizing the safety of swimmers. They're just, well, weird and, yes, gross.

It's probably a good thing we not have too many rules against weirdness or inappropriate behavior. Most of the people I know have at some time or other acted in very strange ways, both privately and publicly. And what would we have done without the strangeness of Tom Cruise, and Michael Jackson, without our weekly fix of News of the Weird?

I'm not sure I'd want to spend a lot of time with the chest-shaver. A friend who works at a local gym tells me Asians routinely use blow dryers on their nether parts, much to the discomfiture of pube-non-dryers. So maybe it's a culture thing, or they're afraid of catching a cold down there.

I suppose it could have been worse. The chest-shaver could have been publicly shaving his... oh, never mind.

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