Steam-Room Rules

People who stop me on the street to admire the finely sculpted muscles under my shirt, which happens never, usually ask me if I spend a lot of time at the gym.

I do spend a lot of time at the gym. I go nearly every day, a habit I've maintained for several years now. This gives you yet another reason to admire me, I realize: Formerly, you were perhaps impressed with the amount by which I have managed to exceed my credit-card limit, or by the number of automobiles that can be found parked in my driveway whenever one of my teenagers takes advantage of the fact that I okay'd having "a couple of friends" over.

I don't mind sharing with you the secrets to establishing a regular exercise routine: 1) Always stick to the same schedule, picking an hour when you'd normally be doing something even less pleasant, like work, and 2) when you get there, spend all of your time in the steam room.

The steam room is a great place to relax and soothe your muscles, which are usually sore from the car ride over. You'll work up a sweat with far less effort than the people grunting and herniating in the weight room above you. You'll bond with other naked males in a ritual dating all the way back to the stone age, when cave men would go to their health clubs and talk about whatever guys talked about before televised sports.

(I've never been to the women's side to see if they are naked in there as well, but as a responsible journalist I would be willing to go.)

Once in the steam room, there are some really important points of etiquette to observe. If you break the steam-room rules, you'll be denounced as "the person who broke the steam-room rules."

Rule One: No matter what, do not glance at any guy below the waist. Naked men simply do not look There. Someone could come into the steam room with a live alligator clinging to his upper thigh, and no one would say anything.

Rule Two: Men who fart in the steam room will be beaten without mercy.

Rule Three: You may not complain about the heat, even if the wall tiles are melting. You may refer to the temperature in the context of admiring remarks like, "it's a bit warm in here," and "I'm really in favor of all these blisters I'm getting." If you can't speak without crying, don't say anything.

Rule Four: Usually someone will come in and spray some sort of chemical on the heater valve, like eucalyptus or oil of mace. Don't complain about this even if your retinas burst into flames. The stuff is supposed to open your nasal passages and works under the same principle as Drano. I've noticed that a lot of times, these guys will come in, spray this caustic stuff all over, and then flee. I'm not sure this is fair.

Rule Five: You're not supposed to practice any sort of personal hygiene in the steam room, like a shave or a colonic irrigation. Do not brush your teeth or delouse your scalp.

Rule Six: If you're going to talk, devote the conversation to something which will demonstrate how smart, powerful, or successful you are. If the subject is sports, reveal the startling fact that you knew how the game was going to turn out before it was played. The steam room is not the place to ruminate on the meaning of life or express confusion about your sexual identity. Most of the time, though, you won't be able to talk because your lungs are boiling.

Rule Seven: Once you are in the steam room, you can't leave until someone else does first. This is a really dumb rule and might motivate you to just skip the steam room altogether: I've seen two guys stay in there so long they looked like they should be dipped in butter. But if you go in and then come out again before anyone else, you will be considered less of a man. Unpoached, but less of a man.

These rules may seem harsh, but just think of the alternative:


- Bruce Cameron -

[ by W. Bruce Cameron Copyright © 2004 -- { used with permission } ]


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