The problem with a locker room isn't that it's inherently uncomfortable to be naked and sweaty in a room full of guys who are similarly naked and sweaty. Yes, that's weird, but most guys in the world know that it's weird, so we all collectively agree to make it as comfortable as possible by not talking to or looking at anyone. We dress quickly, we shower quickly, and reduce the amount of time that we're actually naked around each other to an absolute minimum.
Most of us do, anyway.
The real problem is that, in every locker room in every gym at all times, there are people that are way, way too comfortable. They'll get naked, and then they'll just hang around and talk to you. Ask you how your day was. Ask you what you plan on working out. They're not saying anything weird; they're just being friendly. But, more than that, they're being naked.
Guy: "Hey, Dan, long time no see, how've you been?"
Me: "Oh, just... Oh. No, nothing, just- Changing quickly and staring at the floor."
Guy: "Nice. Whatcha working on today?"
Me: "Mostly doing my best to not see your dick, because we work together. And I don't like dicks, as a- just as a general, thing-"
Guy: "Cool, nice, yeah. I'm actually taking the day off today; tore my ACL last week."
Me: "Yeah that'll- Wait, what the fuck are you doing in here?"
"Wife's really been ridin' my ass about fixin' our lawnmower. Women, right? Oh well. Read any good books lately?"
There's no explanation for it. There just exists a type of guy who, under normal circumstances, will never casually hang out naked around other guys. Until he gets to the gym. Then it's all he does and he loves it.
Have you ever interacted with someone who was so unwaveringly comfortable with something seemingly weird that it made you actively question if you were weird for not being equally comfortable? That's what these people do. They come into the locker room with an air of "FINALLY, I can just be naked around my dude friends, right guys?" And no one's ever told them we're not on board. It's like they're so evolved that they wouldn't consider even for a second that you wouldn't want to do naked Captain Morgan poses in the locker room and talk about your weekend plans.
"Yeah, I gotta take the kids over to- What's that? No, I don't need a towel, I've got one draped over my shoulders. Thanks though.
Intellectually and emotionally speaking, the socially awkward man is always five years younger than he technically is, because awkwardness is all about being slightly behind everyone else, always.
When you're awkward, even the act of getting older makes you feel out of place. You enter college and you look around at all of the people making new friends, successfully managing their new freedom, experimenting with new facial hair, and you feel like they were given a set of College Survival Instructions that inexplicably never reached you. Everyone's already a College Guy or Woman, except you. You're still just a High School Kid in college. Eventually, you figure it out but, by the time you graduate, there are new rules, and then you're the last person to figure out what those rules are. Again.
Your friends who were College Guys and Women quickly and magically become Working Adult Men and Women. When you leave college and get a real job and work for a few years, your coworkers will suddenly start talking about stocks, and 401(K)'s, and they won't for a second assume that you don't know what they're talking about. They're all thinking "Well, you're 26 now, so obviously you have a rich and active stock portfolio; let's now talk about it at length." Meanwhile, you're thinking Actually I keep all of my money in the checking account I've had since high school, except for a few dollars that I keep in my glove compartment in case I ever need some loose cash to buy fast food, because I am an eight-year-old with a car.
"How many McNuggets can I get for this much?"
And normally I don't have a problem interacting with the people my age. It's only when they bring up stuff that people my age are supposed to be thinking about do things fall apart. When a friend asked me what my company's 401(K) plan was like, I vaguely remembered throwing out the paperwork because it had a bunch of questions that scared and confused me, ("What should we do with all of your money when you die, Daniel?). When I met with a Financial Advisor for the first time and he asked me if I had any interest in buying a house soon, it took every fiber of my being to stop myself from saying, "Why, no, I'm not a Daddy. That's really more of a Dad thing."
"I was actually saving up all my money to buy a few fistfuls of puppies. Is- Should I not be doing that?"
And the truth is that everyone else is probably just as dumb as you are. They're just as confused, and just as unprepared. The difference is that they know how to fake it, and you don't, because faking requires confidence, and you're not the guy with confidence. You're the guy who's afraid that if people hear you pee, they'll know you're doing it wrong, (somehow).
You've just got to learn how to fake it. Hey, you know a good way to fake being an adult? You should just go buy a suit and... oh, right.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he is desperately working on his social awkwardness, (la-...ladies).