In defense of locker room talk
I’m a woman who loves locker room talk.
Why? Because I’m a woman who has spent a lot of time in locker rooms.
Locker room talk never seemed like a bad thing to me until this weekend when I found out Donald Trump said horrible things about women and then referred to it as “locker room talk.”
That confused me because I’ve never heard anything like that in any of the hundreds of locker rooms I’ve been in.
Let me explain.
I basically grew up in locker rooms. My dad was a high school boys basketball coach and my mom still jokes that she trained my brother and sister and I as babies to sleep through scoreboard buzzers and referee whistles.
As soon as we could walk we were running around the gym and when we were old enough, we would hang out in the boy’s locker room by ourselves while my dad was having practice or a game.
My dad’s office was in the locker room and there was even a special locker in there where we hid some stuff we liked to play with. Some of my earliest memories are of trying to guess the codes on lockers and drawing up our own basketball plays on the chalkboards.
We didn’t even notice the smell because we loved being there so much. Of course we would always get out of there before the boys came back in, but just being around high school boys so much — on bus rides too, and even a few times when the boys gave us a ride home — I can say I heard a lot of “locker room talk” over the years.
It’s how I learned the “F” word I used to surprised my mom by yelling it in front of everyone when I was sitting on her lap at story time at the library in our tiny Kansas town.
I heard a similar story years later about two little girls who were just like my sister and I when we were their age, but their dad was the football coach in the same town. At the dinner table one of the little girls casually asked their dad what an “a — hole” was to the shock and horror of their grandma joining them.
This is “locker room talk.” Both of those examples are pretty terrible things to say and hear, but we lived through them nonetheless.
What Trump said is not locker room talk and should be lived through by no one.
Here’s how I know. As soon as I was old enough, I started playing basketball myself.
Girls use locker rooms too and it felt so good to be a part of what I had grown up admiring.
Locker rooms are to sports what sanctuaries are to church. It’s where resolve is learned. It’s where tears and sweat are indistinguishable.
And that’s why I’m writing in defense of the talk that goes on in locker rooms.
To me, locker room talk is what I saw when my dad switched to coaching a high school girls basketball team that had won only a handful of games in its previous few seasons. I was a middle school girl who would sneak into the locker room after games in his first season and see the girls yelling at each other and crying because they were so sick of losing.
Slowly, after many more hard fought locker room moments, that girls program began winning again. And I stood in there after seeing those losing days and swore when it was my turn I would be a cheerleader in the locker room and make sure we came back to it after games celebrating every time.
And we did become a winning program and my dad eventually led the school to its first girl’s state basketball tournament in decades.
Somewhere along the way I learned that locker rooms were about more than strategy and trophies.
It was in a locker room where our best player and I did crazy dances before games to help her take her mind off all the pressure she was under at home and on the court.
It was where I wrote the name of a wonderful friend (and fellow basketball player) of my older brother’s who passed away during high school on my basketball shoe with sharpie and decided I wanted to live my life in as loving and joyful as a way as he had because life was just too damn short to just be about basketball.
And it was also where sometimes no talking occurred at all, like when I sat by myself against the door and cried my heart out after my last ever high school basketball game, when I knew it was over but I wasn’t ready to move on yet either.
It’s where I hope my own future kids spend a lot of time and learn about being a team player instead of the star. But it’s also where I hope I will have taught them to know what is and isn’t ok to say about their peers, especially if I have any sons.
Because I know what locker room talk is. I heard it all the time growing up.
And I know what Trump said is not just locker room talk.
I’ve been in boys locker rooms and I’ve been in girls locker rooms and mostly it was always just a bunch of kids talking about sports.
Locker rooms are sacred.
And locker room talk is for making teams and people great again.