Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've suspected it for decades, but now it's official. The end of the world is upon us. The legendary Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, home of the Irish Open and probably the best course in Ireland, has been sued for discrimination against females, and found guilty. Will the club be fined or closed? Oh no, dear readers, this is much more bloody serious. Believe it or not, a judge (a chick judge) has ordered that the clubhouse bar be closed for one week.

A whole week! Let me remind you, this is Ireland we're talking about, not Utah. I could understand a symbolic minute of abstinence, but a whole week of dryness at an Irish golf club? It could cause another civil war.

I might have been in this legal wrangle myself, as a Portmarnock member, if not for an unfortunate misunderstanding in the locker room at the Irish Open in 1986, when I was accused by the then-oldest member of actually being a woman. The myopic old fart had a conniption when he saw me mincing toward him, love-handles akimbo. "Young lady!" he screamed. "Put your drawers on immediately!"

That was the last time I failed to follow the unwritten men's-locker-room code, which should it ever show up in print, perish the thought, would go something like this:

A gentleman member should never appear naked until such time as he has rendered himself -- by warm soaping or other privately conceived means -- recognizable as a male of the species.

I suppose it's acceptable to wander around the locker room boys-out, but I find it a little weird. Do the ladies act that way over on their side of the clubhouse? Dear God, I hope I never find out.

But back to the judge's ruling, a heinous act that strikes at the very heart of the nation. In all seriousness, I believe that all-male clubs provide an essential service. To women. The point is this: Elderly white men cherish every opportunity to mill around naked, farting bitter little clouds of cheap talcum powder and leaving half-squeezed tubes of Vitalis in the sinks, even though most of their hair grows from the neck down. But their wives won't allow it. She Who Must Be Obeyed certainly won't have such behavior in her house and does not want to hear locker-room talk, which usually centers on market fluctuations or how the latest blonde Fox News anchor is brilliant compared to that Canadian pinko Peter Jennings.

And so we men have no choice: We must gather naked at golf clubs.

Still, since the Portmarnock incident these sad little men-only sanctums have been emotional minefields to me. I can barely stand to see myself naked. The other day I was standing fully clothed by a wash basin when I was joined by a horribly sprightly 87-year-old nudist who took up a wide stance at the sink next to me and began to hum while brushing his teeth. (I know you're not supposed to look, but he took his teeth out to do it.) It was then that I let down my guard and looked lower, and noted that gravity is a cruel master indeed. Leafing through the naked-elderly-person-at-next-washtub protocol manual in my mind, I found no entry under Avoiding Octogenarian Pendulum. Then I realized that its owner had put his teeth back in and was looking at me.

"What are you staring at, sonny?"

It was hard to say, really. It was like two Titleists on a string hanging from a mushroom in a chickadee nest. And there I was, busted in a bathroom, way too interested in another man's wobblies.

I apologized and beat a hasty retreat to my rental car, where I turned on the AC and the radio, assumed a fetal position and sucked my thumb for the first time since my 19th birthday. The next song up was the Village People's "YMCA," and I haven't been the same since.

I'm no barrister, but I have a solution to the Portmarnock problem. Let the women in, I say. Let them gaze upon the cottage cheese of our inner thighs, sit upon our cold, wet porcelain and wander around naked. Whereupon Judge Mary Collins can have mercy and reopen the bar. Because you know the photos will make the Internet, and then we'll all need a stiff drink.

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