07 May 2010

Embracing Nudity

April 19, 2010

I showered at the gym.

In order for you to understand how monumental that is, you have to understand what I did to avoid showering at the gym. This particular gym is maybe a 10 minute walk from my job. It's a 17 minute walk from home. I was going to a 12PM class, getting out at 1PM, racing home (uphill), showering, and racing downhill to get to work by 2PM. I was adding 30 minutes of travel time just to avoid communal showers.

The main reason I refused (for months) to ignore this convenience: humidity. The locker room is hot and damp. It's not too crowded. But the steam from the showers plus the hair dryers and the embarrassment of imagining your naked body is being judged made a 3o minute brisk walk seem like the lesser evil. But I could not continue to pride myself practicality and efficiency while maintaining that routine. So I signed up for towel service, bought a bag large enough to hold my clothes / shower supplies and tried to embrace the shower culture.

The Scene:
There are seven stalls in the locker room. Only three have doors. One door-less stall is in a corner and faces a stall that does have a door. The other three face the entrance to the toilets. So imagine three showers - each separated from another by a frosted wall - but without doors. If you were to be walking to the restroom, you would be (fully dressed) walking by three (naked) women washing their bodies.

First Day: I found myself to be one of those naked women doing the washing. At minimum it was uncomfortable. I wash my feet, and I bend over to do so. I had to decide if it was best for me to bend facing the bathroom stalls, showing passersby my dangling parts? Or was it best to bend facing the shower head, with my bum facing the people just coming in to find a toilet? Honestly, I don't remember what I did. I think I blacked out.

I do remember being relieved - then panicked - after reaching for my towel. I had presumed that warm folded square was akin to the plush (or at least large) towels people give to visiting guests. Instead they were two medium, great-for-drying-hair towels. They were not towels I could wrap around my nude person. I covered my front and went to my locker, where poor planning caught me again.

Most of the lockers next to mine were being used. That meant a lot of other (mostly clothed) women in my way. I stood there facing them, waiting for any one of them to leave so I could get to my stuff. Eventually I realized my (exposed) rear was facing a mirror. I turned sideways and backed up near a wall. Once I did get to my locker, I couldn't get dressed fast enough. I destroyed my neatly packed bag and cursed Eve for the knowledge of my nakedness.

I don't remember thinking clearly until I was at least partially dressed. Yes, everyone in there had the same lady parts. No, I was not looking (read: judging) other women, and they had no reason to look at (judge) me. But I also know women. And just because there is no reason to judge, doesn't mean they (we) won't.

Lessons Learned:
I've progressed wonderfully in the time since I've started showering at the gym. And I want to share my lessons with you, in case you ever find yourself thrust into a damp room full of women in various states of dress.

  • Choose the right locker. A locker at the edge of the row means you'll be able to get to your locker, even if there is a crowd.
  • Wait 10 - 15 minutes. I've started hitting the sauna for 10 minutes after class and by the time I get to the showers, there tends to be at least one stall with a door available.
  • Stack your post-shower stuff. I place everything in a pile when I first get to the locker, before I take my class. This has come in handy when I'm in an imaginary race for a shower with a door.
  • Bring some clothing. Having my undergarments right there when I get out of the shower keeps me calm. No one is going to happen upon my bum in the mirror. This is reassuring.

Overall, I'm comfortable with my system. I end up able to relax a little before I get to work. Sure, I end up spending the day with a heavy bag full of stinky clothes, but that's a small price to pay to regain my sense of extreme proficiency.