My friend, Kristen, wrote a terrific blog post today that had me smiling, nodding my head and even laughing out loud. It was about her recent trip to the spa and how it had her baring more than her soul — a very uncomfortable prospect even for someone as fit and beautiful as she is. Read it here.
I had an experience that started out not unlike hers some years ago, while taking in a wonderful birthday gift at a spa upstate.
Naive and unschooled in the way of ladies’ locker rooms, I was unprepared for the full frontal … everything.
Unlike Kristen, I spent much of the day wrapped like a mummy in a plush robe and staring at my toes rather than risk eye contact with someone’s unmentionables.
I don’t think of myself as a prude, but even a bit of northern exposure was more than I could bare. (Yes, the pun is intended.)
Nursing an infant Catherine was like self-imposed exile — I could never feed her in public, not even under a blanket, which meant that as soon as I got somewhere, I pretty much had to leave.
And I remember distinctly a day at the YWCA in Greenwich — before they renovated the pool and created separate locker rooms for girls and women — taking a 5-year-old Catherine to swim lessons and coming around the corner to find a fully nude, very pregnant woman in the communal shower.
Catherine and I stood there gaping for a full minute before I collected my wits enough to pull her out onto the pool deck while muttering something about not staring.
Kristen’s post reminded me of that day and, like all insightful writing, got me thinking.
Much of the world’s greatest paintings, sculptures and poems are homages to the female shape, but day after day, unattainable images of “model” citizens assault our self-image.
I am as hung up about my body as most other women seem to be, even despite a set of good (albeit unknown) genes and a lot of exercise (and I won’t even open the door to discussing facial features).
Kristen will remember me well from my early days of Jazzercise: I generally wore oversized T-shirts and decade-old running pants, and hugged the south wall of the place for the entire class.
Somewhere along the line, however, I realized just what rewards all those chasses and lunges were reaping and I went out and bought a Lycra workout outfit.
I will never forget the first time I wore it to class. I felt a little like the “itsty-bitsy polka dot bikini” girl, but then Kristen noticed me from the stage with a sort of “wow” in her voice and it gave me a wonderful confidence boost.
These days, I’m on stage in those form-fitting outfits helping other women improve their fitness. I don’t think twice about getting up in front of everyone while wearing Spandex. Heck, I even bought a bikini to wear to the beach.
Still, I don’t see public nudity in my future.
Isn’t it a shame that we celebrate a woman’s body as a work of art — unless that body is ours?
Terri. I loved your article! Thank you for both your post as well as posting the link to Kristen’s article. I wanted to make this rather long post because of both the thing that you mentioned about the nude pregnant woman that you and your young daughter saw, and because of a comment that Kristen made about young girls at the spa. I hope that you don’t mind my long post that I’m going to be making.
Unfortunately, I am not able to post on Kristen’s page because I can’t get the “recaptcha” thing to load properly.
My mother was always overly uptight in my opinion when it came to her body. Neither my sister who is 5 years older than myself or I were ever “allowed” to see her in the nude even briefly. What I mean by that is that even in normal mother/daughter home situations we were not allowed to go into the bathroom while our mother was in the shower because the shower door was clear and anyone in the bathroom could see into the shower.
It didn’t matter how badly we might have needed to use the bathroom, if our mother was in the shower, we had to risk peeing our pants or worse.
Because of our mothers insecurities about her body and the fact that we had never seen her in the nude, my sister and I were very unfamiliar with what a mature female body looked like. We didn’t even know about pubic hair until shortly before my sister reached puberty. Fortunately our mother did tell my sister about periods and pubic hair shortly before my sister had reached puberty, and my sister told me about those things shortly after that.
When my sister started junior high she was mortified about having to shower in front of other girls after gym class, and I was in shock just hearing about it from my sister.
Shortly after my sister started junior high, we had new neighbors move into the house next door. The new neighbors had a daughter Sarah who was about my sisters age. However, my sister never really became very close friends with Sarah. When my sister was out with her friends and could not babysit me, my parents would have Sarah babysit me.
Maybe a year or two after moving in next door, Sarah and her mother invited me to go swimming with them one night at a nearby YWCA.. I believe that Sarah was around 14 at the time and I was around 9.
The showers in the locker room at the YWCA were in a communal design with no stalls or dividers or anything along those lines. They were totally out in the open.
After our swim, Sarah and her mother and myself headed back to the locker room. Sarah and her mother took off their bathing suits and hung them on hooks near the showers and walked in the nude to our lockers. Sarah’s mother got out soap and shampoo for the three of us and we headed to the showers. I kept my bathing suit on in the showers, but I felt out of place because literally every other woman and girl in the showers was showering in the nude.
About a week after that Sarah and her mother invited me to go swimming with them again. On that second swim night I too showered in the nude. After a few minutes I was no longer nervous about being nude.
I continued to swim with Sarah and her mother for a few more years after that. And we always showered in the nude.
When I started junior high, showering in gym class did not faze me one bit. One of the girls in my gym class asked me after the first few classes how I was able to be so comfortable carrying on conversations with other girls while we showered, and she said that she wished that she could be as comfortable doing that as I was. After a few weeks it was obvious that she was more at ease, she wasn’t overly nervous anymore.
When I was in high school I was on the girls swim team. Not only did everyone shower after gym class, but everyone always showered in the nude after swim practices and meets as well.
The gym that I go to as an adult has shower stalls. But I take my daughters now ages 9, 12 and 15 to a local community college that has a pool. That locker room has a communal shower room. My daughters have grown up swimming at that pool and showering in those showers after a swim.
On the few occasions that my sister has joined my daughters and I swimming at the college, she has worn her bathing suit in the showers. She never adjusted to locker room nudity the way that I did. My sister has said to me that she feels like a big baby seeing her nieces comfortably showering in the nude while she showers in her bathing suit.
I do believe that it is good for young girls to be exposed (No pun intended) to other females nude bodies in locker rooms as it helps them to see what real women’s bodies look like. I think that it would benefit girls if students still showered in gym class like we did when I was in school!
Anyway, I think that situations like the one that you and your daughter had with the nude pregnant woman are a blessing for your daughters sake!
I hope that you don’t mind my lecture!
Love it! Keep shaking your spandex clad self and inspiring others!