A few months ago my ultra ghetto (albeit super affordable and convenient) gym shut its doors due to bankruptcy. Looking back, this shouldn’t have come as so much of a shock given that the place couldn’t even afford toilet paper. Not that I could bring myself to use the bathroom. Ick.
Anyhoodle, I joined the next closest gym to my house which is way nicer and has toilet paper (and water fountains – huzzah!) and good classes and a pool and stuff. Oh, and men. My previous gym was for women only. I’m still adjusting to the increased testosterone.
Upon entering the change room on my first foray to my new gym, one thing became immediately apparent: this was a naked gym. By that, I mean that a number of the women walking around in the changeroom were naked. Some coming from the showers or the steam room, some just casually strolling about or drying their hair. Some sitting on a bench checking their phone. Everywhere I looked there were naked women. This was..startling. A quick (and hopefully not obvious) mental tally revealed that most of these naked women were in their 40s and 50s. I didn’t spot one women who appeared to be below the age of 35 or so in the buff. I have to wonder if this is a generational thing?
I’m 30. When I was in elementary and high school, getting changed for gym class was a workout in itself to avoid anyone seeing anyone else naked. Many girls lined up to change in the few bathroom stalls. I wasn’t that extreme, but I certainly used some contortionist moves to never be topless in front of my classmates. I’ve asked some close friends who are in my age range (25-35) about this and they agree: no one got fully naked in the changerooms and certainly didn’t walk around in the nude.
I either get changed at work before heading to the gym, or use the locker door/my backpack/pants as a makeshift nudity shield when I’m getting changed at the gym. This is not because I’m embarrassed about my body, but rather because I’m just not ever going to be the girl who completely strips down in public unless it’s pitch dark and there’s a lake involved. The most naked you’ll ever see me at the gym is in a bra and underwear. And even then you’d have to really be trying to see me naked because I change like I’m being timed for some weird contest with a cash prize.
Last summer my friend R and I went to a water spa. Of the 30 or so women doing the water circuit with us that day, about 3 were naked. It was a little weird to get used to. Awkward even. Again, the naked women were all well into their 40s. We mused that they must have grown up in a naked house while we certainly did not. When a naked women entered the same water area as us, those of us who were bathing suit clad immediately exchanged meaningful glances with our covered counterparts. The message was clear: what’s up with the naked chick?
Recently I was in the changeroom at my gym preparing to leave when a completely naked women in her 50s approached me and asked if I could help her. She had gone swimming with a rubber elastic in her hair and now it was badly tangled and she wanted to remove it before showering.
So, trying my darndest to ignore the fact that a nude stranger was asking me to touch her hair, I gamely spent the next 2 minutes trying to remove a badly snarled elastic from her hair. I was successful and she thanked me and walked off to the showers like this was all totally normal.
I immediately texted some friends, a few of whom I’ve recently engaged in conversation about the nakedness at my gym. Given that most of us have been friends for over 5 years and have never seen eachother naked, their reactions were mostly along the lines of ‘that’s awkward’ or ‘seriously what is up with women walking around naked at the gym???’ or ‘if you were on a reality show I would totally watch it – of course that happened to you.’
Maybe I (and many of my friends) are just prudes? Perhaps our attitude towards casual nudity really is specific to our age group? My understanding is that in many cultures or countries (specifically those where taking group saunas is the norm – I’m looking at you, Finland) nudity is completely common in these situations. Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I don’t even notice it anymore. I certainly won’t ever be the most naked woman in the changeroom, but I will make more of an effort to not visibly react to it anymore.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the grocery store where I plan to go topless in the freezer section.* After all, gravity won’t always be as kind as it is now.