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it's only natural

"You're not supposed to wear shoes in here," the woman said.

We were the only two in the steam room. I was perched on a bench, wrapped in a towel from neck to knees, wearing pink rubber flip flops.

She, a woman old enough to be my mother, was lying flat on her back below me, stark n*ked.

As she proceeded to full-frontally scold me about the germs that lurk on the soles of shower shoes, I wasn't listening. I was too busy trying to focus my gaze elsewhere, somewhere, anywhere but on her. In the end, I gave up and closed my eyes. I find this is the best approach at my gym, a senior-friendly neighborhood Y whose grandmotherly female members have turned out to be flagrant locker-room exhibitionists.

I'm no stranger to gym n*dity. I was a kid when racquetball was all the rage and spent innumerable weekends watching my parents play, and then waiting in the ladies' locker room while my mom hit the jacuzzi. A prude even then, I was astonished that these women would willingly appear in their birthday suits in front of strangers. "They're comfortable with their bodies," my mother explained. "It's healthy."

Perhaps too healthy. Years later, the same women who were young and n*de at the racquetball club are now 60, 70 and beyond—and n*der than ever. At my gym, women friends will stand, mutually starkers, swapping photos of their grandchildren. They'll wear a towel around their hair and nowhere else. A few days before the steam room incident, a silver-haired woman stripped off her towel in the sauna to perform a series of in-the-buff yoga contortions worthy of a spread in P*nthouse.

This must be a generational thing. I can't imagine women my age acting this way. Too many are hung up on their supposed flaws. To take off the towel would be, in their minds, to subject themselves to the negative scrutiny of others. That's too bad.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how I feel about the 1970s "let it all hang out" attitude. In theory, it's great that these women don't give a damn what anyone else thinks.

But in practice, I'll be keeping my towel on in the steam room. And my shoes, too.

Reader Comments (6)

Im wrapped in my towel/robe at all times. I WISH I could let it all hang out for the world, or the locker room to see, but alas I cant!


Thu, March 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercindy bokma

love the new blog look!

Sat, April 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermel

I have to admit to you that I would probably fall into your "exhibitionist" category, but in all honesty I don't do it to showoff to anyone else, I'm just not embarrassed by nudity be it my own or that of other women. I'm only 26 years old, and several of my girlfriends are equally willing to bare all in the locker room, and their also in their 20's. So I don't completely agree about it being a generational thing. But maybe to a certain extent it is?

Weren't you required to shower after P.E class in school? Both my middle school and high school had a rule that we all had to shower after P.E class. So I got completely used to locker room nudity in the seventh grade, seeing as we showered in those group showers in the girls locker room five days a week.

A couple of my girlfriends are even more "extreme" than me with their nudity in the locker room. They will do everything in the nude after a workout, they will even do their hair and makeup standing there nude in front of the mirror. I've never stood there nude while looking at pictures like you said some of the older ladies do. But there have been several occasions when i was standing there nude in front of my locker drying off after a shower, and one of my friends will walk over and grab me by the arm and say "Come here, I want you to meet this woman that's in my aerobics class," and yes, I will actually walk over there while I'm still nude to meet her. Just so there's no misunderstanding, we are NOT lesbians, I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

If another woman starts talking to you while she's nude, don't worry. You don't have to go out of your way to look in every other direction. She wouldn't strike up a conversation with you while she was nude if she was shy.

In a completely non-sexual way, I'm happy to see women of any age and any body type comfortably walk around the locker room in the nude. I'm glad to see them be so comfortable in their own skin. Sadly, too many women, especially younger women, feel that they need to compare themselves to swimsuit models. I think it's good for all females of any age to be exposed to real female bodies no matter what shape the body is in. A coworker of mine once told me that she used to be too shy to ever be seen nude in a ladies locker room, then one day she said "Enough's enough" and she forced herself to undress and walk nude to the shower. She said it was one of the most liberating and freeing feelings she'd ever had in her life. She say's she feels so proud of herself that she freed herself of her fear of letting even other women see her in the nude in such an innocent and non-sexual setting as a ladies locker room.

Even if it didn't rub off on you, I think those ladies in the locker room where your mother played racquetball were a good example for you, as was your mother, in their willingness to allow themselves to be seen nude. Your mother had a great attitude about the nudity in that locker room!

I don't mean to sound preachy. But I honestly think it would be in the best interests of young girls to be exposed so-to-speak to nude female bodies in a locker room. I think it could help those girls for later in life so they can see what all types of female bodies look like. And I hate to see women have such negative body image of themselves. If you don't mind my advice, might I suggest that at least one of these days, even if it's only a one time thing, that you do just walk to the shower in the nude at your gym, or possibly even sit nude in the women's sauna, which is one of the favorite things to do for me and several of my girlfriends. I think you'd enjoy the female bonding experience that's more evident when your completely exposed, both literally and metaphorically with your fellow sisters.

Maybe you could write an article on this subject sometime? I mean a more in-depth one. Your an excellent writer!

Sat, June 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

What a great, thoughtful commentary, Amanda. Thanks so much for writing (and for the compliment).

Sun, June 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterLauren Lipton

Your more than welcome!

Thank you for allowing my lecture. LOL

I just feel very strongly about female-body-image. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that we women (and girls too) need to be more accepting of our bodies and those of other women. Your certainly not alone in your distaste for female locker room nudity. I've received several dirty glances from other women when I've been nude in the locker room at my gym. I don't know, maybe they think that I think that I'm all that? That's not the case. I've just never been shy around other women or girls. In front of men, now that's a different story.

If I'm lucky enough to have a daughter of my own in the future, I think I will make a point to take her into many women's locker rooms so that she does see nude female bodies. I of course would not tell her to stare at anyone, in fact I'd tell her to still respect the privacy of others. But I would hope that she would see that I and many of the other women in there are comfortable being undressed in the company of other females. I'm not a nudist!!! But from what I've heard nudist women and girls almost never develop eating disorders because their more accepting of all body types. I'm a proud American, so I hate to say this, but unfortunately too many Americans have a hard time separating nudity from sex. When I'm in the locker room at my gym sex is never on my mind. I'm heterosexual, so if it was a mixed gender locker room, then I'd either run out of their as fast as I could, or else I might be thinking dirty thoughts. But of course it's not mixed gender, and I never think anything sexual about any of the other ladies in there.

Like you mentioned, unfortunately many women are judging themselves when their in the locker room, and as a result they are afraid to be seen nude because they think that other women are judging them. I certainly can't speak for all women, but I can honestly say that I never stare at other women in the locker room, and I've never judged another woman's body.
If there's an attractive woman with firm breasts or a cute butt I may notice that, and sometimes think "Wow, I wish my butt looked like that." But I'm more likely to notice a nice body than what many might consider an unattractive one.

I consider myself a bit of a feminist, and that's probably part of why I am happy to see women feel comfortable around each other in the nude. To me, the ladies locker room can be a bit like "The girls club," a place where there are no men and we can let down our defenses.

Please don't get me wrong. Your body is exactly that, YOUR BODY. So I have no right to dictate to you or any other woman what you should do. But I truly mean it when I make the suggestion that at least once you join in with the other ladies who are willing to bare all in the locker room. I can almost guarantee you'd find it very liberating. Maybe you could get one of your girlfriends to go to the gym with you someday and relax in the sauna with the towel under you as opposed to wrapped around you?

If you do challenge yourself to do that, or something like it, do me a favor and please post about it afterward so I can see if you feel differently about it than you do now. Most of my girlfriends have said that they were nervous the first time or two that they bared all in the locker room, and that after that they have to laugh at themselves about having been nervous in the past. I think after a time or two of being nude any nervousness goes completely away, and that's good because then it's easy to just undress and dress in front of your locker as opposed to changing in a filth toilet stall. Also, I can't count how many times I've seen women wrap a towel around themselves and walk to the shower, and then as their showering the towel falls off the hook and into a puddle of shower water. I don't have to worry about that because I don't bother with a towel until I'm back at my locker after I've showered.

Sorry the lecture part 2.

Take care!


Sun, June 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you Lauren, that was too hilarious. I'm in my upper fourties and I remember belonging to health clubs back in the day. I am with you sista. I don't want to see a man or a woman bending over and doing pilates or yoga or putting socks on as her privates are flapping in the breeze. I don't care if they are young, old, perfect, or 500 lbs. It's just that some of these gals are too........showy about their bods and they are obnoxious about it as if to say, "Look at me! I'm open about my body!!!! Did you hear me say, look at me???!! I'm not a prude, like YOU." This isn't a women't issue. I would feel the same way if some dude was explaining the theory of grass mowing in the nude in the locker room. PUT ON YOUR DAMN CLOTHES. PLEASE.QUICKLY. Too much pride. YUCK. Self pride is no pride.

Thu, April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

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