Written by Chuck Myers
A year or so ago my wife, Christine, the author of this blog (and Tales From the Dry Side) wrote a piece titled "On Being Naked," which was published on another blog site called The Manifest-Station. It was good. It described her terrible fear about being in locker rooms, and how she's overcome it. At the end, she says that being naked in the locker room didn't cause her to explode (a good thing), and that she finally felt free.
This post came to my memory this week as she recently spent a weekend at a yoga workshop, and when she went to soak her feet in the hot tub, she opened the door to find six or seven women in the tub, in their birthday suits.
She plucked up her courage and soaked her feet anyway, although she did remain clad in her "yoga suit."
I could never do it.
If I were to open a door on six or seven men, naked in a hot tub, I'd run the other way. I would not stop at my room to pick up my belongings, but would head straight for my car, get in it, and ignore each and every speed limit sign on my quest to get as far away from that place as possible, in the shortest span of time I could manage.
I am extremely body conscious, to say the least.
I do NOT mow the lawn with my shirt off, even though our patch of weeds is mainly in the back of the house, and this is not because I am afraid of getting a sunburn.
I hesitate to take my shirt off at the beach, only doing so when I'm going in the water, and covering myself up as soon as I am out.
I used to hate wearing shorts in the summer. It's only been a few years since I've started wearing shorts outside of the gym.
I tend to not wear tight shirts and if left to my own devices, would generally buy everything about a size too large.
I do take showers at the gym, but I go into the shower stall with my sweat-soaked workout clothes, clinging to my body, only getting undressed with the "not-wide-enough curtain pulled closed. When I'm finished, I venture out to my locker with a towel wrapped tightly around my lower body, and I then dress as quickly as possible.
As a result, I'm never cooled off enough by the time I get dressed, and my street clothes need to hit the laundry by the time I get home.
At the gym, in addition to my own phobia about my body, it makes me really uncomfortable when guys are taking showers without the curtain pulled, especially when they call out to me as I'm walking past. "Hey, have a good run?" just isn't something I want to hear from someone as they're soaping their butt.
So where does this come from? I'm not in that bad shape at 6'2" and 230 pounds. I'd love to lose a few of those extra pounds, but I do like to eat. I was raised Catholic, which I'm sure had a huge effect on how I view my body, but I haven't been a practicing Catholic in thirty years or so.
If I had to put my finger on it, I'd guess that time spent in the high school locker room was the biggest contributor to my issues. I was NOT a jock in high school. I played one year of football and only finished that year because I hate to quit something I've begun. It was hard though, to get through that year of smacking each other in the head all the time, and that was in the locker room.
I can't speak about now, but back in the day, high school locker rooms were tough places to be and you couldn't avoid them. Gym classes were of course mandatory, as were the showers afterwards, when class was over. There were no shower stalls, just a line of shower heads in a tiled room. That was tough for me. Not only was I one of those guys that couldn't climb the rope and always flunked the physical fitness challenge, I was also pretty much hairless. Other guys in my class were sporting full beards as I was vainly searching for the beginnings of stubble in the mirror every morning.
It's not that there was a lot of teasing going on about this.
There didn't have to be.
It was unspoken.
The sidelong glances and smirks were enough.
I of course grew body and facial hair eventually; yes, I was still in high school. That made things easier, but I've never overcome my dislike of people seeing my body. It might be different for women, but guys are competitive, and me probably more than many. I can't help but feel that I am being evaluated and ranked when I am in the locker room.
So, I'll go on wearing my sweaty gym clothes into the shower stall, and dress as quickly as possible when I am finished.
As Billy Joel said, "You may be right, I may be crazy," but I'm comfortable with that.
In the meantime, I applaud Christine for having the courage to overcome her own fears.
Maybe someday, I can do the same.
If I do, I promise not to go out to mow the lawn shirtless, belly flopping over my belt, with a beer in the cup holder of my twenty horsepower John Deere!