Saturday, 11 February 2012

Eternal Fear of Public Nudity.

Iceland; A land of the Aurora Borealis, Nordic history and stunning volcanic scenery. However, whilst I was there enjoying the gloomy English-esque weather, I found myself questioning my body confidence.
 On the second day in the city venturing to and from museums and cafes, we were treated with 25mph winds. This pretty much made us retreat back to our spa hotel and enjoy the complimentary facilities that were hidden in the basement – a small swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym. Next to the swimming pool, there was a small but amazingly lush warm pool, heated to 40° which just melted you away to a place far from reality. Enjoying the pools and other accessories was not what caused panic over the lumps and bumps of my body. It was the changing rooms I feared pre-swim. And post-swim too.
 I have recently started swimming again, and have gotten into the usual routine of either finding myself a deserted cubicle or completing the redressing-behind-a-large-towel routine after a lengthy swim. My usual routine was upset in Iceland by the hygiene rules that every one must shower before entering the pool. Naked.
 I wasn’t aware of this rule at the hotel spa, until I had counted the mass of naked women and realized I was the only one walking around in swim wear [a young girl and me that is]. With my increasing pool visits, I am used to seeing the naked female form, alongside my continuing research into feminism and woman’s issues, but this seemed a different experience. It was my naked body in the center of that changing room.
 After my realization that I had not showered in conjunction with their rules whilst using the facilities, I became self conscious that maybe I was prudish about my body or that in actual fact I was actually more self-conscious in public with my body than I had realized.
 As much as I rant on here that people must be comfortable with their bodies, I felt like I was a massive hypocrite, covering as much of my body as possible with my swimsuit, towel or spare flexing limb. This initial trip to the spa had me re-considering how comfortable was I with my body, in all honesty, for there was many women in front of me dressing down to their naked skin without hesitation. These women were at least a decade or two older than me, so I can draw out two conclusions; either these women embrace the rules of showering naked alongside other women and get on with it. Or these women have, with age and experience, accepted their bodies for what they are.
 The day after, I was in another changing room at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, where rules were very much the same- shower naked before and after use of the pool, cleaning intimate areas. I was prepared to comply with the rules but as the shower area was empty, I essentially got away with a shower, keeping the swimwear on. I was too conscious in the open planned shower room with the wider mix of old and younger women I had seen wandering around the lockers. If I could get away with hiding my lady lumps, I would. And I thinking many people I know would too, men and women.
 A few hours of swimming and lazing in mineral waters, I faced doing the reverse procedure. After so much panic and showering clothed, I bared all and I finally got naked in the public showers. And I really didn’t understand why I, or anyone, would be so stubborn not to get naked- we are all women; we’ve seen it all before. Just watch anything on TV after 9pm and you will have the occasional butt crack or breast. I got redressed in a tiny room, where I was accompanied by two other ladies and had already stopped using my towel and hands as cover. Why is it that women are so self-conscious? Why am I so self-conscious- I am fairly happy with my curved size-12 body.

What I want to find out from my experience of being naked in public is how do others find the experience. What is it that makes us shy and strategically change under the cover of a damp towel or have a particular re-dressing routine so that no intimate part of the body is shown to prying eyes? Is it the pressure that women must have perfect bodies, or is it just shyness from showing a little buttock, nipple or pubic hair?

It is fair to say, that when I return to swimming this week, I will not head for the cubicle to hide my embarrassment. I will change with the rest of the woman, baring as much buttocks as I please.

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