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Mishaps and Memories
The disheveled, muscled young man at the front door directs me to the women’s room: “Past the weights, through the first door on the left. Change there.”
Even though it’s my first time in this facility, the musty smell is familiar, and so are the visuals: women of all body sizes, stripped to the waist, changing into swimming suits and workout uniforms. Me? I only change my shoes. Friends make fun of me because I exercise in what I’ve already dressed in for the day: jeans, sweaters, jackets, whatever. Proper foot attire is my only concession. Laziness is the main reason, but I’m acutely aware that I no longer want to be seen half-dressed or in a swimming suit, even here. With my aging body of bulges, wrinkles and cellulite, I admire women who don’t care, yet I can’t help but compare my physique to theirs. I look okay in contrast to some, and I envy the lithe toning of others. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I can’t shake my negative body image.
High school memories flood my brain. Four years of daily, mandatory physical education began with changing into short, unfashionable, navy-blue onesies that snapped down the front. Locker room comparisons included who wore real bras and who wore training ones. I wore neither. Menstrual cycles were another avenue of shame--blood on panties and visible straps attached to thick cotton padding that never stayed in place. Embarrassment if you had your period, or if you hadn’t yet matured enough for one. As a freshman, still the late bloomer, I was in the latter category.
Outdoor classes started with calisthenics—jumping jacks, push-ups, and tedious exercises promising breast enlargement. “We must, we must, we must improve our bust” we shouted loudly and enthusiastically as our arms moved toward our chests and then stretched outward, hoping it would make a difference.
My best locker room story in high school? Two girls in my class tried to outdo each other by seeing who could run back to our changing room first. “I’m the winner,” yelled one athletic blonde, as she unsnapped her romper in one swift movement, only to see a room full of male eyes staring at her clearly visible bra. Her mistake? She’d become confused and ran into the boys’ locker room.
Not to be outdone, I created my own mishap during teen years, at a country club I frequented with a neighborhood friend. Most days our swimming was leisurely, and I changed into and out of my suit at her house. This time, a family event necessitated returning home fully dressed and ready to go.
Janet was still in the pool. “I’ll change and meet you back here,” I told her. “OK,” she said. Usually I carefully removed one piece of clothing, then covered that part of my anatomy before I uncovered another. In a hurry, this time I decided not to care about the rustling noises behind me. I emerged, towel in hand, fully dressed. “Where were you?” Janet asked. “In the locker room,” I replied. “I looked for you there,” she said. She pointed. I gasped. I had undressed, fully naked, right in the middle of the men’s locker room.