Cotswold Mother: The naked truth

One woman in the changing rooms is frequently halfway through a sentence when she turns round and be

One woman in the changing rooms is frequently halfway through a sentence when she turns round and bends over to dry her toes, her damp buttocks inches from my face - Credit: Archant

One woman in the changing rooms is frequently halfway through a sentence when she turns round and bends over to dry her toes, her damp buttocks inches from my face

There are two breeds of women in swimming pool changing rooms: those who divest themselves of their swimsuit behind a wrapped towel, and those who shouldn’t be permitted to use swimming pool changing rooms. If you like to prance about public changing rooms with your maracas swaying, I’m afraid you and I are not going to get on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. I’m really not. I left my dignity in the doctor’s waiting room the same day the question of fertility arose, and I never got round to going back for it. Since then I’ve had enough consultants rummaging around my nether regions to make a glove puppet blush, with ensuing motherhood putting paid to any grandiose ideas about privacy.

I don’t think I’ve had a bath on my own since 2006, and lately I’ve taken to crossing my legs till the school bell rings, just so I can have an uninterrupted wee. In a small house with two adults, three children and a busy schedule there’s no place for modesty: bathroom doors are left open, naked children streak across the landing (grown-ups too, from time to time, given enough Sauvignon Blanc), and no one bats an eyelid at what Georgie so charmingly calls ‘Mummy’s wobbly bits.’

That’s all fine: we’re family, after all. But the lady at the gym who saunters from the shower to the locker? I don’t know her from Eve, yet I’m more intimate than I could ever want to be with the two-inch tattoo of a seahorse above her left nipple. Would it really be too much to ask to use a towel?

I’m not suggesting there should be no nudity at all – it would make ‘changing room’ rather a misnomer, after all – but putting on a pair of pants is easier than doing the Hokey Cokey. You put your left leg in, your right leg in… and pull them up. Job done, modesty preserved. Why this obsession with getting fresh air to your nether regions? Find a corner and get your undercrackers on, and only then should you be allowed to mosey around drying your hair and making the most of the free hand cream.

Such gay abandon was never a problem at my last gym; a council-run leisure centre where the shabby and malodorous changing rooms were cubicled (and communal), and where the freezing temperatures and the tangle of wet hair on the floor meant no one was tempted to linger for long. It never occurred to me that in pursuing a more luxurious fitness experience (and complimentary fluffy towels) I would find myself making friends on a more gynaecological level than is generally sought by those of us of a heterosexual persuasion.

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One of the more uninhibited women at my health club is also very chatty. Believe me when I tell you this is an uncomfortable combination. Politeness dictates that a certain level of eye contact is obligatory when someone is speaking to you, but have you ever tried to discuss the Sky News headlines with a woman in the buff? I can assure you it’s most disconcerting. Chatty naked woman gaily continues with her theories on everything from terrorism to MPs’ expenses as she gets dressed, meaning she is frequently halfway through a sentence when she turns round and bends over to dry her toes, planting her damp buttocks inches from my face. Frankly I think I preferred the carpet of wet hair at my last place.

I have come to the conclusion there is only one way to address the issue: to locate the thermostat and turn it down a few notches. Admittedly I won’t have quite the luxurious experience I have enjoyed up till now, but with any luck the resulting icy temperature will encourage people to cover up, meaning I’ll see a few more fluffy white towels, and a few fewer bottoms.

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This article by Clare Mackintosh is from the May 2015 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Clare, follow her on Twitter: @claremackint0sh

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