We love to separate people into categories. There’s this whole ridiculous thing about judging people by the color of their skin which has been causing a lot of damage for a lot of time…and also according to what sexual organs they may/may not possess amongst a whole heap of other things. Personally, I think that there are actually only two types of people in this world: people who are cool just chilling naked on the regular and people who absolutely aren’t.
I am firmly in the second category. Undressing and changing into a leotard in front of my entire class at school was hell on earth for me and I know a lot of others will also be having uncomfortable flashbacks right about now. There were all sorts of tricks I developed to do these quick changes skillfully, and conceal as much as possible at all times.
I want to blame puberty and being British,of course, but I am still pretty much the same. In four years of living away from home, none of my flatmates can say they ever saw me in so much as my underwear. The best they got was a quick dart to my room in a towel.
SO…fellow females, when was the last time you saw a naked woman? On TV? Porn? Magazines? A Greek statue? Thanks to Kim Kardashian, or the naked lady who pops up on the side of your screen when you’re trying to stream Scandal, it can’t have been that long ago. Now when was the last time you saw a real woman, naked. Key word here being real. Your own body doesn’t count. Neither does the drunken glimpses you get of your flatmate. I know I am at risk of sounding like a teenage boy asking questions in a yahoo forum, but here’s a story: I lived in Spain two years ago, and after six months of red wine and repeatedly dunking fresh bread in oil …I joined a gym.
I lived about a 3-minute walk away and so I used the changing rooms rarely and for a 30 second period at best. To step on and off the scales and then dash out towards the treadmill.
Summer came around and I eventually decided to use the pool, meaning longer periods in the changing rooms. This time, to step on and off the scales, apply sun cream and then pull my bikini out of my buttocks. In those extra moments, I caught more than a few glimpses of real, live, naked women. And here’s the thing, it was brilliant. I saw body hair, stretch marks, cellulite, tattoos, love handles and scars all in varying amounts. I was the only one with a strategically placed towel.
In all seriousness, this wasn’t a positive experience because I could compare my ‘imperfections’ with those of other women. It was a positive experience because in those few minutes, ‘normal’ was redefined. It dawned on me that the only version of nakedness I see regularly, is not really nakedness at all. It is always a body that has been airbrushed, trimmed, bleached, tucked, smoothed over, contoured, enlarged, reduced blah blah blah.
We live in a world where the natural has become rare, and therefore, alarmingly almost unnatural. A deviation from the ‘norm’ and usually something to be ‘fixed.’ Natural now deserves a second glance, and many times has to announce and justify itself with its own #nofilter/#nomakeup hashtag.
Spain definitely wasn’t the first time I had joined a gym. But there was a stark contrast to the changing room… ‘culture’ I had experienced in the UK, which was filled with a lot of women wrapped in towels at the very least usually, and nudity was consciously kept to a minimum because… God forbid anyone takes offense at the sight of some exposed stretch marks or a nipple.
Seeing people at ease in their own skin and only their own skin made me feel ridiculous rather than shy for defensively covering every inch of myself while I changed. I felt silly for initially praising these women for being bold when they were just being normal. These women weren’t ‘brave’, they were just naked. Naked and fine with it.