Warning: Not for sensitive readers
If you walk around naked in the gym locker room, I hate you.
I can’t speak for what happens inside men’s locker rooms. I have never been inside one. I imagine it is far worse than what goes down in the ladies’ locker rooms. Regardless, I have spent enough time in the changing room of my gym to know that what happens in the ladies’ section is bad enough. Some people find it odd that I find women walking around in the nude so repulsive. Allow me to explain.
Locker rooms, as I understand it, were designed for people to change from one outfit into another outfit. You know, so that they didn’t have to do it out in the open pre- or post-workout. I have come to expect some nudity as people change, even though I, for one, have devised a way never to expose myself to anyone. Yes, I am one of those people desperately juggling a towel under one arm while trying to get my underwear on discreetly with the other. I do it because I don’t want anyone looking at me in a state of undress. Partly because, like a lot of women, I am not the hugest fan of my own body and also because of this thing called “modesty”. I mean, isn’t that why people ask before entering a bedroom, “Are you decent?”?
Modesty exists as a social norm so that we can respect how everyone feels about the subject of nudity. It is about being considerate. The locker room is no different. It is not the place for one to flaunt one’s naked body to all and sundry. Some women I am afraid, did not get the memo because “flaunting” is precisely what they are doing. I get it. These women are okay with their nudity. I am not okay with their nudity. Their nudity makes me and other women feel uncomfortable. I know this because friends who also frequent the gym have expressed the same sentiments. It’s awkward not knowing where to look when at peak gym hour, you find yourself with 12 sets of butt cheeks in your face.
Almost every time I have visited my gym, I have seen positively obese women stand completely naked for far longer than necessary with a leg in the air while applying body lotion to their most intimate of parts. Then there is a woman who is notorious for walking from the changing area to the toilets well around the corner without so much as a thong on. Is it really such a task to pull a shirt over one’s head? A friend told me about yet another woman who stood completely starkers in full view of the whole room, bent over, bum in the air, to dry her hair. And she wasn’t only drying the hair on her head.
Let’s face it. Modesty issues aside, naked bodies are just ugly. Most humans are a combination of pudgy, saggy, cellulite-y, hairy and/or wrinkly. Add sweaty to the mix and things get plain gross. Basically, unless you are one of the twelve current Victoria’s Secret Angels, you shouldn’t be allowed to prance in your birthday suit anywhere other than in your own home. Loud and proud naked women are an assault on my sense of sight. I would liken it to everyone walking around carrying a boombox and playing their choice of music, loudly. Imagine the racket. I don’t want other people’s nudity imposed on me any more than I want to be forced to listen to a blaring mixture of The Parlotones, Slipknot and Leona Lewis.
I spent some time in South Korea a couple of years ago where one of my most memorable naked people experiences occurred. They have these nightmare-inducing places there called jimjilbangs. Basically, they are public baths. Public baths where people bathe in giant pools, naked, together. A stranger may even offer to wash your back for you if you are lucky. I cannot envisage anything I would like to do less than bath with two hundred other people. Unfortunately, jimjilbangs also happen to be one of the cheapest places you can stay at in Korea. So this is how I came to sleep in one such establishment. Before entering this den of discomfort, several of the girls I was travelling with agreed with me that we would boycott the naked part of the jimjilbang adventure and just go straight to the sleeping area. I was pleased. I had some comrades in nudity avoidance. However, once inside, they all caved under the peer pressure of the other girls who insisted that lying in a bath with hundreds of Koreans staring at you, was something not to be missed. I stuck to my guns.
Regrettably, while I was able to escape disrobing myself, I did not manage to steer clear of the jimjilbang locker room which was full of very naked, mostly old women who had almost certainly never had a bikini wax. It was impossible not to notice. One of the rules of the jimjilbang is that you have to change into the faded orange pajamas they give you. I made a pointed effort of doing my usual modest changing routine in silent protest of all the nudity that surrounded me. I don’t think anyone noticed.
The jimjilbang sleeping situation is an ordeal in itself. There are several large halls for you to sleep in – usually one for men, one for women and a unisex one. There are no beds. You are provided with a very thin blanket which poses as a mattress for you to sleep on the floor. They give you a hard plastic covered object in the shape of a brick for a pillow. A brick? A brick?! So essentially the most impractical sleeping gear you can think of.
Needless to say, between all of this and the snoring grannies, I hardly slept. Perhaps the highlight of the night was when I woke to find a woman next to me, wearing a Korean paper face mask. This is a common practice in jimjilbangs. I did not know this and stifled a scream as I thought I would soon be butchered by the Asian version of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Think that’s crazy? Envision waking next to this:
In hindsight, the whole event seemed suspiciously like I had paid to spend the night in the women’s ward of a Korean prison. When I returned to the same seaside city a year later, I took my chances and slept on the beach, surrounded by fully clothed humans. It was bliss.