"Don't stare...", I say to my five year old in the locker room.
But I know there really isn't another choice. Naked strangers are casually managing their locker scenario and despite our near constant nudity at home, naked strangers are well.... unsettling.
It always amazes me how comfortable other people are in locker rooms.
Women standing in front of mirrors blow drying their hair. Naked.
One woman has managed to bend over for near five minutes to put on socks and tie high top shoes. Naked. Really? Gonna pull your shorts on over your high-tops? I'm going to have to turn around for that display.
Another has been desperately searching under benches and in wet bathroom stalls for her lost mascara. Naked. Its a special kind of girl that will lay down on a wet bathroom floor buck naked. Getting up is less attractive. I'm just sayin'.....
I am not this girl.
No, I am the "create a make-shift tent out of a wet towel and pull my up my under wire until it cracks" in 4 seconds flat" girl. I search out the corner lockers. I don't make conversation with others.
I used to be better at this modesty thing. If nothing else, I used to be more efficient. I could shove my pieces into a forgiving pair of leggings and a sweatshirt before you can get your locker key unpinned from swim skirt. This was long ago in my past life when I only had to care for my own naked body. Now, of course, there are so many other little bodies to manage.
Enter the "family locker room". Purposely set up for the three ring circus that accompanies changing multiple children and wobbly mothers into swim gear. Or so I thought.
I hear myself say all sorts of ugly mother comments: "Don't sit on the floor you can get plantar warts on your butt. Don't lick the mirror. You can't wear underwear under your swimsuit. Don't squirt your go-gurt in the swimsuit spinner".
And this is just my own pack.
Other mamas are head first into giant bags of towels, stripping off soggy swim diapers and swearing into lockers full of their own squirrely kiddos. Babies are crying. A young boy pees openly in the tile drain in the middle of the floor. Somebody is always missing a flip flop.
Enough of modesty. I just want out before we end of with stitches or Hepatitis.
I bravely remove my clothes (swearing at myself for not changing into a suit at home...) and hear the shriek of my three year old.
Her hand is stuck in the paper towel dispenser.
And I have once again morphed into the lady I NEVER wanted to be. The naked lady walking around the locker room. Did I say walking? No, more of a trot. And naked trotting was certainly not on my bucket list.
In the moment I don't care. The shrieks sound similar to a child about to become and amputee, so I fall into the role of mother bear and claw my way forward.
Its the walk back to our home locker that shames. Children pressed back against the wall, mother's shielding little one's eyes, an older boy uncomfortably tying his swim trunks.
A forty something year old man standing in the shower hallway?
What the f*#%k?
Quickly, I look around for reassurance. Family dressing room, right?
Moms with beach bags. Check.
Half naked children. Check.
Other changing women......other changing women? For Christ's sake, give me a stranger's boob, please!!!
No. Suddenly I feel like the college girl who took the "lets go skinny-dipping" comment WAY to seriously. A little too eager to rip off her shirt. A little lonely on the edge of the lake.....
I'm really am so slow to put the pieces together. Family Dressing room. This sounds so wholesome. So thoughtful. So helpful. Like there might be Kumbaya playing on the speakers and graham crackers and milk on the way out.....maybe a cocktail?
But I'm definitely not getting the family friendly vibe. These are scary faces looking at me. Scary stranger faces. I just want my wet towel tent. My corner locker....where is it??!?!
Its right here....past these dressing rooms on the right.
For people to take their clothes off in private. For FAMILIES to take their clothes off in private. Families ...like with Dads.
Private. Like not waving your chicken patties around while you trot through the locker room, private.
I duck into a dressing room and sit down on a nasty bench. I don't even care if I get plantar warts on my butt. I deserve plantar wart ass.
A little part of me waits to see if security is coming to escort me out. What have I done? I probably just ruined any chance of that young boy enjoying his eventual prom night.....
My five year old daughter starts to giggle. " Mommy, everyone saw you naked!! I can see your butt".
And I have to laugh. After all the years I have winced in ladies locker rooms, hidden behind my wet towel tent, I have become the spectacle. Somebody will go home tonight and tell their WIFE about the inappropriate, brazen behavior of a mad-woman who ran naked through the family locker room. I have become an uncomfortable moment for some kids.
Honestly, it would have been better to sit down and paint my toe nails in the ladies locker room buck naked than to take a jog through the Family locker room.
And this is how it goes. Kids still want to swim. I have to suck it up and in and stuff it into a swimsuit and walk out into the waterpark. Which I do. As soon as I feel like a good amount of time has passed without a security knock....
I am reminded of how hard it is to fight for control. How hard I sometimes try to keep my world contained. Covered. Wrapped up. Safe.
I have been searching for a corner to carve out and claim, without distraction. A piece of life that won't be interfered with or disturbed by strangers. Strangers who challenge me to let go and be secure without guard. To be comfortable in my own skin (sorry...had to :)
But, there is safety in my wet towel tent. Safety from judgement and added responsibility. I can fool myself into thinking that when I'm in control of my world at any given time, I am succeeding. But, of course, this isn't safety or success. This is living in fear.
And thankfully, there are moments in our life, when we are given the chance (though sometimes unwittingly...) to be brave. Moments that we never would have chosen. Circumstances we never would have planned. But, nonetheless, an opportunity to let down our guards, and grow.
A chance to see that we don't have to hold on so tightly to keep it all together. We can make mistakes and be forgiven. We can lose things and they will be found. It can be unplanned and still successful.
It can be raw, plain, naked, and still beautiful. Maybe more beautiful.
We can be in the moment and it can be enough.
So, next time, I think we'll forgo the Family Locker room. I mean, really, what's the point? I might as well enter the ranks of the casually naked than try to weave and stuff and shuffle through the alternative. These ladies don't care if I look like I've been mauled by a bear, they have their own stretch marks to moisturize and exfoliate in the buff. And my toenails could use a fresh coat.
That wet towel was just getting too damn heavy anyway.