An old friend

About two months ago I joined a gym.

Sitting here writing this, a blog about the gym, I am inescapably aware of currently just how full I am of chips and pizza. Currently as in today. Not in life. I don’t want to even think about the amount of pizza and chips I’ve eaten in my lifetime. It would probably cover an area roughly the size of Texas. Poor Texas btw. It’s always Texas. “Rainforest the size of texas!” or “An asteroid the size of Texas!” No one in movies ever says “The disease would wipe out the size of…The isle Of Man!”

The gym. Me and my fella joined a gym. TOGETHER. To go TOGETHER. To wear matching lycra outfits TOGETHER. To shout positive reinforcement messages and feel the burn TOGETHER.

Actually it’s more like he watches me fall off the treadmill and then I watch him swim faster than me but we then have a nice jacuzzi at the end of it together. Nothing says romance like an 1980s bathroom staple.

I’m not very good at the gym yet. But at least I am going. Unlike the last time I joined a gym where I signed up for a year and went for the first week then never again AND I lived opposite it. Nope. Not this time. This time the gym is Pac Man eating my delicious direct debit and the ghosts are my lack of willpower trying to destroy my quest to confidently wear bandeau dresses.

Since going to the gym I’ve started to feel much more confident about my body. Not because of the exercise, I’ve not actually lost any weight (pesky deep fried ghosts). It’s the changing rooms. The gym changing rooms have been a surprisingly liberating experience. Who knew.

The changing rooms of my gym don’t have private changing cubicles. You get changed in front of the other women. I have never done this. I’ve never been naked in front of other women. Unless you count as a baby where I quite enjoyed a good streak on family holidays.

Of course my sister and my female chums have seen bits of my flesh and boobage and I, theirs. My best mate has a wonderful drunken habit of falling asleep on top of her bed fully clothed but with her Cagney and Laceys out. (Breasts just in case you thought I meant elbows which I’m sure in Victorian times would be spot on filth).

The changing rooms of my school sports hall were a zipped up affair. Despite my PE Teachers best efforts, me and the other girls in my year would shower communally with our underwear on. Many of us with underwear and towels wrapped around our bodies as if the mere sight of a stray buttocks would produce Medusa like catastrophe to our Yr 10 netball team.

We didn’t really shower, we sort of paddled. Our ankles were thoroughly cleansed. (Again in Victorian times, spot on). We sort of danced around the shower water, dipping one hand in the stream then using it to ‘wash’ under our arms but being careful to hold the towel in place with the other hand. Absolute bloody madness.

Our two matriarchal plum tracksuited P.E teachers pointed this madness out frequently but what were they sposed to do? Forcibly undress us and herd us into the showers? It would have been a weird hybrid version of the films Clueless and Shawshank Redemption. Also I doubt they’d ever get through another CRB check again. So they’d roll their eyes, tell us all we had the same bits and pieces and that the boys didn’t make such a palaver out of showering that we did.

I guess we were all frightened of our own changing bodies and of each others. I was frightened of the girls with boobs because I didn’t know where mine were yet. I’d been told chubby girls had big ones but I was chubby and waiting for my boobs to arrive was as frustrating as waiting for an Eastenders storyline to conclude.

Even now I don’t love my body. I don’t hate her either. I swing from being mildy indifferent to thinking she’s great then thinking she’s a Dick again. I basically have the same relationship with my body that most of us would have with a really old friend. You’ve been friends with them for so long that you just have to tolerate them now. That’s me and my body.

So you can imagine that on my first gym visit  I was somewhat troubled by the lack of privacy in the changing rooms. However, from my school days I am a master in the art of getting dressed under a towel.

Which is exactly what I did for the first few trips. Then I started to feel a bit daft.

There’s me taking ages to get dried and dressed because everything needs to be strategically covered at all times. Knickers on under towel. Bra over towel then remove towel. Meanwhile at least three women have come in, changed and left. None of them bothered if I glimpsed a naked bum cheek. Just getting on with it like women invariably do.

Yes we have vaginas. Yes there it is. Yes I’m just getting on with it being there.

So I did it. I faced my chubby faced teenage fear and now I get naked in the changing rooms.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not striding around in my birthday suit doing lunges and star jumps shouting “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR” next to the hand dryers.

I’m just, not bothered about getting dressed in front of other women anymore.

Yes I have a vagina, yes there it is, yes I’m just getting on with it being there.

And it actually has made me feel more confident about myself. It’s made me feel much better about my body.

Not because of the exercise but because I’m remembering why we were mates again.

She’s alright really.


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