Saturday, 9 April 2011

Decadent European Locker Rooms! Eek!

Poppets, today I had a Most Uncomfortable Experience.

As it has been some five years since I have been in a proper gym, I met my husband B.A. at the local swimming baths (as they are called here), which has a gym and where he likes to bathe (which means swim) and sit in the Turkish baths for hours reading Private Eye and the London Review of Books. After he flashed his membership card and payed the fee for non-member me, he led me through a door to a damp corridor with a plastic-sock dispenser. The plastic socks were to go over one's shoes before going into the wet, smelly locker room.

"But this is the men's change room," I said, sticking to him like a rash.

"This is THE change room," he said. "The lockers are here and you change in the cubicles over there."

I looked over there. There were a number of cubicles, all with beige canvas curtains. There was a young "female attendant" mopping the nasty wet floor, and I could hear the sound of men's voices.

"Eeek!" I said.

I believe Wendy Shalit started her Modesty Revolution because of co-ed locker rooms and washrooms at her American college, but it never occured to me you could find such things in staid Scotland. Germany, sure. One expects nudity and pornographic ads for dishsoap and outrages of all kind in Germany. But not in Scotland.

Wet boys padded in, clad only in bathing trunks. One brushed past me as he made for his locker. I clutched my bundle of gym clothes and raced for a cubicle. I was greatly relieved when B.A.'s voice sounded in the cubicle beside me, but then a whole herd of men, BIG LOUD MEN, BIG LOUD MEN WEARING ALMOST NOTHING came tromping past my canvas curtain, their big feet slapping against the evil-smelling floor.

"Eeek!" I thought and from some domestic, wifely impulse, stuck one of my feet under the side of my cubicle into B.A.'s cubicle. At least one foot was safe.

I felt like Isabelle Archer, the heroine of Portrait of a Lady, and if you have read it, then you know how she feels about decadent Europe, and how awful it is when it springs its decadent surprises, like co-ed locker rooms at the indoor swimming pool, upon you.

Anyway, I pulled on my gym clothes as fast as I could, threw my street clothes in my locker and scuttled out of the locker room like a lobster on speed. The weight room, which featured men, but men decently covered up, was a welcome relief.

It turns out that the baths has a special woman-only locker room, what you and I would call "the women's locker room", upstairs so I will be using that from now on, thank you all the same.

When time came for me to change my clothes again, there were no men around, just boys, and I now realize why locker room talk is called "locker room talk", although as their voices hadn't changed yet, theirs was mostly "F--you, ye dirty manky bastirt!"

Anyway, be warned. Some of you may marry Europeans or people from other weird places, and so be on your guard against being led into both-gender locker rooms, because unless you were brought up with them, it will not feel like a both-gender locker room but THE MEN'S LOCKER ROOM. If you are a sports reporter, you'll probably feel okay. But if not--eek!


Ginger said...

I felt ridiculous the first time I had to change at my gym.

It was the "Women's Locker Room," but I looked around for any sign of curtained stalls to change in, until an unabashedly topless woman walked by and I, blushing, thought, "Oh. You... change in front... of.... everyone........ Hm. I see."

So I found an out-of-the way, unoccupied row of lockers, changed quickly before anyone could come around, and on my way out, texted my gym-obsessed friend "OH MY GOSH, you have to change IN FRONT OF PEOPlE?? I didn't know this was part of the deal!"

Sheltered Catholic girl. Go figure. :P

Seraphic Spouse said...

I found out about naked ladies flip-flopping about as a child on a first visit to th YMCA, but then was free from communal female nakedness until university. You get used to it, although it can still be a shock when you see someone you know.

Being in the same gym changing rooms as men, though. Urk! Urk! It wasn't a big deal in university theatricals, but in the gym--eeek!

The First Woman said...

I had a recent experience of the scariness of half naked men in awful wet change rooms, in Slovenia. I had to slosh through puddles in my swimsuit to approach a young man in nothing but a towel (eek! indeed) to ask how to get to the swimming pool, because I just couldn't figure out how to get to it. This place was like a communist rabbit warren. I felt very stupid and embarrassed. Half naked men are very intimidating. Especially when they are also very good looking.