THE LOCKER ROOM
The first time I seriously went to a gym was about 22. The image in my mind is the varying shapes and sizes of the women in the changing room. Modesty, blatant nakedness absent of inhibitions and in between bodies of women of all ages. The locker room of a gym is where you see the vulnerabilities, the insecurities, the confidences and the beauty of women. It is one of my favorite observatories, but it must be done in a subtle way because the unspoken rule is not to glare, stare or gawk. This is difficult. I find the energy of it all such a study of the interesting ways women are.
When I was this age, just beginning my young adult path, the locker room was a wakeup call of what can happen to our bodies as we get into our older years; at 22 this was about 40. At 22 I remember the little girls who shamelessly walked into the group shower with their little bodies staring at the multitude of bodies and vagina hair. I loved the group shower. There was something so uninhibited about the experience of showering with strangers. As I caught glimpses of the older women, it barely occurred to me that one day I would be standing amongst them crown and cape on knowing that I would be them.
The distinction between youth and age is found in the locker room. The scars and the victories show up there. The abuse and the care show up as well as the histories of significant times in our lives. The warrior wounds and the self-care are evidence of the lives we have lived in the rawness of the light of the locker room. For example, tattoos and their placement on the body usually show the era of a woman. Perhaps their tattoo is on the shoulder or the ankle or the hip, all signs of a life change for a 40 something. Maybe it was a divorce, or a death of someone close. A tattoo in this area is a way to give voice to the pain or the changes that are relevant to the event. Tattoos all over the body are often the 20 somethings where tattoos have become a sport with vigorous competition on quantity, uniqueness and color.
There are the children, innocence abounding, smiling, giggling, gawking, starting to feel their worth of their own appearance as they begin the entrance into the constant comparisons of how they think their little bodies should be.
There are the crones with their saggy breasts and their carbohydrated bellies getting out of the pool in their one piece bathing suits and their bras that are more like soldiers in battle holding up breasts that have fed a multitude of children over the years, the hands that have ironed their husband’s shirts and their fit bodies, despite the sag, of tennis clubs and learning to care for their cardio later in life. I am the young body next to them as I was the young body next to me 25 years past. I cherish this tribal experience that has no spoken word.
Yesterday it happened. The transition in the locker room happened. I was standing naked surrounded by 20 somethings and I realized that it happened. The torch was passed to me as I saw a little girl sneak a peak at my shape. The torch was passed as I watched a 25ish girl get ready for her workout with her tight fit oh so perfect 25 year old body fixing and fidgeting her sassy workout clothes as she looked in the mirror more than twice to make sure the snugness was snug in the right places. She hadn’t had a child yet, hadn’t lost a sibling, or a parent, hadn’t had an extra 27 years of sun exposure or had seen the way her hair color would be changing and deciding what to do about it. She probably never had any type of vagina hair as brazillians had been in her generation the moment the first hair sprouted. She hadn’t yet seen the changes that would happen to her body from the varying diets and food stories living for 52 years brings or the changes in her once perfect and firm breasts from surgical menopause and two lumpectomies. The innocence was affirming. Satisfaction of a life well lived with all of its cuts and scrapes as its teacher affirmed the cape and crown well deserved.
I earned the torch.