I recently joined the local gym; a large complex with all the typical amenities: basketball courts, weight rooms, and two large heated pools. My mission was two-fold: to spend some time on the treadmill since the weather is not so conducive to outdoor exercise this time of year; and improve my swimming skills.
As I read people’s various accounts of their first experiences with social nudity, I find myself feeling exactly the same way at the gym. I was never particularly athletic or coordinated as a kid, so any memory related to walking into a locker room brings with it a flood of uncomfortable recollections from adolescence. (I was that kid who did not fare well around the bullies in middle school.) Strangely enough, naturism has always been something of an escape for me from all that baggage, in that exercise clothing and swimsuits tend to share a common element – at least to me – and that would be drawing attention to features of the body that you may not have been proud of in the first place, and those that rarely get better with age! (Thinking, in particular, the mid-section here. Despite my clothed appearance as tall and slender for my age, gravitational force seems to have found its home just about the belt line, or more aptly in this case, gathering around the elastic band of a wet swimsuit.)
Perhaps it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to seeing people naked in social situations, and in fact, there is no body type that I consider particularly unusual or surprising anymore. In fact, I found it especially reassuring to encounter a woman with a mastectomy at a French naturist resort, seemingly completely at ease with the results of the surgery that most probably saved her life. How incredibly powerful that there was no need to don extra apparel to fill out the expectations inherent of wearing a swimsuit. And so it goes with people with various scars and body attributes which require careful concealment in the clothed world, but are simply part of life and reality in the naked world.
So there it is. I’ve been going to the gym for several weeks now, and still find myself to be, at very least aware, and on some days, downright self-conscious, of my appearance in a swimsuit. One might even say… feeling naked! Realizing that this assessment is, in all likelihood, uniquely my own, (who cares about the just another guy in the pool or on the treadmill) but wondering at the same time how it is that social norms have evolved to make it more acceptable to wrap yourself in clingy, all-telling, wet nylon, rather than simply being comfortable in your skin.