Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lessons in nudity from the Swedish

I recently had the pleasure of visiting my friend Linn in Sweden. While staying with her we attended a couple of fitness classes at her gym. After my first Yoga class in Swedish, we headed to the locker room to grab our runners and hoodies. When I looked up from tying my shoe lace, I realized I was sitting amongst a sea of naked bottoms. All the ladies had stripped down and stood around chatting in the buff while doing their hair.

Two days later we went to another class, and the same thing happened. After class, there was noticeably more nakedness than in a typical Canadian locker room. Friends disrobed in front of one another, chatted about plans for the weekend and generally carried on as if their most intimate parts weren’t on display. And maybe that’s simply because for the Swedes, and many folks outside of North America, the naked body is no big deal.

As we walked home that night, Linn and I compared “locker room etiquette” in Canada and Sweden. At her high school, everyone hit the showers after gym class. As a result, she’s seen all her peers naked over the course of many years.

My high school gym experience was completely different. We never showered after class – there wasn’t time, it wasn’t encouraged and nobody did it. Sure, there were showers in the locker room, but they were used exclusively by the volleyball and basketball teams. Since I never played on any sports teams, I never showered with my peers. In fact, to this day I have never seen any of my friends in the nude.

In Calgary, nudity in the locker room is pretty mixed. Whether you strut your stuff or hide in a change room typically depends on your age, cultural background, and your level of I-don’t-give-a-shit-ness. Generally though, younger women shy away from all-out nudity and prefer to change in locker rooms or shimmy their knickers on with one hand while holding a towel around them with the other. It seems that the older you get, the less you care, and so with age comes nudity.

I’ve decided that I like the European style of locker room etiquette. I believe that the more naked bodies we see, (and I mean REAL naked bodies, not Photoshop plastic bodies) the more comfortable we become with our own body. We get to see the amazing variety in the human body, and we realize that it’s all normal: scars, hair in weird places, saggy boobs, varicose veins, stretch marks, cellulite-dimpled bottoms, the incredible variety of nipple size and colour, and so much more.

I think it’s important that we see naked bodies of all ages in non-sexual contexts. We’ll have more realistic expectations for our own bodies when we see what other people look like. It’s harder to hate your own body when you see your “flaws” in everyone else too. Hiding our bodies from each other breeds insecurity and feelings of abnormality. I hope us Canadians can eventually move to a more European level of comfort with nudity. It doesn’t have to be sexual… it’s just natural and normal.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Jennie!! Looking forward to our next opportunity to compare whatever etiquette that comes to our minds! :D