It’s Time to Get Naked – Julie’s Story
I love to swim and at least twice a week I engage in the soothing and rhythmical ritual of following the black line for 20 or more laps at my local, public swimming pool. A few weeks ago I shared the pool with a Seniors Aquarobics class. Whilst I swam laps a large group of older women bobbed up and down in the water beside my lane, exercising to music.
By the time I had finished my laps I realised that the class had finished, as I was now the only one left in the water. I got out of the pool, collected my things and made my way to the changing rooms to shower. As I turned the corner into the large, open plan, changing area I was confronted with a sight that will forever be seared into my memory. The entire Aquarobics class had relocated from the pool to the change rooms, only now they were all either undressing or totally naked.
30 – 40 women of advanced years were showering, waiting for the showers, laughing and chatting with each other with no obvious concerns about modesty. I had just been given a sneak preview of my future self and it was confronting. For a split second I hesitated, I had walked too far in to retreat but I certainly didn’t want to join the queue for the showers and strike up a conversation with a naked 70 year-old like it was something I did every day.
One of the women caught my eye and clearly recognised my discomfort. Without a trace of embarrassment at her own nakedness she smiled at me and then pointed toward a vacant spot in the corner of the room where I could change. I don’t consider myself a prude but I certainly do not have the body confidence that these women displayed. From my quick glance around the room it appeared that majority of the women were well into their 70’s, with physiques that bore witness to at least that number of years.
It wasn’t so much the wrinkles and lumps and bumps that struck me; what impacted me the most was how comfortable they all were with their naked, ageing and imperfect bodies, and how comfortable they were with each other.
As I discreetly changed in the corner I overheard snippets of their conversations; it was hilarious. One woman couldn’t find her glasses and because she couldn’t see well without them, locating them was obviously a challenge. But no sooner had she cried out for help than three or four other naked ladies joined her in the search. Once the glasses had been safely found and returned to their owner another lady began talking about her incontinence problems. Tips and advice were shared about products and strategies and then the conversation moved on to forgetful husbands, recent illnesses and grandchildren. Another of the women raised the subject of a mutual friend’s battle with cancer and meals and visits were organised.
In the midst of the multiple conversations and topics one of the women made an observation that challenged me. To no one in particular she said,
“You know we have all been coming to these classes for so long now, we must really like it; or maybe it’s just that we all really like each other”
This comment was met with a chorus of chuckles and laughter but for me it was a genuine light bulb moment. I realised that what I was witnessing was so much more than a post exercise class conversation. I had been given a glimpse of genuine, authentic community. This was a group of women who were comfortable being naked, vulnerable and honest with each other, not just physically but emotionally. They were at ease with sharing their flaws, frailties and needs without the fear of judgment or ridicule. My interaction with them may have been brief but I could see that if ever there was a need amongst this group – whether it was to find someone’s glasses, visit a sick friend or provide a spare incontinence pad – they would be there for each other.
I learned a lot from that Aquarobics class. I was reminded in the most comical of ways that it’s all right to ask for help when I need it, and not only is it ok to not be perfect, its ok for others to see my imperfections. It can be so tempting to believe that only when I finally get it all together — my schedule, my health, my all-over-the-place emotions —will I be happy and whole. But what this group of women showed me is that there is fun and freedom to be had when we show up as we are now.
Real community and authentic relationship means we can come, as we are, and that we love and accept each other, as we are.
I don’t want to have to wait till I’m 70+ to experience life like that. It’s time to get naked.