Full Frontal

full-frontal-lauren-lipton-blog“You’re not supposed to wear shoes in here,” she said.

We were in the steam room at my gym. I was wrapped in a towel from neck to knees, wearing pink rubber flip-flops.

She, a woman old enough to be somebody’s grandma, was buck naked.

As she full-frontal-scolded me about germs on the soles of my shower shoes, I only half listened. I was busy trying to focus my gaze anywhere but on her. In the end, I gave up and closed my eyes. This often is the best approach at my gym, a senior-friendly neighborhood Y whose members seem to have no body-image issues whatsoever, strolling around nude in the locker room like we’re in the midst of a global towel shortage. I’ll admit: it kind of freaks me out.

I should probably be used to gym nudity. As a child, I spent innumerable weekends watching my parents play racquetball at various health clubs, and then waiting afterward in ladies’ locker rooms while my mom took a jacuzzi. A prude even then, I was astonished that anyone would willingly prance around naked in front of strangers. “Nudity is normal and healthy,” my mother explained. I should probably add that this was in the freewheeling 1970s, when parents played racquetball, took jacuzzis and said things like this.

Decades later, the same women who were young and nude back then are now old and just as nude. At my gym, women stand around in the altogether bragging to each other about their grandchildren. It’s all out there. A few days before the steam room incident, a woman in her 70s stripped off her towel in the sauna to perform a series of in-the-buff yoga contortions worthy of a spread in Penthouse.

This must be a generational thing. I can’t imagine women my age being this unselfconscious about their sags and wrinkles, not to mention this comfortable having conversations while trying not to gaze anywhere south of the speaker’s nose. Too many of us are hung up on our supposed flaws. To take off the towel would be, in our minds, to subject ourselves to the negative scrutiny of others. That’s too bad. It would be great if we all stopped worrying so much about what we look like.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I can get behind the 1970s “let it all hang out” attitude. In theory, it’s great that these women don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.

In practice, though, I’ll be keeping my towel on in the steam room. And my shoes, too.