As I swung open the metal door, the smell of sweat and steam flooded my senses. I followed the grey-and-tan tiled floor down the short hallway and turned to enter the main room. That’s when it hit me. Literally. I bumped into a woman, fully naked and freshly showered, with a full bush.
“Pardon me, I’m so sorry!” I squeaked out. “It’s all right, dear,” she replied. It was official. My YMCA ladies’ locker-room cherry had been popped. After I collected myself from this brief vag encounter, I scanned the space and noticed the room was full of them and the varieties were endless.
It was a vagina party. Groomed, bare, wild, wispy, long… in every shade of the pubic rainbow and proud as they could be. The bodies attached were curvy, round, muffin topped, lanky, saggy, wrinkly, veiny, real. It was, in every way, an eye-opening experience, almost as if the vaginas were daring me to look.
This wasn’t my first run-in with OPP (other people privates). During my pre-teen years, Baden-Baden, a quintessential German spa town, was the location of my first encounter with “public pubicness.” A few giggles over an exposed boob or two is really all I remember. But now, being a fully developed woman, it was different. Watching these women interact with themselves and one another was an empowering experience. All of them, most over the age of 50, were naked – and clothed only in an I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass attitude. It looked great on them all.
I’m generalizing here but, in my experience, it seems that women from the age of puberty until age 40-something are overly concerned with what other women think, myself included. Comparing our bodies to others is a toxic pastime we’ve participated in, unknowingly, most of the time, since the age of six. (Six, to me, is the time when innocence begins to deplete and the thought of being different is terrifying. Thank you, grade school.)
But here, in the steamy YMCA locker room, the varying human forms complemented one another and harmoniously celebrated what it looks like to be a woman. The images seen in fashion magazines, the images I and many young women have grown up with as being true representations of beauty, now felt boring and expected. The curve of the hips, the sagging of the breasts, the dimples in the thighs, scars and marks… all so different, interesting, intriguing, and, in turn, strong as hell.
I yearned to be like the women at the Y. The way they carried themselves, moving about in a natural way without feeling self-conscious, confident in their bodies and the way they move, bend, jiggle, and sway. Having lived decades in that body, having given life through that body, having survived illness and pain and heartbreak in that body… it gets me choked up just writing it down.
There have been numerous articles written about “body love” and accepting one’s skin, and thankfully so. I’ve read many and appreciate the message (I guess that’s what I’m inadvertently doing here now). But for me, it took a visit to the ladies’ locker room to really understand what body love is all about.
I thank the women in the locker room who’ve inspired me to free the V. To free the V and just be. They’ve taught me a valuable life lesson: confidence is sexy. Especially when naked.