It happens every morning: naked women - everywhere. The female change rooms at gym can be scary.
Some women are extroverts. At my gym, this personality is the dominant one. You can barely move for confident women walking around naked, doing their make-up naked, showering with the doors open – they are everywhere, all ages, shapes and sizes, flamboyantly secure about stripping off in a room full of their critical peers.
What's interesting is that it's often the older women who fall into this category. They usually stick together and one can always find them standing right at the changeroom entrance, boldly bare and straddling a bench while discussing how well their grandchildren are doing at school. At first it's more than a little disconcerting but - although I'll probably never be completely comfortable doing my make-up with the Calendar Girls reflecting in the mirror - I do admire their self-confidence.
At the other side of the spectrum is the rare introvert who scurries to get changed in the toilets, or behind closed doors. With her eyes down she tries to hide her horror at the gregarious woman next to her who’s taking her time moisturising her whole body – and I mean her whole body – before getting dressed.
I'd like to believe I fit somewhere in-between. I don’t hide, but I'm certainly not up for strutting naked around any longer than is strictly necessary.
Former Health24 editor Heather Parker, also in the in-between category, still shudders at the long-ago memory of a post-workout meeting. She had just stripped irreversibly down to her nothingness, when she heard a glad voice calling her name. She looked up, and bearing down on her, there was a particularly needy ex-colleague. Said ex-colleague – we’ll call her Lauren – wasn’t naked, but Heather’s relative relief was short-lived: she was engulfed in a bear hug. “Ooh, you’re all sweaty!” cried Lauren.
Hugging a naked, sweaty colleague? The misery.
And then Lauren stripped down herself, chatting away like someone who’d been in solitary confinement for a week, and leaving nary a gap in the conversation for Heather to break in and escape to the shower. These days, Heather goes home to shower.
If the women have an exhibitionist time, and are wildly over-sharing, apparently the goings-on in the men’s change rooms are something to behold. But that, perhaps, is another story.
What worries me is this: is there such a thing as changeroom etiquette? What happens when there are children in the change room? If you particularly adore someone else’s underwear, is it cool to say: “Love your panties, mind if I ask where you bought them?” I tried in vain to get an answer on this from gyms and psychologists, but they were too coy to comment.
So we'll turn it over to you, what do you think change room etiquette should be?
(Amy Henderson, Health24, updated January 2011)