When I was 5 or 6, I saw my first boobs at Loehmann’s department store. Well, I’m sure they weren’t my first view of boobs. I’m sure I had seen my mom’s boobs at this point, but this is not a post about my mom’s boobs. (You’re welcome, Mom.)
Those boobs at Loehmann’s were the first boobs that made an impact. I mean, they made such an impact I still remember them more than 2 decades later.
I was shopping with my mom that day. Loehmanns was the same as every other grown-up clothing store — boring — with one notable exception. The dressing room. Instead of the rows of small, badly lit cubicles with partial doors or curtains for privacy into which you squeezed to try on clothing, Loehmann’s dressing room was literally a room. One room. One giant, badly lit room with benches and mirrors lining the walls. Everyone changed in that room together. It was like a huge locker room with rolling clothing racks and discount designer clothes instead of showers and towels.
I was in this dressing room with my mother while she was trying on something. I was bored. I slouched on the bench and idly scanned the room. That’s when I saw them. The boobs. A few feet away a very old woman had stripped off her shirt. She was standing there in her beige, fully foundational, serious support bra and a skirt that was pulled up almost to her ribcage. She was slightly stooped, and she moved slowly as she reached back to unhook the 4, or was it 5, hooks that held her bra strap in place. Once the strap was unhooked and hanging loose, she moved her hands to the cups, one cup in each hand. She shrugged her shoulders free of the straps and then began to lower her bra — very slowly — down towards the floor. Slowly, slowly, the bra got closer to her waist, and just as slowly her breasts emerged, long and cylindrical, hanging from her chest like heavy pendulums. Down and down went the bra, lower and lower stretched the breasts, long white sausages of boobs stretching for the floor in painstakingly slow motion. It wasn’t until her bra was below her waist that she finally managed to uncover those breasts entirely. They hung slack against the top of her skirt, nipples pointed down to the brown industrial carpet. My mouth hung open just as low. I was a Looney Tunes cartoon with my eyes bugged out of my head and my chin on the floor. Honestly, whenever I think of this story, I’m still that way. That woman must have been a EE or a ZZZ earlier in life. Gravity had not been kind. Her bra was an engineering miracle. It was the clown car of foundation garments.
I was thinking about those boobs today because I’m back at the gym and back into the culture of the locker room. I’ve been away from it for awhile. I had a gym membership at our local YMCA for years, but I let it lapse once I started kickboxing seriously. It was too expensive to pay for both the gym and the dojo, and I was getting such a phenomenal workout at the dojo that I didn’t need the gym anymore.
I signed back up at the Y this week. I’ve been resisting. I desperately want to kickbox again. I keep trying class, and my neck keeps hurting. I rest it for awhile, and try again. My neck hurts again. I need an answer to how I can manage my neck and still do what I love – kickbox and dance – but I don’t have that answer yet. In the meantime, I need to get my increasingly fat ass back in gear. I was resisting signing up at the gym again because I can’t afford to do both the gym and the dojo. I think by signing that form at the gym, I felt like I was saying good-bye to the dojo. I was basically pouting that I couldn’t do the exercise I want to do by not doing any exercise at all. I’ve finally reached the point where I just need to suck it up and deal with the reality. I can’t kickbox right now. I can’t dance. I need to stay in shape, so the gym it is.
Yesterday and today found me back in the gym on the elliptical and the recumbant bike — bored out of my mind — but breaking a sweat. I’ll just have to be bored and sweaty for awhile.
And yesterday and today found me back in the locker room.
We started going to the Y when Ace was a baby for infant-parent swim classes. I remember being in the locker room getting into my bathing suit and marveling at all the naked women around me. They were all ages, all shapes, and all sizes. I don’t think I’d realized until that moment that I just haven’t seen that many other naked women. Not real ones anyway. Contrary to what most porn wants you to think, women just don’t get naked together in the dorm or at slumber parties or summer camp or really just in general. Most of our interactions with other women actually involve clothing of some sort. Yes, I’ve seen naked women in Playboy and Victoria Secret catalogues, porn and television, but those aren’t real bodies. (In case I have any teeenage male readers, all your porn magazines are lying to you, by the way. Women do not really look like that. Even THOSE women don’t look like that. Real women’s bodies are amazing and beautiful and imperfect. If you can learn to appreciate that, you’re going to have a much better sex life down the road. You’re welcome.) In my case, it was almost liberating. I realized that my body, with all its flaws, was actually pretty normal. The longer I spent in that locker room, the more naked women I saw there, the more OK I felt about myself. ”Ah,” I thought. ”So this is what we look like.”
That particular locker room is actually one of the reasons I like to go to the YMCA instead of a gym like Bally’s. Everybody exercises at the Y. Kids. Seniors. Teens. Moms. Hey, the hot, hard bodied gym rats are there, too. Every kind of body is at the Y. Every kind of body is in the locker room. It’s beautiful and inspiring and I love it.
Well, I mostly love it. Today, as I was changing from my work clothes to my gym clothes, a wet, naked woman strolled out of the showers. Her clothes were under her arm, and she had a comb in her hand. She ambled over to the only full length mirror in the locker room, set down her clothes, and proceeded to slowly, languorously, comb her wet hair while gazing at herself in the mirror — totally naked — in a locker room full of people. She was not unattractive. I guess, I’m glad she is comfortable with her body and stuff, and I know we were at the crunchy, we-love-people-of-all-kinds Y, but really? There are rules to proper locker room behavior, aren’t there?
I guess it is going to take a little time to get used to being back in the locker room.
At least it wasn’t Loehmann’s.