So I’m a bit of a prude. (*pause for snark*)

Whatever. I am.

Particularly in the realm of public nudity and public displays of affection. I just happen to believe that what you are working with is your business.
It’s important that you know this about me as you read this post because you may wholeheartedly disagree. (Although that will likely have NO bearing on my feelings)
I am also a creature of habit. You need to know that going forward as well. I eat the same thing from the Chinese restaurant. And when I get tired of eating that one thing I occasionally order the other thing I eat from the Chinese restaurant. I sit in the same section at church. I cook my pancakes the same way….etc, etc, etc.

Up until about few months ago I was a regular gym go-er. I had a little routine three times a week at the local Bally’s. As a creature of habit, naturally each visit found me swiping my card, going into the locker room to the same section and more often than not the same locker. I like my little section because it’s in the corner of an open area. I have this weird fear of being in the back of a locker room too far away from the front door. That, coupled with my need for privacy, made this corner pocket perfect. As you turn the first corner in the locker room you run into it but you’d have to extend your neck a bit to see me in the corner and most people don’t – they just continue on past.

Well, there I was loving my little spot (few women even change here, probably because unless you’re in my little nook, you’re pretty exposed to every woman coming in and out of the locker room) when one day I come in at my regularly scheduled time and run smack into an older (like 65 years old) black women standing naked as a jay bird. (Never really knew what that meant…do they not have feathers or something?) Anyway, this chic – butt, booty behind nekkid turns to me and smiles and says “hello.” Naturally, I am like “hey” as I quickly turn to save what’s left of my retinas. As I sit down to start my changing process I am so disturbed by the snail’s pace at which this lady is changing her clothes and she’s still trying to carry on a conversation.

She is pulling crap out of her bag to put on and she’s all “I am taking the advanced step class – have you taken it?” Now, In my mind I’m screaming “What lady?? Stop talking to me!” But I say, almost under my breath, head still down and turned to the side, “Nah, I’m taking body sculpting.” I’m thinking my obviously uninterested body language and my barely above a whisper response will let her know that I need her to tuck what’s left of her Broom Hilda breast inside of something – anything actually – that will keep them from dangling in my peripheral. But no. When I go to stand up I drop one of my rings on the floor and as Murphy would have it my little silver band rolls away and stops right next to Lady Godiva who promptly picks it up and holds it out for me to retrieve. You would have thought it was a reprisal of “Lady Sings the Blues” with her in the role of Billy D. “you want my arm to fall off”

Ooooh. I was sick.

I turned around after a long internal sigh and managed to keep my eyes down while simultaneously just about snatching the ring from her outstretched hand. With mission accomplished I just left. Pissed off. I didn’t even know why I was so mad – but I was. I thought about it throughout my whole class and after class I didn’t even change I just grabbed my stuff from my locker and was out, still fuming. Part of me, I realized, was angry at the invasion. This is MY space. Remember the mean ghost in the subway from the movie “Ghost” who didn’t like Patrick Swayze haunting his train? That’s me. I’m like “Hey. YOU. Get off my Isle…” Like, “why are you even here to begin with?” Then, not only do you bring your hind parts to MY section of the locker room, where I have gone on happily changing (mostly) alone, you have the nerve to stand here doing a geriatric strip tease for all available eyes to see? Really?

I’m also thinking why can’t she be more like me? Stealth. I come in and I’m on task. I sit, open my locker and put my purse in first. Next, I take my gym clothes out of the bag and lay the sports bra and tee-shirt on my lap. I then take whatever top I’m wearing off and put the sports bra on OVER my regular bra. At which time I unfasten my regular bra and slide it out from under the sports bra, then – never revealing so much as a hint of areola – I put my tee-shirt on. The bottoms are a bit trickier but still doable if your focused. After my top is on I stand quickly to get my (already unfastened) pants down to my knees and then promptly find my seat again. As I sit down I am also taking off my pants the rest of the way. Once the pants are off – it’s just like poetry in motion . One swift movement has my jogging pants on and a quick pop up off of the bench has them up to my waist and drawn in. All that’s left are my socks and sneakers and done.

Take a note biddie in the buff. That’s what I want to say to her.

I actually want to find a poised way of saying to her “listen, it’s not a show. I get that you may have lost 20 or 30 pounds recently or maybe have some new, young 50-year-old stud hanging around you or you’re just glad to be here and you feel, I don’t know, liberated. But what about my liberty? I don’t want any part of your audacious display. I just want to work out so I can feel good about running around in the privacy of my own home butt, booty, behind nekkid.

Translation: I don’t need your bold declaration of independence a stone’s throw away from my insecurity. You make me uncomfortable. Get your Window Seat on elsewhere.

This week, after a short (well long-short) absence from the gym, I was so excited to get back to my classes. The first day back I was running late so I hurried into the locker room not even thinking about the aged jay bird – when BAM! There she was – as she was at birth – standing in front of her locker. Unreal.

She greeted me with a big grin and said, “Wow! I thought you had abandoned us! How are you? It’s been a while” I was honestly taken aback by her enthusiasm, but it also kind of warmed my heart. She continued, “Where have you been darling?” in that affectionate way elder, black women sometimes address younger sisters. “You know they have changed all of the teachers for the summer, but the 5:30 guy is great!” My back is to her. I am in my seat going right into my routine, top off, sports bra on, regular bra off…when she says, “Is everything okay?” Well, at this point she is being too nice for me to continue to give her polite silence and half smiles. So I half way turn my body toward her and say, “I’m good, just ready to get back to work.” She, who now has on just a bra and no bottoms at all, bush forward, says, “Well you know these workouts are the best way to work out the kinks in your body and your spirit.”

I couldn’t even speak. Her words said everything.

Before I could think too hard about it I turned to face her, careful to make full eye contact, and said “That’s exactly what I need too” and I smiled. She smiled back warmly as she bent over to put on her bottoms and continued to drop jewels. “Oh yeah, this is my favorite part of the week. The days I come in here I leave my crazy job, my crazy husband and my crazy kids at the door, I work all of that stress off baby – it will kill you if let it.” I should mention that she has now put on her clothes and is standing over me with her hand on my shoulder. (I should also mention that I don’t do touching and closeness with strangers either…but I digress) Instead of doing what I normally do – which is make some sort of gesture to release myself – I listened to my nudity prone elder carefully as she shared her “life lengthening” wisdom. That’s what she called it. She said after her bout with “a bad illness” she decided to change things and she only surrounds herself with people and activities that “lengthen her life” not shorten it.

Maybe that’s why she likes nakedness. Maybe it’s life lengthening for her. I felt bad. I didn’t understand this woman at all. I had her read as a kookie old broad who got a kick out of flashing what was left of her once possibly banging body.

I smiled at her again. This time big and genuine.

Before you go wrapping this up in your little hallmark mind…NO, the moral of this story is NOT that I will now consider baring my body in public places. I think this woman is brave. She has a resilient spirit that invites you right into the midst of her throes of passion. She lives her life fully and that is enviable. I do however hope to one day have less inhibitions about so many things that I now regard as “personal” but really are fears lying dormant waiting to jump out at me so I can cut and run.

I learned some things about “life lengthening” from my naked senior sister that I’m sure will continue to unfold as I’m marinating over them.

In the meantime, who knows, maybe I’ll show a lil’ leg. πŸ˜‰