Real life, real bodies

Woman Bathing by Rembrandt

Saturdays have become an unexpectedly wonderful thing.  A few months ago, Laurel signed up for Early Figure Skating, and her program included 8.15am Saturday morning On Ice, followed by 9.15am Off Ice (lots of jumping and stretching).  I tried saying “You have a bike – deal with it”, but I just can’t be that ruthless, so every Saturday I rise, wake the Gruffalo who sleeps in Laurel’s bed, and grab my gym bag on the way out – well, if I have to be there, I might as well do myself some good.

Poirier Recreation Centre is pretty typical of the facilities in the Lower Mainland – a gym overlooking a pool, with 2 ice rinks and a curling rink attached.  There’s a nice cafe and a bar upstairs (open for the Coquitlam Express hockey games), and a couple of small extra rooms you can rent for parties or meetings.  The pool includes the usual sauna, steam room and hot tub, all included in the price of the ticket.  I bought a 10-session pass for $60 which gives me access to gym and pool for as long as I like.  During the winter I have plodded on my treadmill or eliptical trainer in front of the giant window overlooking the mountains, watching the rain, the snow, the occasional sun glitter off the frost, or the soap opera on the TV attached to the machine.

Now here’s the real reason I felt inspired to write.  The Women’s Locker Room.  Immediately I can feel the surge of imagination from both my readers – and you’re wrong.  On Saturday mornings and, for all I know, at all other times, there are no cheerleaders in the Women’s Locker Room.  What there is, is a communal facility (no cubicles here – if you want privacy, go to the Universal area and fight the families for a private space).  Here we see all ages, all cultures, all shapes, all sizes, all looking after themselves in some way.  Some of the older ladies like to wear what appears to be a nightdress in the pool, or sometimes long shorts and vests.  This week I saw a woman sitting by the hot tub with a veil on her head.  Baggy old swimming costumes cover baggy old bodies.   In the showers, ladies of all ages and all conditions produce laundry baskets of products and scrub every inch of themselves, sitting naked on the tiles, doing their laundry whilst conditioning, moisturizing and exfoliating.

My very English daughters, always horrified when I embarrass them in public changing rooms by daring to actually get changed there, are speechless by this unselfconscious parade of physical difference.  I hope they get used to it.  I hope they see, as I do, the wonder of the human body in all its many forms and realize that this is why communal locker rooms are so valuable – can we teach our daughters that this is what women’s bodies are meant to do and meant to be – stretched and recovered, sagging and dimpled, scarred, tanned, mottled and faded?  We are not all the same and very few of us are as freakishly thin or tall as super models, no matter how we diet, exercise or surgically alter, but we can look after ourselves.  Not one of these people I meet on a Saturday is the same as another but we are joined in a common aim – we are at the Gym, and we are doing the best we can with what we have been given, and we are loving it.

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