A coworker and I were talking about sex recently (like ya do) and she said, in her experience, the more self-conscious someone was about their body, the worse they’d be in bed. In essence, that bodily shame/discomfort would translate into the sexual realm. She was specifically talking about an ex-girlfriend who had an eating disorder. This, naturally, led me to reflect on my own bodily self-consciousness, and how nearly all of the girls at my yoga studio walk around the locker room naked after class, except me. Yes, porn got something right. Girls will gossip, talk about work, sex, and even porn, all while comfortably in the buff. And let me tell you, I never truly knew what will power was until I was forced to have a conversation about actuary insurance with a beautiful naked girl and look her in the eyes the whole time.
When I was a tomboy in the 80s who could easily pass as a boy, I had a similar discomfort with locker rooms. Living in an all-male household, I didn’t feel remotely right acting like a girl. Or dressing like one. Or being in all-female spaces. I did, however, cry like a girl (Thanks a lot, Bob Dylan). But when told I HAD to use the girl’s bathroom, I had an identity crisis. I hated it. I would put a shirt over my head, so no one could “see” me crossing this painful gender barrier. One time, a girl I was courting (I was a slut, even at age 7) saw me enter the girl’s locker room and berated me for it. “What are YOU doing in HERE?” she said, dashing all hopes that I would be the chosen one to sit next to her at lunch time.
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. I obviously lacked the vocabulary to explain my 7-year-old genderqueer identity. I couldn’t explain it to my boyfriend either, who called me “brother” but would then kiss me in a football huddle. When we played “house,” we were never husband and wife, but siblings, or occasionally owner and pet. What would Freud say about THAT? I didn’t worry about it at the time, obviously. We were kids. We used our imaginations, as opposed to adults, who can only do so through the use of heavy narcotics. Or sex.
But back to the current locker room situation. My discomfort could have to do with my tendency to sexualize everything. Nothing is too innocuous or mundane to escape my pervyness! I often have to read things twice because my brain will read “erection” in a sign that says “direction.” And don’t get me started on the names of Chinese restaurants. In fact, I invented a term for this condition: dysexlia. You have my permission to use it promiscuously.
It’s not that I’m modest, though I am, in a sense. I’d much rather talk about you than me any day. But in yoga, I often wear little more than a bikini.
So it’s not that I’m afraid to “take it all off,” as it were. But I do wonder if perhaps some of that childhood embarrassment is lingering in my hesitance to get jiggly with my fellow yogis.
Then there’s the somewhat dudely aspect of being attracted to women while also having access to female-privileged spaces. It’s like, if you’ll excuse the bisexual cliche, playing for both teams. I can flirt and compliment women and ask them really personal questions about their sex lives without coming off as a douchebag (most of the time). Could I do this as a dude? Probably not. I feel almost traitorous about it, perhaps harking back to a time when I most certainly used that privilege to seduce straight women. So perhaps I stay bundled up in order to avoid any chance of being mistaken as a skeezebag.
Since I’ve become aware of this hiding-behind-the-towel routine, I’ve tried to liberate myself from it. And I can’t! Occasionally I can drop it half way, with my back turned. But that’s about as close as I get to au natural. Nudists would laugh in my terrycloth-covered face.
I’ll get there someday, but until then, as the Wizard of Oz once said, “Pay no attention to the man behind that towel.”