I went swimming this evening right after work. I did twenty laps! I felt, for the first time ever probably, that sense of energy that people are always talking about after they exercise. Usually I hate exercising, even swimming, which totally beats pretty much anything else except bellydance as far as I’m concerned in terms of Not Sucking. I always sigh and moan and grumble and whine the whole time, thinking stuff like I’m Never Going To Be Thin Anyway So Why Bother? This time I got in the water and I was all, Hey, just did fifteen laps! Let’s do some more! Woo! This is very exciting for me, whose usual activity consists of turning the pages of my book and occasional brisk sauteeing.

That’s not really the point though. The point is that I was taking a shower after swimming. There were all these little kids in the shower. Two of them, about five years old I think, had got hold of the the spray shower by the handicapped stool and were, of course, going to town with it. “Let me spray your head!” “No, let me spray your head!” It made me think about all the hours and hours I spent playing in the pool with various Key Girls. Water is so great. It’s endlessly entertaining for some reason, whether you’re in a bath with your sister playing with a weird combination of plastic Easter eggs and Sea Wees (I think the Sea Wees ended up using the Easter eggs as either submarines or spaceships), or playing Bumper Butts in the pool, or pretending to be a whale, or running under the sprinkler.

Anyway, the shower. I was conditioning my hair when another girl, maybe nine or ten, got under the shower next to mine. Now, usually I try not to stare at other women when we’re all naked in the locker room, but I will admit to some covert glancing. It’s always illuminating to see where people have tattoos and piercings and how their bodies are the same or different from mine. I don’t feel uncomfortable with it, if the context is right. In the shower, washing the hair, squeezing out the suit. Exfoliating, perhaps. Ho hum.

This girl next to me, however, wasn’t interesting because she was naked but because she wasn’t. She was wearing a sort of full body swimsuit…almost a unitard, really, it was lycra and tight…with a kind of jumper over the top. The jumper was clearly meant to go in the water and said Wholesome on the front. Hers was blue with red and white stars underneath. I really tried not to stare, because I can only imagine how often she gets that if she swims regularly, but then I remembered that I was a grown up to her and she probably wouldn’t notice if I was looking at her or not, and if she did notice it wouldn’t matter anyway because at that age (and beyond!) the only people whose looks matter are the girls your own age and up to three years older. I wondered if most of the other girls she knows wear the jumpers or if she’s the only one. I wondered why. Is she shy? Do her parents make her? Does she have a scar she wants to cover? What’s it like to swim in one of those, anyway? I wondered if going to the pool was the only time she saw naked women…I did see her, as I was trying not to stare, check out the adults in the room, including me, I guess. She was watching the two little girls too. I thought about all the worlds I don’t know about and all the reasons a ten year old girl might wear specially designed clothes in the water. I felt a little sad for her, I think.

That all ended, however, when I heard someone go “Hi Chiara!” and hey! It was one of my bosses! From my job! Where I work! Who was seeing me naked! Naked! Eeek!

She was all being friendly and asking if I swam there often and how I was. I went “Embarassed!” (and my ass, thanks for asking, was indeed bare. Ho HO!) and rinsed out my conditioner as quickly as I could and ran for my towel. I felt like kind of a dork because she was right in the middle of asking me if I’d been swimming laps (twenty!) but I must have some pretty serious rear-brain impulses concerning a boss seeing me naked, because I fairly ran from the shower room. Keep in mind that I once went with one of my other bosses to watch her get an ultrasound, so it’s not that I’m squeamish. I feel comfortable with nudity, my own and other people’s, in general. I usually prefer to be around naked people, however, who are either strangers or good friends or occasionally, gynecologists.

I got control of my freaking-out brain (“Eeeek! It’s my boss and she’s seen me naked and oh my gosh she is so skinny and I’ve kind of seen her naked too and damn, she looks good! I guess because she’s all into yoga and running and everything and oh man, we have a meeting tomorrow and I totally just was rude in there but I was NAKED what are the chances that she would even be here and oh no what do I do at the next staff meeting to keep from blurting out HEY WE SAW EACH OTHER NAKED AT THE POOL ONE DAY?”) and was able to be friendly with her when she came into the changing room. I tried to look at her face when she was talking and not her nudie bits as she was changing and I think I did a pretty decent job. It really helps, if you’re going to run into your boss while you’re naked, if this boss happens to be really cool and someone you enjoyed hanging out with when you went to Tucson two weeks ago. We talked about real estate in my neighborhood and she was nice enough to give me a ride home. That was it.

I don’t know. I think in a situation like this you just have to own it, you know? You just have to accept that you just might run into one of your bosses at the pool one fine evening. Just relaaaaaaaaaax, Chiara, everything’s going to be fine. I think I’m going to order one of those jumpsuits though, just to be on the safe side.

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