One of the things I'm trying to work on getting over is my fear of changing in front of other people. Changing clothes, I should clarify. I mean, I'm sure you knew that's what I meant anyway, but now I'm getting a small kick out of the fact that one or two of you perhaps imagined, for a split second, that I was anxious about changing, say, my menu order or my hair color with others present, which sounds like a very severe and specific medical disorder that I most certainly do not have.
What I do have is a phobia of getting dressed and undressed in communal locker rooms. Or even non-communal regular rooms that are occupied by anyone other than the person I'm married to. It's weird, I know. You would think, having spent seven years at an all-girls boarding school—six of which involved sharing a dormitory with up to ten other people at a time—that I would be an old hand at public nudity. Wait, that came out not at all the way I meant it to. Let me rephrase.
You would think that I'd be an old hand at getting changed and unchanged in front of other people, is what I meant to say, but you would be very, very wrong. Instead, in seven years of sharing close quarters with a large group of other adolescent girls, all I learned was a really kickass method of taking off and putting on my bra under my clothes.
(I mean, it's not all I learned. I could probably win trivia night if the special subject was the mid-nineties oeuvre of Joey Lawrence, and I bet I could give seminars on the best ways to trick other people into thinking you're not moving your hand on the ouija board, but the bra thing is a pretty special skill all the same. I'd put it on my resume if I didn't think it might give people the wrong idea about the kind of position I was applying for.)
Recently, I've started going to the gym most nights after work. This is less a gung-ho effort to be healthy and more a resigned solution for killing the hour between the point at which my brain is fried for the day and the point at which Sean picks me up from his office so that we can drive home. Isn't that the best reason you've ever heard for going to the gym? Eh, I had an hour to kill? Totally what Jillian Michaels preaches, I'm sure. But since I now work at a place where the exercise facility is a) free and b) a very short walk across a parking lot, I have immediately exhausted both of my usual reasons for avoiding it, and so I go. Also they have the good kind of Clif bars in there.
As part of some weird personal development plan that only I am privy to, I've been trying to encourage myself to change from my work clothes into my gym clothes in the big open locker room, instead of in the ladies' toilets. I am far more comfortable changing in the ladies' toilets, of course, but I have been trying to force myself to Be An Adult about it and just get changed out in the open like everybody else. I mean, really, what is going to happen if that project manager I was just sitting next to in a meeting sees me wriggling out of my skinny jeans?
(No-one should ever see you wriggling out of your skinny jeans, or at least no-one should ever see me wriggling out of my skinny jeans. More to the point, no-one should ever see me wriggling into my skinny jeans, because there is often a lot of jumping and striding going on. I'm going to go ahead and hope that this means I'm doing my skinny jeans right.)
Most days I leave the gym, get into the car, and take a shower once I get home, but yesterday I was having drinks in the city with Claire—who, side note, is sort of awkwardly my new favorite person ever; awkward because I'm wondering if it was too forward of me to offer her the BE FRI half of my friendship necklace upon our first meeting, so that I could wear the other half reading ST ENDS—and so I decided I would do my workout and then shower at the gym.
And after I showered at the gym, I would change at the gym. Out in the open. In the locker room.
I thought about this all day, trying to pysche myself up for it. It's totally not a big deal, I told myself, and I almost believed it about 98% of the way, but then I would remember the adrenaline-fueled terror you get when the massage therapist leaves you alone in a tiny room to take off your clothes and you immediately go into panic mode trying to undress and get under the covers before she knocks three seconds later and walks in before you're finished—WHICH TOTALLY HAPPENED TO MY SISTER, BY THE WAY—and I would decide that eh, you know what, the ladies' toilets actually sounded pretty good after all.
Friends, I made it part of the way. I showered, wrapped myself in a towel, and padded out to the locker room. I got my clothes out, started putting everything out on the bench in the order I'd want to put it on, and then realized that I couldn't find my underwear.
You know that dream? The one where you walk into a classroom at school and realize you haven't studied for that chemistry exam? And also all your teeth are falling out? And also you're naked? This is what it feels like to be wrapped in nothing but a towel in a communal locker room at work while searching, panic-stricken, for your skivvies. Vulnerable, I think they call it. Also, totally freaking out.
I found them in the end—I mean really, where did I think they could they have gone?—but the experience was harrowing enough to send me straight back into an unoccupied shower cubicle to change there. Oh well, better luck next time, Victorian Sensibility Holly! Maybe tomorrow I can reveal an ankle or something and just build up from there.
Do you have the same misgivings about changing in public, or am I alone in this particularly puritan peccadillo? (I rather suspect I am alone in it.)