Written by Emily
We hadn’t showered in days. We were all coated in dust from clouds of dry earth kicked up by our partners on the bare fields turned dance floors. We drank wine out of cardboard containers until our teeth stayed pink. We all had a smell–a perfume of sweat and grass, adrenaline and questionable choices.
When our tents turned into steam bags that let out a sigh as we emerged in the mid morning, it was time to slough off the varnish of filth that felt like a second skin. I couldn’t stand myself.
I was surprised to discover the shower options were same-sex or co-ed communal showers on the outskirts of the festival. I reconsidered the intensity of my stink. I had deodorant and perfume in my backpack, after all. Surely I could wait another day.
“No. You can do this”, I muttered. I was backpacking to have new experiences. Although a communal shower at a music festival in Denmark was not initially on the list, it was now.
I stood with my traveling partner in a line that snaked through the grass. We chose the same-sex showers. It would be like a locker room, right? I was an athlete in high school. I changed in the locker room; granted I hid in the corner and tried to make myself invisible, but so what? No big deal. With each step closer to the door, I convinced myself: “I can do this.”
And then I was next. The attendant at the door waved me closer. I reached for the complimentary towels. She placed a small piece of threadbare terry cloth in my hand. A washcloth, I thought. I waited and stared at her. The towel? She stared right back at me and then nodded toward the entrance to the shower. Seriously? I started to sweat, which no-doubt made my need for a shower more apparent to anyone within a 50-foot radius.
The more I looked at the fabric in my hand the smaller it became. By the time I walked through the door and into the changing room, it was no bigger than a piece of toilet paper a man might put on his face after a shaving accident.
When I finally looked up, I found myself standing in a sea of nude women. I was in Ingres’ Turkish Bath. I could hardly see through the flesh and hair. There wasn’t a corner to hide in. As I stood there, I imagined a blinking arrow above my head that flashed “foreigner!”
Get a hold of yourself!
I walked in what I assume was a ridiculously forced saunter to the nearest bench–not that I would sit on it. I waited for my traveling partner who made a rapid bee-line in my direction with her eyes firmly planted on the floor. We were the answer to the Sesame Street song, “Which one of these things is not like the others, which one of these things just doesn’t belong.” At least we had each other, comrades in awkwardness.
We disrobed and held our towels against us. We had to make a strategic choice because it would not cover all of the things we were taught were “private.” I scanned the room to take a cue from my shower mates. Their heads. Most had chosen to wrap their hair, turban-style. Cripes.
I put on my best nonchalance and stood in line for the shower.
The longer I stood there, the more comfortable I felt. No one was looking at me. I was the only one looking at anyone else–the collection of shapes and sizes. I was the freak of nature.
I breathed easier–well, at least I breathed.
By the time I was in the shower, my eyes were closed as I lathered, and I wasn’t thinking about the fact that my lady parts were out for everyone to see. It didn’t matter because no one was looking. We all had those parts. It was liberating.
I turned off the water, and sighed: to be clean. I dried off with my washcloth. No one was looking. No one.
I exited the shower area wearing only my new confidence. I turned to find my friend, and just like that my bare rear slid like a freshly greased pig against another woman’s bottom. She stopped her conversation and turned to me. Suddenly someone else’s eyes were on me. I froze. “Excuse me!” I screeched to a girl who probably didn’t care.
But I wouldn’t know.
At that point I was sprinting, sprinting away with my hand towel covering my ass end and my other arm desperately trying to conceal all the rest of my bits that were bouncing and threatening to knock people over in their wake.
I was a sight to behold, the very thing I did not want to be.
In true Emily form, I managed to turn a benign–educational even–experience into an unnecessarily awkward, emotionally overwhelming one. It’s one of my many hidden talents, and one I hope not to pass onto my children.
This post was written for the Finish This Sentence Friday linky party.
This week’s sentence was, “One of my hidden talents is…”
Next week’s prompt is:“The most unexpected part of being a grownup is…”