Today I went swimming
for the first time in about 11 years. It was an all-round traumatic experience:
the distant, echoey shouts of angry swimming instructors, the nauseating smell
of chlorine mixed with wee, the fear of someone stealing my towel and/or
knickers. Here’s to say I’m not the biggest fan of a public swimming pool, but
what struck me the most, what hadn’t even crossed my mind, was the ‘before’ and
‘after’ the swimming: the dreaded change.
When I was 13, I used
to put on my swimming costume at home to avoid the changing room situation, and
if that meant wearing it all day at school before my 3 o’clock swimming lesson,
then that’s what I did. In fairness to my 13 year-old self, and like most
teenage girls that age, I was very insecure. I had a wobbly bum and no boobs so
I was terrified that the boys would laugh at my wet hair/funny feet/ hairy mole.
But now, at 23 years
old, fully formed and unlikely to grow much more boob, I just completely forgot
the whole changing scenario existed. There I was, completely unprepared, with Bridget
Jones knickers and a non-matching bra, not really caring or even considering
what the other women in the changing room would think about my body, my
underwear, or my attitude to changing. It was only when I completely stripped
out of my clothes, boobs out and all, that I realised I was the only person in
the changing room that had the confidence to do this. Everyone else was
shuffling around in their towel, doing the old: putting your bikini bottoms OVER
your knickers, slyly unhooking them from your feet, and whipping them off like
an act from a Paul Daniels show. Now I’m no Kate Moss, I don’t have a perfect
figure, I haven’t had a £20,000 boob job that I want to show off, and although
I’ve been trying for the last 3 months I haven’t come anywhere CLOSE to having Millie
Mackintosh’s washboard abs.
Like all the other
women in the changing room, of course I’m self-conscious about certain parts of
my body, I just didn’t expect some women to be so self-conscious that they
can’t even bear to drop their towel for a second.
This actually made me
really sad. Are we really so ashamed that we’re frightened of
other like-minded women seeing our bodies? Are we so embarrassed that we don’t
conform to the stereotypical image of ‘a woman’ that we’re afraid of our
mothers, daughters and female friends seeing our bodies?
Every day you hear
complaints of ‘the only women you see are the stick insects in glossy magazines’. Well let’s change that then.
Lorraine Kelly recently posed in a bikini for a photo shoot on condition that the photos weren’t ‘photoshopped’ on behalf of a body confidence campaign
Take a look round a
swimming pool changing room and you’ll find a beautiful array of stretch marks,
flabby tummies, funny moles, awkward tan lines, hairy armpits and saggy boobs.
All of us have something that we class as ‘wrong’ with us but, it isn’t WRONG,
it’s completely normal and natural and we should be proud of all our awkward
wobbly bits, not hide them away at every opportunity. Apart from anything else,
no one is going to judge you or comment about YOUR body, because everyone’s too
worried about their OWN body.
A swimming pool changing room is a private haven
for real women and real bodies to be exposed, so please, please don’t hide them
away. How are our daughters meant to grow up feeling confident with their
bodies, if the only bodies they’ve seen are the ones in magazines? It’s the
only place you’re ever going to see semi-naked women with normal bodies, that
haven’t been ‘photoshopped’, airbrushed and slapped over the front page of your
favourite women’s magazine. So have confidence in the fact that there is
nothing wrong with your body, wear that swimming costume with confidence, and
more importantly, change into it with pride.