“There was an…incident…in the steam room.”
So said the all black clad, very toned lady who works at my oh-so-fancy gym in Manhattan. She was stopping me from re-entering the women’s locker room to clean up after my workout, since the situation in the steam room required the attention of the maintenance staff; the maintenance staff was, of course, all male; the women in the locker room were in all manner of undress.
Something had to give, so the naked women were to clothe themselves in haste and allow the maintenance man his entry.
I went to stretch and dab myself with chilled eucalyptus-infused towels while clean women slowly emerged from the locker room and sweaty ones were barred entry. I entertained myself by imagining all sorts of incidents that could happen in a steam room, but it turned out that it was just that some lady had messed with the control panel which caused the steam apparatus to emit ear shattering shrieks.
After a while the locker room empty, and the guy turned off the shrieking, and left to allow the steam room empty of its steam and I showered.
By the time I’d reached my makeup application sequence, he needed to enter again, but this time, it struck the all-black clad lady in charge that there was an easier way to preserve propriety.
She clapped a giant fluffy bath towel over the guy’s face, and another on the back of his head, and led him slowly to the steam room while he issued muffled assurances that he could see nothing, but it was nothing he hadn’t seen before. He startled a woman who froze, one foot hovering over her panties. Which is when the leading lady said “Don’t worry, I’ve got him blindfolded honey”.
Lord, what prudes these Americans be, I thought, as I applied my mascara. While I was fully clothed, I’d written about the co-ed nude situations I’ve found myself in, most notably in Germany for a story that was just published in Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana.
In countries with more relaxed attitudes about co-ed nudity, I felt certain that the steam room panel would have just gotten fixed without all the locker room emptying and towel blindfolds. Really, this guy had a job to do, he was a professional — this wasn’t pornography, this was plumbing.
Of course, there are countries that are far more uptight about coed nudity and dress codes than these United States. And certainly Manhattan does not lead the nation in modesty. In my experience in lady’s locker rooms in both gyms and spas in the city, a surprisingly large percentage of women make almost no effort to cover themselves in any way no matter what they’re doing in the locker room — drying hair, having a chat, texting — which does add some evidence to the notion that in many ways, Manhattan is an island off the coast of Europe.
But of course these changing rooms are strictly unisex environments. In terms of co-ed nudity, we’ve not yet left our impromptu blindfolds behind.
Alison J. Stein
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