Communal Showers and Hidden Talents

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…”  

Join Stephanie Sprenger at Mommy, For Real; Kristi at Finding Ninee, Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic; and Kate at Can I Get A Bottle of Whine? for fabulously fun blog inspiration.

Next week’s prompt is:“The most unexpected part of being a grownup is…”

17 comments for “Communal Showers and Hidden Talents

  1. February 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Ah, this made me laugh so much when I read it. Hilarious! 😀

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you thought it was funny. I giggled just remembering it!

  2. February 21, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    hahahaahahhahaha – okay, had no clue where that post was going – cracked up even more when I read the prompt!
    We go camping frequently now, and all my friends know that I will shower every single morning. I can’t help it. I have to rinse off. It took several trips before I could manage the whole disrobe despite who is in the little room with you, pray the stall had a shower curtain but determined to continue even if not and then how fast can I dry off before pulling on clothes!
    I’m better at it now – and after several years of this, several time I’ll have one of my friends hop in the car with me letting me know they have to shower too! 🙂

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      I needed a little inspiration, and for some reason this is where my mind went. I certainly hope I have more redeemable hidden talents, but I have to think harder to find them–hahaha!

      I can’t believe you shower every morning when you’re camping! You are dedicated! Despite my almost-liberating experience abroad, I continue to race through locker room situations with my head down. Maybe eventually I’ll get it!

  3. findingninee
    February 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    HAHAH this is freaking hilarious!! At least you can say you rubbed bare butts with a foreign woman in Denmark? What a great story! Thanks so much for linking up with us. This is an awesome hidden talent. Still laughing. Not at you – WITH you!

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I’ve always loved these FTSF posts, and I was excited to participate this week. I needed a little inspiration, and it was nice to write about something other than my parenting debacles (which are many)! I will be back for sure 🙂

  4. February 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Oh man so felt your pain on this one and loved that last line about not wanting to pass this on to your kids!! Thanks for linking this up with us today!! 🙂

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks so much for creating this fun link-up! I love it!

  5. Cathy
    February 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Another meaning for “dancing cheek to cheek”?

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Oh, yes! It was a lovely dance, too.

  6. Stephanie Sprenger
    February 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    This is the best story EVER! (Note: to find out why that’s funny and ironic, read my FTSF post.) I too possess a hidden talent of awkwardness. It’s a gift. I love this story, Emily, and I’m so glad you linked up with us! Come back again! xo

    • February 21, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Hahahaha! I read yours already! I appreciate the superlatives! Thanks for stopping by! I love this link-up, and I’ve always enjoyed reading the posts. I was happy for the inspiration this week! My well was a bit dry!

  7. February 22, 2014 at 7:49 am

    This is a great story! Best line: “and just like that my bare rear slid like a freshly greased pig against another woman’s bottom” lol!

  8. February 22, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Hilarious! I like to think of those travel moments as enlightening but in reality many are just plain frightening. And leave you thinking “there’s no place like home”.

  9. February 23, 2014 at 9:59 am

    A communal shower? I would be as afraid as you were. But you did it!! What a great story and experience. That’s what make travel so fun…doing things we wouldn’t usually do and finding out that we can survive and even grown from them. 🙂

  10. Emily H
    April 10, 2016 at 3:24 am

    I can thank my best friend and former neighbor Britney and her mom for getting me over body-shyness at a young age.

    When I was 12 years old my family moved to a new town, and fortunately for me our neighbor girl Britney was 13 years old, and we became best friends kind of quickly. I didn’t know anyone else in town at first.

    We would have sleepovers at each others houses all of the time, and our moms became good friends too. Britney’s mom and dad were divorced. Britney also had a 7 year old sister at the time named Ashley. Since there weren’t any males living in their house, they had lost any modesty when it came to walking around naked and things like that.

    After about the first week of living in our new house, my neighbors invited me for a sleepover at their house.
    Maybe sometime around 10:00 PM or so, Britney and Ashley and I were sitting in Britney’s bedroom listening to music. I was facing the doorway to the hallway, and all of a sudden I see the mom walk buck naked into the bathroom which was directly across from Britney’s bedroom. She then walked around the bathroom looking in drawers for a bar of soap or something like that.

    A minute later she walked into Britney’s room still buck naked and told us that she was going to take a shower, and asked us if anyone needed to use the toilet before she got in the shower.
    I think that I had only seen my own mom in the nude once or twice ever at that point, so it kind of came as a shock to me when Britney’s mom walked in to the room as bare as the day she was born.

    When Britney’s mom got out of the shower she dried off in the bathroom, but then she walked back into Britney’s room still naked while towel drying her hair, and she told us that she was going to bed, but that there were more chips and soda and cookies in the kitchen if we wanted to go get it.

    A few minutes later Britney said that she was going to take a shower. She then stripped off everything right there in the bedroom and walked across the hallway to the bathroom and showered while her little sister and I played a game. When Britney was done showering she walked back into the bedroom naked, and then got out her hairdryer and stood there naked blow drying her hair.

    That was followed up by about 5 more years of that type of experiences whenever I was over at their house.

    There was one time that I had invited a new friend of mine named Sara over to my house. Britney then asked if she could stay over at my house that night too even though she had never met Sara before. But my mom said that there wasn’t enough room for two friends to sleepover for the night. So Britney asked us to stay over at her house instead, which we agreed to.
    Sara and I walked over to Britney’s house about 7:00 PM and Ashley answered the door and told us to go up stairs to Britney’s room. When we got up stairs Britney’s mom (Who was thankfully dressed at the time) told us that Britney was in the shower and that we should just go into the bathroom to let Britney know that we were there.

    I was used to that type of thing for the past year or so at that stage, so it didn’t even strike me as being unusual. Sara said to Britney’s mom that we should just wait in Britney’s room. But Britney’s mom said that we should just go in, and that Britney would prefer to talk while she showered anyway.
    So Sara and I go into the bathroom which had a clear glass door, and I can see that Sara is trying to look anywhere but at the shower.
    A couple of minutes later Britney got out of the shower and introduces herself to Sara while standing there buck naked. Sara had a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. We then went into Britney’s bedroom and she again did the whole standing there buck naked while doing the blow drying her hair thing.

    Britney and Ashley and their mom and my mom and myself would go swimming together a lot at a local YWCA quite often. Needless to say, Britney, Ashley and their mom would always shower in the nude in the open group showers after a swim. The first couple of times I would wear my swimsuit while I showered, but after the first couple of times I kind of felt silly about it, so from then on I always showered in the nude as well. My mom ALWAYS kept her swimsuit on while she showered.

    But my freshman year of high school I was on the girls volleyball team. We weren’t required to shower after volleyball practices or games, but if the practice was before school, we would always shower afterward instead of going through the day all sweaty and smelly. Or if we had a long drive home on the bus after an away game we would shower after the games too.
    Anyway, since I was already showering after swimming when I was with Britney and her mom and little sister at the YWCA, it was no big deal to use the group showers after volleyball practice or games.

    I have a 5 year old daughter, and while I don’t spend as much time nude as Britney and her mom and sister used to, I do make a point of not hiding my nudity from my daughter. In fact, when I take her to the YMCA we always shower in the nude after a swim. I want to make sure that she grows up feeling good about her body and not feeling like it’s something shameful for her to be nude in front of other females.

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