I had a conversation with my husband a few weeks ago. We were discussing the benefits of the YMCA membership we have and how the extra money for access to the steam room is well worth it. And my husband brought up the fact that when he goes to the steam room he doesn’t want to talk politics. This was bizarre to me. Apparently the men’s change room has a drastically different dynamic than the women’s and I find it fascinating.
According to my husband, men are often extremely insecure about their bodies and will make a loud show of “Yes I am naked and yes I am comfortable with it” to mask their insecurities. And the vast minority of men are actually comfortable enough with themselves to quietly go about their naked business. And the steam room is apparently a venue for social hour with conversations ranging from current politics to sports to whatever have you. This is so drastically different then my experience in women’s changerooms.
In a woman’s change room we display insecurities in a more introverted way. Most of us who are post- adolescent seem relatively indifferent to being naked in front of each other and when we are we certainly aren’t masking it in overt displays of our anatomy. We quietly wrap ourselves in a towel and try not to be noticed. Though we often have conversations with each other in the change room, the second we get into the steam room there is an unspoken law that says “you will not speak”.
For many of us it is our only moment of zen like peace in an otherwise hectic and noisy day, especially those of us with young children. For me the steam room is the place I can go where no children are allowed; you have to be at least eighteen years old to eve be allowed in the membership plus change room where the steam room is located. It’s peaceful, serene, and I know I can get into my own space with no worry of anyone interrupting me in my zen zone.
It sounds like my husband would be better fit in the woman’s change room…then that got me thinking. We women have many insecurities about our bodies, but it often seems to be mate related. When around other women (and I am speaking from my experience as a heterosexual woman) we seem to have a unifying force among us that says “we are all women, we are in this world together”…a sisterhood of sorts. We will tell our friend she doesn’t look fat, or her long toes are cool…or at least quietly nod in understanding when our sister sadly pokes at her muffin top. Until you throw a man in the mix. The second a masculine presence arrives or even the idea of it…most of us want to scratch each others eyes out. The one gorgeous, slender, blond with big breasts and a perfect posterior to walk into any room full of average women (many beautiful in a variety of ways, don’t get me wrong) we as a general rule must hate her.
Now there are a few of us who do not live in that headspace. I for one don’t care how gorgeous another woman is, I only care how much integrity she has. Integrity is my baseline for judging anybody and everybody. Why am I an exception to this common female trait? Well for one, I was always the awkward girl who never felt like she fit in…so…I never saw myself as competition. I just assumed other women would get the guys and I would either be lonely or stumble across a guy who really liked me for me by sheer chance. That was then. Now I don’t think that way because I know I am not competition. I have a man. I have found that someone who likes me for me. He isn’t just attracted to me, he doesn’t just love me, he actually likes who I am. And that means that though he is attracted to me (poor be the person who isn’t attracted to their mate) it isn’t the only thing going for us. He does find other women attractive of course, he is a red blooded mammal and it would be a deep concern to me if he didn’t, but I don’t worry about him running around having affairs with these women. In fact women constantly flirt with him even in front of me and our children. They can’t seem to help themselves (I get it. I mean he’s just so damn awesome. That’s why I married him) but it doesn’t bother me because we are solid. I am solid in who I am as an individual, he is solid with so he is, and together we are solid as a couple.
So these games that women play trying to stab each other in the back, these slimy tactics of trying to steal each others men and trying to get ahead through sex appeal…they work. They will get you men. And they will likely get you “ahead” with your career or social standing. But only with intangable things. These women, at the end of the day, come up empty. They may get men, but not honest partners…not men who like them for who they are. Try may get ahead socially by sex appeal but that kind of sex appeal wears off as you age…and if you don’t have an honest partnership…you will find yourself bitter and angry and ultimately lonely. Those women who didn’t “win” those competitions…they will age with love in their lives because as men age a lot of them (the quality ones anyways) realize that who they want to mother their children, and to be their lover, and to be their friend…is a woman with the kind of sexiness that gets better with age. The kind that can only come from confidence and inner strength. The kind that only comes from a life of integrity.