Knowledge November - Day 16 - Mindless Modesty
After dropping my towel on the bench, yanking off my shorts and t-shirt and subtlely picking out the lycra that insists on travelling northwards I fling myself over the tiled edge to quickly hide myself under the sparkling blue water.
Pathetic, isn't it? As if the entire population in the local pool at that time has any interest in stopping their laps and staring at me and my wobbly bits as we enter lane four. I know that I don't do it to anybody else (too busy in my own gasping personal agony ploughing ever so slowly up and back in the water), so why do I continue to think that I'm so fascinating that other swimmers want to see what this 41 year old is about to do - gosh, in her bathers, at, gasp, the pool?
Whilst the tiny dot that is my intelligent mind understands this, I still feel very self conscious and my attempt at a confident walk from the bench to the edge of the pool always degenerates into a recognisable imitation of Mr Bean's nervous little flappy-handed run.
After my swim, however, things are different. I've done sixty laps without stopping, possess the body of a Grecian goddess combined with the strength of a sleek leopard and the hopeless halibuts around me will be gazing at me with awe as I emerge, dripping and golden, from the water.
Nah. Not one pair of adoring goggles is directed anywhere near me but are instead looking down through the floating bandaids and pubes at the painted black line on the bottom of the pool in their own physical hell. This rebuttal is also reflected in the glass wall leading to the change rooms which remind me that my body is still the same as it ever was - chunky, white, decorated in party-popper spider veins and the sort that looks a thousand percent better with clothes on; especially winter clothes.
When I was pregnant there was no room for modesty. Being a minor medical freak, much of my time was spent with my hands under my bum and knees touching the far sides of a gurney as several students were invited to a) see me, b) have a look 'up' me, and c) very occasionally have a feel inside as well.
"Ah get over it, you prude," my mates would say. "Wait until the actual childbirth; you won't care what you show or to who as long as you can back that baby out with the least possible pain."
Alas, none of the above was true. Sapphire took 29 hours to emerge and Love Chunks and I pushed and grunted through three shifts of midwives, obstetricians and interested students. Throughout it all I still wore a long t-shirt with a sheet over my knees so that from my vantage point I could at least feel as though everything was covered even though my birth canal was directly in line with the door which was located at the end of a very long corridor. What a charming view that must have been for other nervous fathers or lost catering staff wanting to find the geriatric wing instead.
When we returned home triumphant and then terrified at the thought of just how we were going to look after a tiny baby, the local nurse popped in to have a look at my stitches. I blushed redder than the blood that was still oozing out of me every time I moved. I lay on the bed and struggled into my frog leg mode.
It didn't help things when she blurted out "Jesus!" at the sight.
"What? WHAT??" Love Chunks and I said in unison.
"Oh, um..." she struggled to retain her composure. "Oh, it's er n-n-nothing, it's just that you've got a fair old cut down there and it's, um, well, let's just say it's great that you're home and ----"
She turned away and took a deep breath before continuing with, "---Oh stuff it. I've never seen a bigger cut than that one - you're lucky they didn't slice you an extra butt crack!"
Definitely not what a nervous new mother wanted to hear when all hopes of a cursory glance, an affirmative, "Yes, it all looks good," and being fully clothed again within a ten second timeframe were dashed.
Nearly eleven years later, a recent pap test was a real barrel of laughs as well. My usual female doctor was selfishly off sick, so would I mind if Dr Checks did it? What was I meant to say, right there in a crowded waiting room - no way? And why should I refuse - was he, a doctor for several millennia - going to be so carried away with desire during the scraping that I'd be in moral danger? Or, worse - would he laugh? "Oh no, that's fine", I said weakly, "After all, I've had a baby, so there's nothing to be modest about any more," wishing like hell I actually believed it.
Dr Checks merely gave me a cursory "Good morning" before getting right down to work. It was patently obvious that pap smears for him were about as appealing as they were to me. Five minutes into it, my cheeky side emerged through the embarassment: "So, Doctor, what's the thing you hate doing to patients the most in your job?"
He paused to think and looked me in the eye instead of the tampon tube. "Anal exams without a doubt. All men hate them and I hate doing them - especially at the end of a day when they're - shall we say - a bit ripe."
My modesty issues evaporated for a moment. "Fair enough, but what about well, this?" I replied, gesturing at me, him, his gloves and that scary metal springy salad tong thing.
"Nah, this is OK. Women tend to be more relaxed and, to be honest...." he trailed off.
I wanted to hear him finish the sentence. "Yeah, to be honest....?"
"Well - and please don't take this the wrong way - but, up on the table here, you're all just slabs of meat that we have to do things with, that's all."
That sounded rather deflating - a slab of meat. Yet, it might be a good way to view things so that I could finally rid myself of this ridiculous girly modesty...
Later, in the changing room after swimming I tried to remind myself that I was merely a slab of meat and should therefore have the psychological cojones to have a shower and wander proudly out in the nuddy and get changed in the main area. Sadly, I couldn't do it. Despite pap smears and babies, I realised that I am still not prepared to stand there in my birthday suit in front of a dozen strangers, and instead got dressed in the confines of the soggy-floored shower before emerging like a self-conscious thirteen year old in her first bra.
Unfortunately this shy behaviour got me more stares from the change-room chicks than if I'd just been relaxed enough to get dressed in front of them. One old gal with boobs swinging freely below her navel raised an eyebrow at her equally gravity-challenged friend as if to say, "Now there goes a strange one....."
Perhaps she's right. Still, if only I could manage the lap swimming in my board shorts and rashie vest......