Remember getting dressed for gym class or sports practice in the girl’s locker room at school? When you changed into workout clothes did you casually whip off your pants and shirt bearing all your teenage assets without a second thought? Did you even blush? Or were you the type of girl that knew exactly how to take off her shirt but hang it around her neck just perfectly so it covered your training bra and swap it out for a different shirt? And if you bent down just the right way to put on shorts, no one would see your nether regions, especially if your backside was facing the lockers? I was that type of girl that never liked to be naked in front of other girls. The locker room was when I pulled out my “no one is going to see my boobies” while I change, ninja-style. I was likely ashamed of my body, or just super self conscious. I can chalk all this up to hormones and being an angsty teenager.

So what’s my excuse for doing the same thing in the locker room at the YMCA a few months ago after taking my daughter to swim class?

We had just finished our swim lesson together and were in the shower area. There are two options for showering at this place: the large open communal shower (or prison style, as I lovingly call it) and then there are individual curtained shower stalls. I hurried my daughter into the shower stall, closed the curtain tightly, and undressed us both so we could take a quick shower. After we were done, I wrapped myself first, while my shivering daughter watched me make sure all bits and pieces were officially cloaked in my fluffy beach towel. Then I got her dried off and wrapped a towel around her. We waddled to the dressing room where I managed to slip on my bra and undies and the rest of my outfit without even a hint of a Janet Jackson-like boob exposure. Phew, I was dressed.

And then a few weeks ago that my daughter insisted on us taking a shower in the communal style shower area. And for those of you that know 2.5 year olds and their tempers, it’s often better to give-in to their demands than endure the wrath of a toddler. So I agreed to take a group shower…with all the other mommies and babies. At first I just rinsed off in the shower with my full suit still on. I would pry it away from my body and let some of the water run inside to try and get the chlorine off my skin.

And then….something happened. A light went off in my head. Or rather I just said to myself, “Aw, F*ck It.”I took off my suit confidently and took a normal shower.

It was no big deal. No one was watching me (at least from what I could tell) and who the hell cares? I often spend too much time worrying about what others think of me, especially how I look. Is it vain? Maybe. Is it problematic? Sometimes. Does it really matter what people think of me? No. I was tired of hiding my body and tired of trying to covertly get dressed. I don’t act this way at home, why should I be any different in a locker room? Especially if it’s a locker room full of other mothers and women. And more importantly, I could see my daughter watching me whenever I took my curtained shower. I could see her look inquisitively at me afterwards as I stealthfully wrapped my towel around myself and got dressed at the same time. I just decided I no longer wanted her to see me being insecure. So I did it for her. And I did it for myself. I showered…naked.

little girl in bathing suit

Previous articleThe Seven Joys of Mud Season
Next articleI KNOW You’re Working Hard
Heather Polifka-Rivas
Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.


  1. I have my best friend when I was 12 years old and her mom to thank for helping me to be comfortable showering and changing.

    My mom was the type to never be naked in front of anyone, including me and my sister. So for the first 10 to 12 years of my life I was barely even aware of what a nude adult woman’s body looked like.

    When I was about 12 years old my best friend Jennifer and her mom started taking me swimming with them once a week at a near by YMCA. The showers were all out in the open like they are in high schools.
    The first time that I went swimming with them they showered in the nude after our swim. At first I was kind of shocked by it, and I showered in my bathing suit. But as I was showering I noticed that probably about 80% of the other mothers and daughters were also showering nude. The next day I asked Jennifer if she was embarrassed by being nude in front of everyone that was in the locker room. Jennifer looked at me like she didn’t even understand what I was asking. So I said to her that I would have been embarrassed by showering nude in front of other people.
    Jennifer asked “Why should I be embarrassed, were all females?”

    So the next week when I went swimming with them I decided to take off my bathing suit to shower. The first minute or so I did feel awkward, but after that first minute I started to relax, and it no longer bothered me. I continued to go swimming with Jennifer and her mom almost every week for the next two years, and I always showered in the nude afterward.

    It was a blessing that I had that experience of group showering at the YMCA, because in High School I wound up being on the girls swim team and volleyball team.
    If we had volleyball practice early in the morning before the school day started we always showered after practice. And no one ever wore their bathing suit in the showers after swim practices or meets. Actually, at first a few of the freshman girls did wear their bathing suits in the shower, but the sophomores, juniors and seniors always showered in the nude, and after the first few practices not even the freshman girls would shower in their bathing suit anymore.
    Because of my experience with group showering at the YMCA I was comfortable group showering at school right from day 1.

    A few years ago I read an article by a child psychologist who was saying that she thinks that one of the worst things that a mother can do is act like she is ashamed of her nude body in front of her daughters. She said that by going way out of your way to keep your daughter from seeing your nude body that you are sending her the message that female bodies are something bad that should be covered at all times. The psychologist said that it was important that in places like locker rooms that daughters see that their mother is comfortable with showering and changing in the presence of other females. And she said that in countries like Germany, Sweden, Finland and Japan where young girls grow up seeing all most all women comfortably showering and changing and in some cases even swimming in the nude, that those girls rarely have eating disorders or body image issues.

    I’m proud of you Heather, for overcoming something that you used to be afraid of, and by setting a great example for your daughter! You should be proud of yourself! Well done!

  2. i can’t believe you posted about this, because, just yes. I definitely go into the stall, but it is hard with wren. And then, just a couple days ago, she wanted out and to shower for herself. The problem was, the water kept turning off, and I had to come out and turn it back on for her every 30 seconds. AND, a friend that I had run into was in there with her kid too. I’ve always been super modest, but it just feels too hard to be like that at the Y locker room. It seems like I am the only one trying to not be naked there, and most other moms are nude and happy. I hope to get there sometime. But heather, I just don’t know what we would say to each other if we ran into each other at the prison-style shower heads…

  3. Good for you! I have an almost 3yo daughter, and we both bare it all in the Y’s communal shower every week. I’ll admit, though: I’ve often wondered whether we’re violating the culture of this particular Y. No one has ever said anything or given us the skunk eye, but when we’re in the buff there we are SO in the minority that I’ve felt tempted to cover up for just that reason. But, in the end, you’re right. Who cares? And I think there’s only good to be had from my daughter not only seeing a healthy adult body but, perhaps more important, seeing me be confident in mine.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here