Naked and Proud

15 01 2016

Dear Planet Fitness,


I’m onto you. I’ve now tried at least 4 or 5 of your gym locations (yes, it IS a gym), and been struck by one common thread in the various layouts. Your locker room is specifically designed to make people NOT want to use the shower.


I consider myself a connoisseur of gyms. For several years post-college, I refused to buy a year-round gym membership, because I never make use of it during the spring, summer, or fall, when I’d rather be running around outside on a field with a dozen friends. So, to get myself through the cold winter months without access to the university fitness center, I learned to take advantage of a plethora of “FREE one week trial!” or “VIP Pass!” gym membership offers.


golds gym trialThe first one was a former Gold’s Gym, now independently owned. It was well equipped, with a spacious locker room, replete with a sauna, which I fell madly in love with at first sweat. At the end of my 7 days, it was hard to break up. I went a week without a gym, until I found my next victim, which had a pool! That was a great 10 days!! The following gym was open 24/7- which I didn’t actually require, and it was pretty basic. The one after that included free group classes, and I really got into the idea of somebody else telling me how to work out in new and different ways. It got me through the winter, and I learned a lot about what I like- and what I don’t like- in a gym. For me, it all comes down to cost and value for an entire year.


At all of these gyms, I was able to easily and comfortably shower after my workout, which made it far more conducive to working out in the morning before work. I could set my bag down and hang my clean clothing up in an enclosed changing area that served at the Narthex to this Roman temple of cleanliness. After rinsing off, I could step out in privacy to dry off and get dressed. Sounds pretty logical, right?


Well, Planet Fitness, you may have got me with your super cheap monthly price- which I can rationalize paying even in the summer months- but you clearly are an exhibitionist. Not ONE of your gyms affords this level of modesty. No, you require your members to get naked 10 feet away, then streak across the open locker room to slip behind a flimsy shower curtain, with lo a single hook to hang a towel on, if we are lucky enough to find one that isn’t dangling by a single screw.


My theory is that this is a corporate ploy to save on cost. If you make it so uncomfortable- even embarrassing- for people to shower in public, then they won’t- which means you save money every month on soap, water, and time cleaning the facilities. BRILLIANT! I bet someone got a nice bonus the year you implemented this practice. (And I somehow doubt that this is an environmentally motivated design, since you are merely diverting this usage to the members’ homes.)


Alas, your plan is foiled by ME! You see, I was once like your average 20-year-old gym-goer. Self-conscious & embarrassed about my body, changing in the locker room left me in an anxious sweat as I feebly crafted a new, innovative method to disrobe without ever actually being naked. Ladies- you know what I’m talking about. The whole- pull sports bra on over regular bra- undo snaps- pull from armpit- and VOILA! The old bra has magically been removed without any boobie display at all! This, of course, does not work when you are getting ready to shower, unless you carry a towel the size of Texas.


um ncrcWhen I was a student at the University of Michigan, my dear friend, ‘Other Kelly,’ convinced me to commit for a M-W-F open swim session at the north campus rec center. At 6am. That’s in the morning. Really, REALLY early in the morning for a student. Thanks a lot, Other Kelly!


I foolishly agreed, and together we held ourselves accountable to get up and actually exercise at this ungodly hour. Do you know who else is in the locker room at this time of day? That’s right… NOBODY. Except for the senior citizen alumni who have free access in exchange for their sanity.


I will never forget the first day. I awkwardly tried to conceal my body as I changed into my racer-back Speedo. I practically strained my shoulder contorting into it like a first-time gymnast. Nevertheless, I did survive, and I even managed to swim the entire hour, with breaks only once every 2 minutes. When the open swim session was over, a giant buzzer sounded, shooing all of us free-loaders out of there, and Other Kelly and I returned to the locker room to clean up and change before class.


The locker room for the pool area is about as anonymous as an AA meeting held in a mall atrium. I walked into a large, tiled shower room with a dozen shower heads, and nary a hook to be found. No matter how I calculated my next move, I was forced to travel at least 6 feet to get from my towel to the source of water. I leaped across the floor like it was hot lava, then I had to wait patiently for the water to warm up, while I stood helplessly outside the spray, pretending not to be cold or naked.


As I stood there in my self-imposed shame, I stared at the floor, so as not to make eye contact with any of the other women in the area. I noticed a pair of wrinkly, bony ankles on the cold tile floor next to me, and I slowly lifted my gaze to see the woman they were carrying. She clearly had some 70 years behind her, with deep creases at all her pivot points, and a crushed velvet texture to her skin. Her former curves of glory sagged with exhaustion, yet her creased face held a bright smile as she massaged her scalp, happily chatting with the woman to her right. She faced the room, unabashed, without a care in the world. As I began to scan the rest of the room, I realized that all of my elderly cohorts shared this same disposition. Not a single one of them gave a damn about exposing their bodies, and they had no problem talking to other women in the buff. They seemed to natural, at ease. I was in awe. I was impressed. 


My water warmed up, and I returned to my own cleansing, all the while thinking about this larger ritual I was now a part of. Here we are, all women, all made of the same parts and pieces, in various stages and forms. We are the same, so what is there to be embarrassed about? The truth is, none of these women was in their prime anymore. They have already watched their once supple bodies decay and degrade over many years. And they were okay with this. They had accepted this as a natural part of life. The didn’t hide their wrinkles, or cover up their sunken curves, but instead, they simply could care less what others thought of them. And here I was, in my physical prime, ashamed because I wasn’t ‘perfect.


Over the course of the semester, these older women taught me, without ever saying a word, to embrace my body for the way it is. To love myself, fully and unconditionally. They led by example, and evolved my perspective on what is means to be a woman. I am now proud of my body, as much at 35 as I was at 25. I know that one day I will find myself old and sagging and wrinklier than I already am, and I will love that version of myself too.


budapest-gellert-pool_chop1nIn the years between, I have learned to be comfortable in a two-piece swimsuit. I have bathed nude at a Hungarian bathhouse. I have learned that no one can judge me, except myself. I will no longer be my own worst critic, and I will listen graciously when others give me compliments, instead of discounting them inside my own head.


So- Planet Fitness- screw you and your crappy shower layout. I will walk- not run– boldly through your locker room, for all to see. I will not cover up my body out of shame. I will not avoid eye contact with other women simply because I am in my most natural state. I will lead by example, that our bodies are all beautiful!


pf showerPerhaps that was the point you were trying to make with this arrangement, but somehow, I doubt it. Either way, I will happily use your water, and your soap, and you can count on that in your annual budget.


Sincerely yours,

The Proud Owner of a Female Body


Batting for Vanity

7 01 2016

twiggy bwI know I will never be accused of being a fashionista. I buy 90% of my clothing second hand, and then adapt it to fit my own style. However, am I seriously the only one who is waiting patiently for this ridiculous trend of eyelash extensions to die??


Don’t get me wrong, I’m married to someone who brought boxes of wigs,Halloween-Party-False-Eyelashes-100-Pair-Mix-Order-Beautiful-Carnival-False-Eyelash makeup, glitter, and eyelash falsies into the relationship, so, I get that playing dress up can be quite fun. (Actually, the glitter may have mostly been mine). I’ve even donned a pair of sparkly eyeflippers a time or two. But, not every day is Halloween
(or Pride), right? 


Gateway Drug

Everywhere I go, more young women are wearing fake lashes not just for special occasions, but EVERY DAY. For coffee. To the post office. To church. Trust me, Baby Jesus does not think less of you for having blond eyelashes.

These women are spending hundreds-even thousands– of dollars a year to maintain an impossibly unreal look, all in the name of vanity. And, sure, I get it, you were born with tiny blond lashes and you just want people to notice your soul by gazing into your baby blues. (There’s this thing called “makeup,” which might be a safer option.) What does this say about our society that we are expected to look completely unnatural in order to be ‘normal?’ 

I contend that lash extensions are a gateway drug to extreme body image issues, akin to other disorders. I mean, look at this ‘before and after’ below. This person was absolutely beautiful without the fakes. Next up, nip and tuck!

pinterest missmaven

Did you know?

  • It takes 2-3 hours to get fakes glued to your eyelids. And you better have showered right before your appointment, because otherwise you’re gonna be pretty gross while you wait another 24 hours to get near water.
  • Lash extensions are attached to individual lashes, like when you were a kid and pulled cardboard tubes over your arms so you could chase around your older brothers yelling, “I am TubeMan!” No? Oh, maybe that was just me…
  • Your tort- er- treatment only lasts 4-8 weeks, since they fall out according to your normal hair growth cycle. Then you get to pay for it all over again. Feel like an addiction yet?
  • Lashes require blow-drying by a tiny specialty device that looks like something Ken dreamt up for Barbie after she dumped him and took off in that red Corvette. Otherwise, as so eloquently described by Ms. Tunell, “after showers, your lashes look like a sopping wet tarantula and on windy days, they arrange themselves into a crisscross formation.(I love this article by Ms. Tunell, describing her experience with extensions.)


Is This Really New???

Here’s the deal. Eyelashes have a long and sordid history. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder thought that eyelashes fell out from excessive sex and so it was especially important for women to keep their eyelashes long to prove their chastity.” So… that’s creepy.

Later, women plucked out all their lashes and brows to comply with the trend (think medieval & renaissance times). Then, when thick lashes came back into style in the late 1800s, there were insane treatments- like this one explained in an article by the Dundee Courier in 1899:


“ An ordinary fine needle is threaded with a long hair, generally taken from the head of the person to be operated upon. The lower border of the eyelid is then thoroughly cleaned, and in order that the process may be as painless as possible rubbed with a solution of cocaine. The operator then by a few skilful touches runs his needle through the extreme edges of the eyelid between the epidermis and the lower border of the cartilage of the tragus. The needle passes in and out along the edge of the lid leaving its hair thread in loops of carefully graduated length.”


(Cough) I’m sorry… WHAT?!?! Cocaine??? Yeah…

But what’s really creepy is that this trend IS BACK. Internet ads now tout a “minor outpatient procedure,” where cosmetic surgeons  remove hair follicles from the back of your head and replace the grafts on your eyelids. For realz. It’s retro cool. Like, 117 years retro. Thank goodness we haven’t progressed since the 1800s!


The Faux Trend

kim-kardashian-eyelashes-300x287In part, you can thank big fakes like Kim Kardashian for breaking the short reprieve that started in the 1970s, when women were finally embracing their natural beauty. In fact, that trend of a more natural look lasted through the 1990s, and it’s only really been in the new millennium, with the rise of internet, that we’ve come to expect that we should all wake up looking as made up as the internet stars worth millions of dollars.


The princesses of faux are cashing in on the trend (that they are pushing with a new line of false lashes) claiming that, “Faking fuller lashes are a thing of the past. For 2013 faux lashes are being worn BIG and without apology.” Who can argue with that logic?


So, who cares???

You should. For several reasons. Forget the whole deal about realistic body image and depressed senses of self worth that we are imparting on the next generation, let’s move on to some other reasons that are more about you.

  1. Hygiene. Eyelashes are naturally a protective shield for your eyes, and serve a very important role. Excessively oversized lashes are more prone to catch and hold dirt and bacteria, which could lead to infections. Considering the care that one must take not to get the falsies too wet, this is even more likely.
  2. Formaldehyde. Yeah, the stuff they use on dead bodies, that’s what’s most commonly found in the glue they use on your face. As long as you don’t get that cigarette too close to your eyes, you should be safe from going up in flames, but you are still at risk of severe irritation, allergic reactions, and, in extreme exposure, this nasty stuff is linked to some cancers, per the U.S. EPA. But, everything in moderation, right? There are also lots of low-quality products out there that will be more likely to contain suspect materials.
  3. Loss of sight. It’s very rare, but any adverse reaction too close to your eyes can quickly escalate into very serious conditions like conjunctivitis, keratitis, and even- very rarely- loss of sight. Among beauty treatments, eyelash extensions account for the greatest number of eye-clinic consultations in Japan, where they have been very widely used.
  4. Hair Loss. If blindness doesn’t bother you, maybe this will. Improper attachment of fake lashes can actually damage your natural lashes, causing traction alopecia. This means that there is too much excess pressure on your hair follicles, which can actually stop normal growth of your lashes, or cause them to fall out. Imagine if someone tied a 5 pound weight to the hair on your head. That’s how your lashes feel.

~~~So, I say that if you want to be like the Kardashians, why hold back? Are you too chicken to go with a little more bling? I mean, what could possibly go wrong with attaching dozens of sharp objects near your eyeballs? I’m sure your job interview will go great once they see how committed you are to things you are passionate about. ~~~eye makeup from BH_matassianeye_com

How to Avoid an Unintentional ‘Man Cave’

3 01 2016

To help out a friend, we offered to come take a look at her house. This DIY homeowner was concerned about the noticeable slope in the kitchen floor, and had mentioned that she wanted to hire a structural engineer to come look at it to make sure that she wasn’t about to invest a lot of time and money into renovating just to have a major structural collapse. We offered to take a look for them, and here is what we discovered lurking in the basement.

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