Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shed Clothes and Inhibitions at the Blue Lagoon

Like many other tourists to Iceland, I got sucked into the glossy leaflets for the Blue Lagoon. With a late afternoon flight, there was little I could fit in th final precious few hours. A few hours wondering minuscule Reykjavik...or the Blue Lagoon? I opted for the Blue Lagoon. I googled photographs and read gushing compliments about the whole experience. Decided. The day before, I perused more thorough reviews on Tripadvisor. Words started jumping off the screen and tugging at my reserved English self..."naked...communal changing showers". As the girl who always hides behind the towel in public, seeks out the single changing room and would like a lock on my door thank you very much, these words strike fear into my heart. Such deep-rooted feelings are hard to untangle and analyse. I know that I have no need to fear being naked in public, I have problem with the naked human body or of other people being naked-in fact I am envious of people who can let their clothes fall off at the drop of the hat. That is how I would choose to be if my character allowed.

My trepidation increased on the coach to the Blue Lagoon. Did somebody on Tripadvisor say that the showers were unisex or did I imagine that? Who knew how that Northerly latitude could affect you. I envisage myself in a huge room with showers around the side. The other females have all vanished and I am alone in the showers with a group of perfect, young men. I cower in the corner and want the ground to open up, away from their prying eyes.

I take ages fumbling with my locker, stalling for time. I pack, unpack and repack it. Have I got everything. Most importantly have I got my towel? God forbid I would forget my towel.

The changing rooms are hot and steaming. They are not open, but sectioned with a walkway down the middle. In each section is a large bench and a group of lockers. I sit down and start undressing. I hum to myself as a distraction and start to take my underwear off. Thank God my legs are smooth. Where's my towel? I sit awkwardly on the bench with my towel pessed to my front. All I have to do is hang the towel and swimming costume up, head to the showers-not more than 20 metres from the peg, twirl around under the hot water and head back to the peg. I can get my swimming costume on in two swift movements. If I did this with my eyes shut, it would be done and dusted in about 2 minutes.

A group of Americans, cheery and obese, saunter past. I wonder if they want to be thin. Do they even care they are not thin? Perhaps not, Americans are talented self believers. I follow in their shadows, hoping to hide behind them. This is ridiculous, if they don't care, then why should I? I turn my anger into action and hang my towel up. I wait for the spotlight to turn on me. I wait for the silence to fall and for everybody to turn around and stare at me. To my disappointment, nobody notices what I have done. I am naked and somehow invisible. A shower is free. The water is lovely and warm. It is the first time I have felt truly warm since I have arrived in Iceland and it is lovely. I stay under the water for a good minute. Another American is waiting and I smile at her and say "it's all yours". She laughs. She is probably about sixty years old and perhaps she had cellulite and stretch marks and was overweight but I don't really remember. We shared a smile and a laugh.

Nymphlike, I walk back to my peg and put my costume on. I walk out into the Icelandic drizzle towards the lagoon and feel elated.

It is the first time I have been naked in public since a school shower.

I will probably never be a naturalist but my experience at the Blue Lagoon made me face my inhibitions demon and he really isn't so scary after all.

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