I have to be honest if you had asked me in the past how I felt about my body, I would probably tell you that there is some improvements to make but generally I feel alright in my own skin. If you had then asked me how comfortable I would feel stripping off in front of a bunch of strangers, I would tell you where to go, that ain’t happening, and then, and then I went to Sweden, and things have changed quite a bit.
Prior to going to Sweden I did have one experience at a nudist beach in Mexico and I have to be honest it was nowhere near as horrible as I thought it might be. I didn’t enjoy it necessarily and to be honest given where the sand ended up I really didn’t see the value of it, but that is by the by. This however was many years and 2 kids ago, so it is fair to say that things have changed somewhat.
To those of you who may not be aware, there is very much a sauna culture in Sweden and it is more than normal for families to jump in the sauna together at events and gatherings, and then to jump in some ice cold water afterwards. The health benefits of this are well documented and given the health levels in Scandinavia, they are clearly being helped out by this sauna experience.
A key part of most Swedish saunas, not all I must stress, is that they are generally enjoyed nude, completely starkers without even so much as a towel to cover up your nether regions. At first this alarmed me a lot, but given that it was just my partner and I , and no kids to mentally scar, we thought that we would dive in, when in Rome… right?
As you are reading this you are probably wincing at the thought of men and women sauntering around naked with all of themselves hanging out, the risk of one sex leering at the other, and the sheer discomfort which comes with sitting naked with strangers, all valid concerns and all things that also went through my mind, the reality however, very different.
I’ll be honest, you do have a good 5 minutes of prudishness or shock, noticing large and small aspects of another’s body, I think that is only natural. I quickly learned however that our relationship between nudity and sex is very confused and the reality is that those two things couldn’t be further from each other in terms of how we see ourselves. I don’t promote being unhealthy or overweight but there is a certain stigma which gets smashed to pieces when you strip down to what you were born with and enjoy a sauna, and after a few minutes you almost forget the fact that everyone is nude, it just becomes the norm.
This gave me real pause for thought with regards to our issues around body consciousness and I think that it is something which we can all learn from.