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The Naked Truth
Was I sleeping when someone made it ok to comment on a stranger trying on clothes?
It must’ve been the same day they made it permissible to brush your teeth, naked, in the gym changing rooms.
I don’t understand people’s changing room etiquette, or lack thereof.
So I was in a cubicle, trying on a sparkly red dress.
Admittedly I still had my pumps on and I hadn’t brushed my hair so I wasn’t looking flash, but with some imagination, I looked less like an oompa lumpa and more like Elizabeth Hurley.
Like I said, I was using my imagination.
I could see myself gliding across the grounds of a beautiful Waiheke Island vineyard at an upcoming wedding. I’d look so good I’d stop the vines growing in their tracks.
And that’s when it happened.
I popped out of my cubicle to get a better look at my magnificent self in the big mirror, and the lady in the cubicle next door stuck her head out, cleared her throat and told me exactly what she thought.
I kid you not.
I was minding my own business, standing on my tiptoes to get some supermodel height, when she demanded “turn around”.
So I looked to see if she was talking to me and she indicated, with a spin of her finger, that she was indeed talking to me and what’s more, she was waiting for me to give her a twirl.
Bewildered, I did as I was asked and to my further surprise she just scowled and said “too short”.
Well I’ll be blown.
She didn’t even take the edge off with, “it’s nice, but”.
This I would’ve expected in Australia, where everyone’s opinion is considered “fair dinkum” and nobody prefaces anything with a sweetener to be polite. But in New Zealand! Land of the self effacing Kiwi!
I was shocked.
What was she thinking? I DIDN’T KNOW HER FROM ADAM!!!
I answered the only way I thought appropriate, looking her up and down in her garish blue one piece, I just said “nice colour”.
And then I laid that puppy to rest when she self consciously stroked her hands across her stomach and said “I think it’s a size too small though” and I said, “yeah it is, but it’s a nice colour”.
See how she brought out the worst in me. I was furious I could be so mean. So I shouted over my shoulder as I sprinted back to my cubicle “it’s lovely though”. Even though it really wasn’t.
I mostly shop alone because I don’t want someone else’s opinion. I have enough self criticisms of my own to deal with.
Off came the sparkly red dress that I promptly threw over the rack as I stormed out.
I don’t think it’s a Kiwi thing.
New Zealand changing rooms are usually a breath of fresh air because they’re rarely busy and someone usually parades up and down asking if you need anything and taking away the pants you can’t get even one leg into.
And all in all, Kiwis are laid back, they’re not intrusive or rude, or even very interested in what anyone else is wearing. You can dress up to the nines or down to the gutter and nobody really notices.
And this I love.
After my first year and a half of living here, I went back to Warrington for a visit and felt the disparaging looks of disapproval at my casual dress. I’ve grown used to the difference now and I try to strike a “smasual” balance on both hemispheres.
But this poor etiquette problem doesn’t stop on the shop floor. There is a serious lack of decorum in the gym changing room too.
If I wanted an eye full of someone’s intimate areas, I’d have been a doctor, a stripper, or joined a live art class.
I know you have to get undressed at the gym, but you don’t have to dry your hair, pluck your eyebrows, apply mascara, or iron your clothes in the buff.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a spot of cleaning a la nude for example, but that’s in my own home and how else can you get the shower really clean?
I have to ask myself if my apparent prudish behaviour is a Brit thing, but I hardly think so. We’re anything but. It’s usually my cheeky comments that make people gasp in horror, not the other way around.
My friends, Brit or Kiwi, will testify to this.
And on that note, let me leave you with some advice.
Never bend over naked in a narrow thoroughfare of a changing room; and don’t do that thing with a towel where you thread it back and forth between your legs for a more intimate dry.
Until next time, from the land of the long white cloud and poor changing room behaviour.
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