Why are we so embarrassed about being naked? Millions of Japanese women don’t seem to be. On a recent trip to Japan, I discovered onsens. These hot springs are dotted all over Japan and as much part of a Japanese woman’s life as a manicure is among British women.
This is how it works: you enter the women’s onsen (men & women have segregated sections.) You take off your clothes, douse yourself with hot water and clean up with soap, then gently ease yourself into the almost-boiling hot water with a bunch of other women.
I recently discovered the joy of floating naked in a pool of steaming hot, mineral-laden water. Nestled among rock formations overlooking the sea – I could not believe how wonderful it felt. And made me wonder, why we didn’t do it here in the UK?
I can hear the collective groans of horror among my women friends, exclaiming how they wouldn’t be caught dead naked in a hot pool with strangers.
But here’s the thing: no one in the onsens I went to seemed to give a crap about how anyone else looked. Young teens with perky breasts floated right alongside grandmas with floppy, droopy breasts. There were babies floating with their mums. There were women with al manner of pubic hair, some without, some with post-pregnancy stretch-marks, young teens with flawless skin… just women of all shapes, sizes, ages. And it was OK for us all to be naked in that steamy, communal space.
It got me thinking. Being naked came so naturally to us when we were babies but now seems cringe-worthy. So what makes our toes curl up just at the thought of taking our clothes off in public?
Here’s the crux of it: I don’t’ think we mind being naked with really. What we DO mind however is other women judging our bodies. Gosh, everyone’s going to see how those cupcakes ended up as a layer on my belly. Oh dear, I’ve forgotten to wax my lady bits. What will everyone think of the cellulite on my thighs?
Living in a world where the most natural thing (being naked) has become the most unnatural – now that is a sad, sad state of affairs.