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Public Safety/Was I wrong to let a stranger's five-year-old son see me naked?

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The voice was loud, shrill and dripping with condemnation. ‘I don’t know how you can do that,’ the woman snarled as I hoisted up the straps of my swimming costume. ‘It’s disgusting.’

Curious to find out what changing-room shenanigans had provoked this verbal attack, I swung round, amazed to see a 30-something woman glaring in my direction. ‘What? Why are you looking at me?’ I asked. ‘Is there something wrong?’

‘Yes, there is,’ came her reply. ‘You’re getting undressed in front of my son. Why couldn’t you go in the cubicle, rather than parade yourself naked in front of my boy?

My mouth fell open. I was about to take my two sons — aged four and six — swimming, and the three of us had just got changed, as we did every week, in the female changing-room at the gym, in the communal area with lockers and benches especially designated for families.

I can’t have been naked for more than ten seconds before slipping on my swimming costume, and this woman’s son didn’t look any older than mine. Yet there she was, staring at me as if I’d just committed the most heinous of crimes. I asked how old her son was.

‘Five,’ she replied.

I told her she was being ridiculous — this was the female changing-room so I was entitled to undress where I liked.

‘So you’re happy for your boys to see you like that, are you?’ she asked, scornfully, clasping her son to her breast (fully-clothed, naturally). ‘I bet you walk around naked at home, too.’

I have to say, her son looked more embarrassed by her than mentally scarred for life by my nakedness. ‘Actually, yes, I do,’ I said, my anger building.

‘And exactly what’s wrong with that? My sons are very young boys, they don’t see the world in the way you seem to be implying, and this is the FEMALE changing-room.’

Afraid I was about to lose my temper and start swearing in front of my children — a much worse crime, I believed, than them seeing my naked body — I grabbed my sons’ hands, dragged them from the changing-room and made a beeline for the pool.

I dived in, and for the next half-an-hour I tried to push the woman’s judgmental, prudish nonsense out of my mind. But her harsh words kept ringing in my ears. Even worse, doubts started to creep in. Had I unwittingly done something I shouldn’t have? Should I have got undressed in a cubicle?

Answer
Hi Chelsea,
Sorry for the delay in getting this to you but I changed my email and just received your letter today.  

This is a bit out of my safety range of questions but I will try to answer your question based on my experience. It might be helpful.

The lady you describe overreacted to the situation which made a bigger impression on her 5 year old than you did.  If she didn't like the scene in the locker room, she should have calmly turned around and left for a few minutes. A 5 year old would not have noticed. However, she didn't do that but decided to get angry with you. That was her problem, not your problem.

That said, I suggest you get dressed in the cubicle so you don't have another incident.  

P.S  Hummm, I wonder if she is just as vocal about TV and Movie nudity.

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Stephanie L. Mann

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