the liberation of standing naked in a women’s locker room

The Research

My notebook was overwhelmed with all the research of Iceland.  I noted every landmark, waterfall, geothermal spa, ice cave, volcano, book store, church, field, and the sheep, the horses, all the shores with their magical black sand, and lest we not forget about all the legends and myths.

Even though it was my first international trip, and my first trip solo, I needed to create some rules.  

I chose seven items that I must see.  The difficulty of choice was painful, but it gave some control over the experience.  Each day had purpose to complete a task, but also – quite importantly – left a healthy balance of free time to fall into saying “YES” to damn near anything I discovered organically.

One of these must-see places was the Blue Lagoon.  I knew it was a heavily trafficked tourist spot, but the more I read about it, the more I heard it’s one hell of an experience for the soul.

It turned out, a few places I had on the list I knocked out in one day.  But not the Blue Lagoon. Insert massive amounts of procrastination here:  


The Purchase

Frankly, I was fucking terrified.

I really wanted to go and enjoy myself.  But, as a highly insecure chubby whale with stretch marks all over, ugliness for days, and traveling alone, it suddenly seemed like something that would absolutely suck.

When I ended up in back in Reykjavik after driving the entire Ring Road, I finally bought a ticket.  I bought the ticket for my very last night for the very last hour the lagoon was open. This way, if for this one hour my experience was as shitty as could possibly be, it didn’t matter because I already had an amazing time up to this point.  One hour is something I didn’t have to tell anyone about.

( A quick informational note:  the Blue Lagoon has several packages for their tickets and it caters to all budget styles.  There’s a restaurant with hella delicious food, massages, bars, and they have a line of great skin care products.  They even have a specific page on their site dedicated to people with psoriasis.)

The Start of the Observations

It is a hilarious sight to see a bunch of people standing in line wearing winter layers and hiking boots while swaying to keep warm knowing you’re all about to strip down together to be outside in the cold to swim around in a geothermal spa.  

However, my mind kept focusing on all the women around me.  They were all beautiful, skinny, and with other people enjoying themselves.  It was the first time during the whole trip I was sad to be traveling alone. My heightened sense of self-awareness kept nagging me that I was THE fattest person in a room of roughly 100 people.  

After they started scanning tickets and herded men in one direction, and my cow of a body with the beautiful women into another direction.  The attendants showed us the lockers and let us know we’d have to shower before entering the pool.

What the Blue Lagoon looks like when you stop acting like a baby and go.

The Locker Room

As I put my stuff in my locker, a woman next to me started to change and had some beautiful tattoos on her arms and back.  I love connecting with people over tattoos. We talked about her pieces and we talked about the bodacious piece on my upper arm. It’s something an artist did in Reykjavik at the beginning of my trip at an awesome place called Sweet Hell Tattoo. It’s now called White Hill.

Even though we had a nice exchange, a weirdness started to envelope us.  I don’t know why, I don’t know what it was, but our conversation felt uncomfortable.  Maybe I offended her in some way? And that small bit of ease I felt a moment before slips right off the crazy cliff and I’m in my head again. I yelled at myself for the years of not taking on elective surgeries, starvation, and tapeworms to fix this body I’m living in when the woman just said it:

“You going to change?”  She looked around me, and I looked around, too.

I was the only asshole still in clothes.  Surrounded by naked women. All the women I stood in line with earlier are either ready to go or are undressed and ready to hop in the required-before-enjoying-the-lagoon shower.

“Oh.  Yeah…right…”  I took off my tank top, and the tankini was revealed.  It wasn’t so bad, but it seemed too short and my stomach bulged out and my thighs are huge and I now made my presence known by being so insecure and not changing.

I could feel the vomit begin to creep it’s way up and began to sweat. My body shook with anxiety. I am my own insecurity.  I vicious cycle fed myself into hyperventilating. Why can’t I let myself enjoy the moment?

I excused myself to a bathroom stall and sat down.  I was upset for putting myself in this situation and upset I just didn’t go for a bathroom stall in the first place.  There I was, the brave solo traveler, afraid and hiding with a toilet at a magical place on earth I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy.

Freeze raining at the Blue Lagoon.

The Moment

But – wait.  

Allowing myself?

I took a few breaths and tried to bring all the emotion down.

I am allowed to enjoy this moment; allowed to enjoy swimming and being here, even though I do not have the perfect body.  Cursed hideousness does not mean I am undeserving of experiencing and enjoying this special place.  

At the end of the day, no woman there really gave a shit about my body.  If anything, I’m more likely to be remembered as the creepy girl standing around staring at everyone in the locker room.  

I dragged this hour out into hundreds of miserable years.  All of the bullshit I’ve heard about my body and societal acceptance crap thrown on top of that, and how I carry myself and what I think of myself have all conclusively blown up into one moment at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.  I was sitting on a toilet freaking the hell out when I could be outside purifying my fucking soul.

The locker room emptied out before I went back.  Everyone made their way outside to live and be merry.  I hopped in the shower before making my way to the lagoon.  

Giving zero fucks about how fat I am.

The Lagoon

It was freezing out and fantastically refreshing.  I happily sank into the creamy blue waters and sighed. It was brilliant.  The longer I swam around, the more it all began to melt away. Whatever “it” was.  

The swim-up bars and face masks added greatness to the relaxation. And the lifeguards wore heavy jackets. They looked less like lifeguards and more like arctic explorers.

I mingled with some people, took pictures of couples, laughed with other groups as we all made our way around.

The ease came back as I talked to more people. Maybe I am not the embodiment of Frankenstein’s monster.

When the lagoon closed, I changed next to the woman I spoke to before.  We laughed about how rejuvenated we felt and talked more about tattoos. Somehow, as we talked, I undressed to my bare ass to dry off and put my clothes back on.  We wished each other safe travels as we left.

I’m certain no one tells the story about the chubby American from the locker room who’s huge and could be prettier.  

The most overly dressed Lifeguard.

The Lesson

At the Blue Lagoon, I promised to never let my insecurities lock me up with fear and prevent me from experiencing amazing things this world has to offer.  I also promised to be more mindful about the way I talk to other women.

Progress with all women starts with how I treat myself.

Check out my post about staying warm on your Icelandic adventure!

My adorable tankini top!


4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. The media and society puts so much stress on a certain kind of female body as to what is considered beautiful that it makes it really hard for ourselves to love our body with all its supposed imperfections. And here is the thing, our bodies are not imperfect, they are bodies that come in all shape and sizes and colours. You are not a cow!! And I am sorry we live in a society that makes you feel that way and makes you want to hide in a toilet. What you did takes courage! You got out there and had fun! But it shouldn’t have been that way to begin with? You shouldn’t need courage to just go out for swim because you dont have a kind of body that people think you should have. But we are still a long way from that. In the end, what a great place to give yourself and others body positivity message right?

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