How swimming pool changing rooms reduce me to my infant state: naked, helpless and wailing
I love swimming. Born in July, as I child I took to the pool like a crab to water and firmly established swimming as my chosen hobby.
I love swimming pools. The minute I step into those tropical temples of all things aquatic, memories from childhood come flooding (sorry) back. Games of ‘dolphins’ in the local pool with my two best friends; being taught to swim by Mr Hedgehog, a man with a classic ‘90s spiky hairdo; and the crowning glory of my childhood ambitions: coming second in a school swimming gala despite being the only entrant to replace the traditional dive in with a spectacular belly flop.
So how do I explain that I’ve only just brought myself to don my cossie and go for a dip, fully three weeks after signing up to my local pool? These things ain’t cheap, something’s up!
Yes there are the usual excuses: long days at work and, you know, pure laziness, that explain my poor showing at the local baths but there’s something else. Something far more sinister sits in my way. Large and cube shaped with a door, a lock and a dirty floor, this monster stands firmly between me and my watery euphoria. Meet my nemesis – the changing room.
My happy swimming memories come from a time when I had a faithful sidekick who would not only throw her keys into the pool for me to fetch from the bottom (such trust!), but who would dry me, clothe me and brush my hair, before whisking me to safety in a matter of minutes. Whenever I see little kids at the pool I remember the amazing efficiency of my mum, who even managed not to forget to get herself dressed as well as me.
Outside the changing cubicle, my dexterity and organisation are as satisfactory as the next person. But once I’m trapped behind that grubby door I realise my complete inability to slide back the latch and declare to the rest of the leisure centre that yes, I am a fully-clothed, functioning adult.
Instead, my return to the pool found me performing a bonkers balancing act that got my knickers quite literally in a twist.
In an attempt to keep my feet clean I decided to put my shoes and socks on first, before anything else. At the time this seemed to be a very sensible solution.
However, it soon became clear that it was not and that there was no way my trouser leg was going over that shoe.
I had even bought said trousers to specifically address one of my previous post-swimming problems. On an earlier trip, I only had leggings to change back into and had to do the walk of shame out of the gym with them on back to front, seams twisted awkwardly in various directions on my legs.
And is it only me who finds that chlorine makes skin so incredibly sticky that it’s nigh on impossible to pull any kind of garment over it? In any case I should warn you that matters are made somewhat worse if you’ve put your shoes on before your knickers.
I’m not exactly sure how to properly address my changing room challenges but one option could be commissioning a specially made one piece with built-in shoes.
But it isn’t just the clothes that are the problem… There’s never enough space, there’s always a suspicious yellow puddle on the floor to be avoided; the exact change needed for the locker is never in your wallet; your towel will always become a sopping rag before you’ve even got to the stage where you might need it to actually dry yourself and even if you do manage to get dressed, the heating is always on so chronically high that you immediately overheat and need to take the outer layers off again, reversing all of your hard work.
Come to think of it I know exactly how best to remedy this debilitating issue – I will get measured for that one piece, start saving for a very exclusive spa membership that offers a professional body drying service and, most importantly, fly my mum in to come swimming with me.
More of Ellen’s writing can be found on her gorgeous blog, Cameo.