[* No, now I think about it, that now sounds like an ENTIRELY inappropriate title for this post. I dont know, thats gratitude for you. You do what you can for the dying art of the portmanteaux, you love the portmanteaux, and in return? Well, sometimes it loves you back, sometimes it makes you end up with a word like youve done a little sex wee in the middle of polite conversation. Still. Its up there now, eh? Best just get on with it, I suppose.]

Locked in on all sides by lockers in the communal changing room, underneath the blaring of some godawful family fightfest on daytime television, we were all trying our hardest to get on with dressing and moving on to the rest of our day as if nothing had happened.

Which (strictly) I suppose it hadnt.

Or hadnt really. Nothing much had happened, it was more a case of what should happen NOW, and I should explain:

See, its taken a while to break the back of my shyness, and theres not much I can do about my remaining hurdle:

I still dont know what to do, half naked, when half-naked people talk to me.

Thats why, in the womens-only gym I regularly go to, and generally feel very comfortable in, I was presently sitting taking longer putting two shoes on than some who had a train to catch should really take.

I was stuck in a thick treacle of half-naked etiquette. See traditionally, half-naked conversation is something I might only have with people Ive had sex with. If then. And we hadnt had sex, this lady and I. Oh no no no. Not even slightly.

See, she had said I like your [item of clothing] where did you get them?

And Id said Oh! Thanks! I got them at [suchaplace]

And shed said Oh really because Ive bought some like it at [somewhere else]

And Id said No, you should try [suchaplace], theyre a bit more expensive but theyre dead good

And then we slipped into an uncomfortable silence full of items of clothing we hadnt yet put on.

Or I felt like it was uncomfortable, anyway.

See, other people are FAR more relaxed with semi-nudity. Its quite, quite normal. to be comfortable. This lady certainly was. Her family probably wandered around naked or something, possibly only making an adjustment for really special guests, and even then just tassels.

Ours? Well, we didnt do that, really. What with our house doubling as a meeting venue and a busy office and drop-in centre, it wasnt terribly appropriate. I dont believe the human body is an ugly thing, by any means; I was just taught that theres no shame whatsoever in being completely and utterly as fully clothed as the day you were born. (the day you were born once theyd put some clothes on you)(and maybe a hat).

But still, having been going to the gym for the last year and yada yada yada, it wasnt that I was shy about having been merely semi-unclothed and in conversation – at least not as much as I would have been this time last year.

It was more that I didnt know whether to say goodbye.

I mean, it was very nice of her to have started a conversation with me, but if I left first, I was going to have to be brave and say Bye! out of politeness if nothing else, wasnt I?

But what did I say? Just Bye!?

Or Bye then! Dont forget, shop at Marks for those special control pants! Bye!? Or – and god, this was the option I dreaded coming out of my mouth most of all – Bye! Nice meeting you!?! Meeting? We hadnt shaken hands or anything, wed not been introduced by a respected joint acquaintance or at least two members of family, for the love of Emily Post Meeting? It was barely meeting at all.

But still, shed been nice, shed reached out, wed had conversation, I should acknowledge that, surely? But but but now we were wearing clothes, we were civilised, removed from the common leveler of towels and mussy hair, and into the world of, well, work, and trousers, and smart jackets, and anyway, is that what you DO?

Do you speak after such a brief brief conversation, or is it just one of those speak-and-go things?

Would she be mortally offended if I simply stood up and grabbed my bags and went, having at least put in that effort at her end (although I was very nice too, but still that was then, and this was now)?

Should the one who took the initiative the first time take it the second, or should the other, or should

Luckily for everyone, at that moment, I sneezed; unexpectedly, and quite loudly.

I waited.


Oh well thats that, then, I thought. If shes not polite enough for a gesundheit, then she can wave farewell to her nice goodbye. I was TOTALLY prepared to be civil, but if thats the way it is? Tut tut tut

And scuttled out of the changing room, laces flapping.