Each morning on the days that I work, I go to the campus gym and shower. It opens at 6:00 AM, and I start work at 7:00 AM. The campus gym provides towels, and then launders those towels each day. The routine is that I go into the women’s locker room, get undressed, grab two towels that are right next to the shower area, and shower. When I’m done, I put the towels in the used towel bin.
Today, I went to the gym, but when I got undressed, and got to the shower area, there were no towels. I had to put my dress back on and go out to the front desk and get towels. Irritating! But not as irritating as getting to the front desk (where there was a bin full of clean towels) grabbing a towel, and being told by the 18 year-old student attendant, “Ma’am, I am supposed to hand out the towels!” And she handed me the towel I had just picked up. I, in my half-dressed state, said, “can I have two towels please?” And she handed me a second towel, which I took and proceeded to go through my morning routine.
I always feel a little self-conscious going to the gym because, I get there as soon as it opens, and I shower immediately. Sometimes the janitors have just finished cleaning the shower area, and I’m in there. I don’t work out first, which most people do. So now, I have to bring attention to that by asking for my towels in advance.
I am no stranger to this gym. I have been a member for some time, and have worked out for stretches of time, but now that I start work at 7:00, I really don’t have time to work out, shower, and get to my job on time. So working out in advance isn’t a solution. But why do I need a solution at all? Why can’t I just go in and ask for my two towels at 6:00 AM and go about my day? I pay for my membership there (staff have to pay for access, and I do! I pay $35 per month, plus $20 for my full size locker). It’s really none of their business how I use the gym as long as I’m not doing anything against the rules.
What it really comes down to, is that somewhere in my mind, I am afraid that the attendant will know that I am houseless. Knowing that I am houseless means that she will think I am “less than” in the social hierarchy. Now that’s not the biggest problem. The real issue is that, I wouldn’t think that unless somewhere in my head, I think that about myself because I am houseless. On a rational level, I know this is ridiculous. But somewhere, ingrained in my psyche through years of cultural training, I think this! Being products of our culture, we all think this.
It’s important to counter these thoughts and any actions that affirm these thoughts as soon as they come up because, in the end, we are creating our own worth in the society, by how we treat ourselves, and think about ourselves, and how we allow others to treat us. This manifests itself in not looking others in the eye, or not holding eye contact, glancing down or glancing away. Watch the body language! Just changing the body language can change the thought process.
During my shower, I ran through several scenarios about what I would say if anyone ever asks me why I just come in and shower, or if they ever try to say that the shower is only for those who actually use the gym. In addition, I started thinking about ways I would not have to encounter the attendant, and bypass asking for the towels. I could bring my own towels, and wash them every week.
But I don’t need excuses! Once again, I pay for my access to that gym! No one is going to tell me I have to workout first! She may wonder about why I come in and shower first thing, but it’s not her business, and she probably wonders far less than I think she does. It’s not my job to behave in a way that makes her think differently about me.
Plus, there are many reasons a person might come into a gym and shower immediately OTHER than being houseless. In fact, I used to do this for periods of time when I had an apartment. Once, I was recovering from an injury and couldn’t work out, but wanted to keep up the routine. Once, I was ending a relationship, and wanted to spend as little time in my apartment with my boyfriend as possible, so I’d get up immediately and go to the gym and shower. Sometimes I would just shower because I had no motivation to work out, but I didn’t want to lose the routine. Some people workout, running or other exercise, outside of the gym before the gym opens.
No, I can’t control what she thinks about my reasons, and no one is going to change the policy and force me to workout first. It’s actually pretty narcissistic of me to think that could happen. I will go to the gym four mornings a week, stand tall, and look the young attendant directly in the eye and say, “Two towels please!”