I feel weird getting naked in someone else’s home. I was spending the weekend with friends, and decided to take a shower before bed. From inside the bathroom I could hear my hosts talking, and there I stood, one door away—stark naked.
Suddenly I flashed on the first time I had to get naked in front of people, an event that traumatized me for life—my first day of junior high gym.
Protected by my locker door, putting on my gym clothes caused only half the humiliation I’d expected. But after class, lining up to shower with 30 naked girls stripped my 12-year-old psyche of all self-esteem.
We were issued a towel, really a mis-named washcloth, which I tried to hide behind. But being tall it only covered one strategic area at a time, so I moved it up and down from fig-leaf one to fig-leaf two like an underage fan dancer.
Some girls could wrap the towel around their entire bodies. I hated them. And there was this one girl who was completely comfortable being naked. There always is one. Blonde and lanky, she threw the towel over her shoulder, propped one leg on a locker bench, and chatted as if mass nudity was completely normal. I hated her too.
We had ten minutes to shower, dress, and race to our next class, so to save time, I ran in one shower door and out the other, skipping the showering part.
“Stop, young lady!” a commanding voice shouted. I turned, and there she stood—Miss Davis, the head of Girl’s P.E. Built of pure muscle, she was Gertrude Stein in shorts. Her cropped gray hair sat atop a brown, leathery tan that ran down to the tops of her tennis shoes where the tan suddenly stopped. In bare feet, she’d look like she stepped in a tray of white paint.
“Let me feel that towel,” she demanded.
Trembling, I handed it over.
“This isn’t even damp,” she said. “Go back and take a proper shower.”
As I re-entered 7th grade Hell, a group of 8th-grade girls dashed in, waved their towels under a showerhead, and headed straight to Miss Davis, who nodded her wet-towel approval. I used their technique my entire junior high career.
With that scene fresh in mind, I stepped out of the shower at my friend’s house and was drying off just as the bathroom door began to open.
“Wait! I’m in here!” But the door opened further. “Stop!” I yelled just as the lock released—and in came a big gray cat.
“Sorry about that,” my friend said through the door. “She’s got this thing about wet towels.”
The burley cat looked at me, then yowled in a distinctly unpleasant, yet somehow familiar tone. “Miss Davis?” No, it couldn’t be, but just in case, I dropped my wet towel and she pounced on it. And for the record, that cat had two white feet.
Now, this is hardly proof of reincarnation, but it is proof that no matter how old you are, you can never escape from 7th grade Hell.