Dear Straight Talk: I’m a high school freshman and very private about my body. I can’t handle anybody seeing me naked except my sister and my best friend. Not even my mom. Our gym teacher told us, with hot weather coming, everyone will have to shower, no exceptions! She says modesty is no excuse because “you’re all the same.” Our locker room ONLY has communal showers. I’m not overweight or anything, but I will die of embarrassment. I can barely handle changing into my gym clothes publicly. My sister (a junior) has no problem with the communal showers, so maybe I got this from my mom who we’ve never seen nude. Am I alone in wanting privacy? Please help! — Private in No Cal
Ochatre, 23: I played rugby through high school and eeeeeeeeeeuniversity. Junior year, I joined a team that took communal showers. Being the smallest player, I was uncomfortable and always rushed to shower before the rest. I came to realize this was only making things more uncomfortable and I had to stop caring about what others might be imagining. We all face an inferiority complex, but the truth is everyone is minding their own business. Just love and appreciate yourself because you are made special.
Molly, 21: People are thinking about (and looking at) you far less than you think. That said, if you’re absolutely uncomfortable with this, have your mother and the teacher work something out.
Nicole, 23: I suggest hypnotherapy or counseling to boost your comfort level with your body.
Taylor, 16: You’re definitely not alone! I would NEVER shower communally! Our shower rooms have been used for storage for years. I didn’t know schools still used them! Take this up with the office. I don’t see how they can force you.
Brandon, 21: I calmly told my gym teacher I would shower after everyone else finished. He protested, but I threatened legal action (bluffed, really) and he let it go. You’re in high school, not prison. You have rights, especially around privacy. Your teacher saying, “you’re all the same” is a cheap shot to the ovaries. If your parents protest, it will probably be solved immediately. If not, go up the chain of command, or call the newspaper. Make sure you cite “anxiety.” Schools MUST accommodate students on grounds of anxiety. Remember, you’re not asking for the world, just a few curtain dividers.
Katelyn, 18: Ask if you can shower at home. Or wear a swimsuit. Or just power through it and learn to be less self-conscious. Note: Many think embarrassment around nudity means discomfort with one’s sexuality, but some people really are just modest.
Ashley, 25: We were never forced to shower at my public high school. So, nobody did. Looking back, we all stunk and it was gross! If you feel that uncomfortable, though, don’t do it. Talk to your mom and the principal. They can’t force you.
Dear Private: You are clearly not alone! Most schools no longer even require showers. But since your school is saying ‘no to b.o.’, I urge you to consider this a sweet-smelling growth opportunity. From what I hear (and experienced myself), everyone is minding their own business during school showers and embarrassment disappears quickly. Pushing through this challenge will help give you comfort in your own skin as well as confidence doing difficult things in the future. If you just can’t, the quietest way out is a letter from your parents exempting you. — Lauren
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