Some years ago I ran a workshop in a hotel somewhere in rural Germany.  All the workshop participants were local and went home each evening leaving me to my own devises.  The hotel had a health spa with an exercise room full of treadmills and those bicycles that don’t go anywhere, a swimming pool, steam room and sauna.

On the first evening, after a walk round the village – which appeared to be deserted – I decided to have a swim in the pool.  I was surprised to have the pool to myself and swam up and down wondering if I was the only person staying in the hotel.  I even started to wonder if I was the only person in the whole of Germany! 

After my swim, Miss Hap appeared and suggested that I’d enjoy a visit to the sauna.  I opened the pine door and stepped inside.  There, to my astonishment were eight women, completely naked, basking in the heat.  Some were lying on the wooden slats, others were sitting and one was standing adding more water to the coals with a long-handled ladle.  Inevitably, the women were different shapes and sizes – most were, shall we say, matronly – and all were very bronzed and well endowed.  Not a bustenhalter in sight!

As I entered the sauna they looked at me, standing there in my swimming trunks.  Their gaze was alarmingly calm and dispassionate.  They made no move to cover themselves up.   My first thought was that I must be in the wrong sauna.  Perhaps I had failed to see a sign on the door saying, ‘Women only’.  Or perhaps, unbeknown to me, the hotel operated some sort of segregation system where women had free run of the sauna for an hour or so before it was the men’s turn.

The women, however, resumed their conversations in German as if nothing untoward had happened.  I sat down trying to look nonchalant – as if being the only man in a sauna full of brazen, utterly naked, women was an everyday occurrence.

My second thought was that I was obviously improperly dressed; I was the only person in the sauna to have anything on!  I considered what to do.  Should I mutter an apology and stand up and remove my swimming trunks?  But might such a display lead to disparaging remarks or, worse still, ridicule?  My self-esteem was on the line.  Or might it be best to sit it out and pretend not to have noticed that everyone else had nothing on?

I sat there, cursing Miss Hap and pondering my options. As the minutes passed, I realised that I had gone past the point where removing my trunks would seem an unremarkable ‘natural’ act.  Had I done it immediately, I might have stood a chance of melting into the background (in the circumstances, a place I longed to be!).  But too much time had elapsed.  To stand up now and do a striptease would seem oddly calculated – a sort of full-monty performance without the drum roll.

So, guess what I did?  Yes, that’s right, I was a coward; I sat there in my trunks for what I hoped would seem a decent period before leaving. The plunge pool had never been more welcoming.

On subsequent visits to the sauna, I can assure you I was properly dressed!

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