I always wanted my husband to bathe with the kids. There is something so warm and basic, and yes, innocent about family bathing. My European friends agree, my American friends have their fingers poised to dial the number for Child Services.
The first time I went to a community pool, and saw a topless frau, I wanted to tactfully point out her error, and take her drink away. There were babies splashing around in plain sight for heaven's sake! I held this view because I was born and raised in the United States of America. Land of the free and home is the only place where people should remove clothing.
Germany has an entire movement of undress. It is called FKK. Frei Korper Kultur. Translation: Free Body Culture. Second translation:You are about to see a whole lot of people sunning, running, eating, and playing sports without protection from the elements or gravity. The public FKK areas are marked with a sign, but not cordoned off with nine foot fences and guard dogs as found in America. Most of the naked men make me long for the donning of speedos, and the women help foster a better body image for us all. All the firm and perfectly smooth bodies lie on another beach somewhere else, likely with swimsuits on.
Germans also have naked running and hiking clubs. I did not need to join any of these clubs to see half the penises and all of the bums, in every triathlon I entered. Well, not the fast people, they were way ahead of me. Which is a shame really, as they were likely to have bodies that I may have wanted to have a look at. My 16 year old niece was visiting two summers ago. She came to cheer me at my first Olympic distance tri. I neglected to mention to her that German men and women have no qualms about getting stitchless in front of complete strangers. Many racers were using the outside showers at the lake to get a sudsy and very thorough cleansing. Thanks be to God that the nozzles were not the removable kind. As it was, we had to use soft words and lay her down in a quiet room before her nervous tic disappeared. She still mumbles "I didn't see anything, I didn't see anything..." every time the name of the town is mentioned.
Visiting the states one year, I found my first and third grade daughters waiting to go to the pool with just their swim bottoms on. I informed them that they had to put the tops on as well. "Why?" they asked, ready to dive in. Um.. I don't really know, people are weird about that here. I had changed. I no longer covered my child's eyes when a billboard showing a bare-breasted woman hawking perfume filled the parking garage. I carried on conversations, and shook hands with fellow lake campers who did not realize what the motion of scrubbing looks like while naked. Never a prude, I was no longer even very inhibited.
The saunas here in Germany are all skin only. One would be scorned as a freak to pour water over those hot coals wearing anything but rings and tats. I can't give you a first hand account of this scene, however. As a recovering germ-a-phob, the idea of skin and hair cells originating from dark places and floating over into my personal space on a steamy cloud of humid air, with no spandex barrier to protect me, is too much even for the recovering part of me.
This difference in attitude between the states and Europe, is not contained to leisure activities. Going to the OB/GYN in America, means being escorted into a private room by a female nurse. She hands you a hygienic robe and discreetly exits. The doctor then knocks the secret three-raps-knock, meaning "I am coming in now, hope that robe is on good and tight." She respectfully slides the upper portion of the robe down to examine the top lady bits, replaces, examines the rest, leaves, and proceeds to wait until you dress before having a conversation with you. There is your problem with health care costs right there! My lady doctor in Germany does not offer me a robe. He looks where he is supposed to be looking, and I have to answer questions while being examined. I am there for ten minutes. Sensible and efficient. Save the ceremony for the tea house.
I never did launch family bathing in our house. Now it is too late. Both of my daughters scream if someone enters the room and they are not fully clothed. My son is an exhibitionist, but that is just him being a six year old boy. Perhaps they will one day return to Germany to enjoy a naked sled ride with their true loves. I may try the sauna before I leave. I would take photos for you, reader, but there would be no place to conceal a hidden camera.
Caution, the following links containg nudity.