Behold, the Speedo…
Last year, as Bill and I were transitioning back into life in Germany, one of the women in the local Facebook group brought up the issue of swimming at public pools in France. She and her husband had encountered what seemed like a strange rule at the swimming pool they visited in France. Like many American men, this lady’s husband prefers to wear board shorts or trunks when he goes swimming. However, if you go to a pool in France and you are a guy, chances are good that you will be required to wear what they call a maillot. Maillot is the French term for swimsuit. Great, you say– trunks are swimsuits, right? Wrong.
Many public pools in France do not allow men to wear board shorts or trunks because they could be worn out on the street. If you wear your shorts as streetwear and then jump in the pool, you risk contaminating the water with dirt, sweat, oil, sunblock or what have you. So the close fitting maillot, which is typically available for rent if you don’t have one of your own, is required for hygiene purposes. Now, that’s all well and good, except for the fact that wearing a used maillot still damp from the previous customer doesn’t seem all that hygienic either. Besides, while you’re really not supposed to pee in the pool, lots of people do it anyway. So much for hygiene.
Public pools in France also typically require swimmers to wear swim caps in order to prevent long hair from getting in the water. Even bald men are required to comply with this rule, though curiously enough, it’s okay for people with beards to swim. And lest you think women have an easier time with public swimming pool rules, I have it on good authority that women are also required to wear a bikini or an athletic style bathing suit. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you need to be wearing Speedos due to your physique. It’s all about hygiene. If you try to enter the water with your more modest swimming trunks, you are liable to be yelled at by a lifeguard and forced to change. You will also need to take a shower with soap before you take your dip in a French pool.
Most men can’t rock a Speedo like the Hoff could back in the day…
Here in Germany, trunks and board shorts in public pools appear to be okay, unless you are headed to the sauna or textile free area. At that point, you are required to be naked. Nudity is not a big deal in Germany; in fact, there are a number of places where it’s perfectly acceptable to be naked in public. Personally, I find the idea of public nudity kind of titillating, even though I don’t necessarily want people to see me naked.
Bill, on the other hand, is way too bashful to even consider the idea of being nude in front of strangers. It was a struggle to get him to go skinny dipping with me when we had a pool in our backyard. Once he did it, he enjoyed it. But it took a lot of doing to get him to try it. I am pretty certain he will never don a Speedo, no matter how inviting the pool looks or how much I plead with him.
We have been toying with the idea of visiting Baden-Baden, which is close to where we live. There are beautiful spas in that town. However, if you visit the historic Roman Baths at Friedrichsbad, you have to be naked. Aside from that, the baths are also co-ed except on certain days. It’s something I would love to try because I love spas. At the same time, I’m still an American and being nude in front of people other than Bill makes me uncomfortable. I suspect my discomfort with the idea of my being nude in front of others has more to do with my not wanting other people to judge my body. Of course, if everybody’s naked, everybody runs the risk of being judged… and from what I’ve heard from locals, most folks just plain don’t care what your naked body looks like.
If I ever do manage to get Bill to do a nude bath at Friedrichsbad, my guess is that getting him into a Speedo might be a lot easier. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of wearing a bathing cap, so we may have to stick to beaches if we go swimming in France.
Here’s Rick Steves’ take on Baden-Baden, which includes a trip to the famous nude baths…