C’mon, don’t pretend you’ve never heard of it.
To be honest, I am surprised that #NationalNudistDay hasn’t been a bigger phenomenon. Not that some of us need much encouragement. On Twitter, it seems, everyday is a good day to be without clothes . It is far more common though for the majority of us to be only ever naked in either an intimate or an institutional setting. Being naked for other reasons is unusual and often highly provocative. We rarely challenge this convention for fear that being naked must be either shameful or sexual.
Society’s attitude to public nudity varies hugely depending on the culture, time, location, and context of the activity. Since 1992 it has been legal in New York, for example, for a woman to go topless in public, while in Arkansas it is illegal to expose private parts to anyone other than a doctor, nurse, or spouse. Fines vary but a conviction could require registering as a sex offender.
Recently ten Western backpackers attracted global news attention after stripping off on the summit of Mount Kinabalu, in Borneo. Four of the group were fined after pleading guilty to ‘obscene acts’ and spent time in jail. It is believed by the local people of Sabah that this striptease caused disrespect to the sacred mountain and started an earthquake.
Public nudity it seems is a minefield of earth-shattering confusion and contradiction.
Getting your kit off though, often also has the capacity to be utterly hilarious. What pool party hasn’t enjoyed cheering applause when, without warning, some guy whips off his cacks and dive-bombs into the water? And what rainy sports tour weekend hasn’t been made a little less grey by a spot of streaking, or a ladies game played shirts versus skins?
Yup, other people’s nudity is often jolly good fun.
Our own nudity, however, is something entirely different. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that there are many circumstances in which I would happily effectuate my own death rather than suffer the indignity of being seen without my clothes. My earliest recollection of being self-aware and embarrassed by my own nudity was when I was about six or seven years old. Puberty was still many years away but I was already firmly of the opinion that being naked was not natural and certainly not fun. I had just got out of the bath to discover that there were no clean towels to hand. My mother told me to just hop into the bedroom and pop my dressing gown on instead. I stared at her wide-eyed, tears welling. Just hop across the landing? Topless? Are you mad?
Mercifully, I made the three metre dash across the landing without being seen, and have suffered no lasting psychological damage (that I’m aware of). There must be many genius moments from my childhood which have been long forgotten but this silly moment of melodrama sticks. I have no idea from where, or why, this self-awareness crept up on me. One day I was happily running round the garden starkers and the next I needed a bath towel to shield my modesty.
In telling this I have remembered another contrasting moment après bathing, oddly also commencing with the lack of a bath towel. I recall myself and my sister dancing naked in front of the lounge fire in order to dry ourselves. This time though, being younger, our nudity was joyous, and especially so as the television was on and there was a definite possibility that the presenters could see our tiny bodies moving and grooving in the rudey nudey. We found it hilarious.
What a shame we can’t remain gloriously uninhibited in this way forever.
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