I have a long story to introduce this activity that I just want to get off my chest. No one has to read it. Just scroll down to the bold for the exercise. You won’t be missing anything.
Here it is: The other night I was telling my dad about how my sister was telling me about a book she was reading about JFK. Are you still with me? My sister had told me that in the book it detailed how JFK would swim naked every day at lunch time and if you wanted to talk to him about anything ANYTHING you had to swim naked too.
I said to my dad that I thought this was outrageous. What if a matter of national security came up at 12:30? Would I have to strip down and get in the pool with the president just to let him know?
My dad said that I would probably never have that problem and while he was right, it still made me mad. Just one more hurdle to get things done in Washington.
So then the discussion moved to something we talk about a lot in my family: my dad’s naked swims at Stanford University. When my dad was a graduate student forty some years ago, he used to go swimming nude with the male faculty at the university pool. All (well not all, but many) male graduate students did it. Everyone just swimming around naked, no big deal.
I said to him, something I’ve said many times, why?
he said, why is that so weird? We just were swimming laps. Who cares?
And I was like, are you kidding me?
Then he told me that some world famous scientists, forgive me for forgetting their names, were at a conference at Stanford and during lunch, three of them went swimming naked in the pool and while they were resting on the deck, they solved one of the most important equations of modern science or something.
This disturbed me. It also made me think maybe I should swim around naked before I write.
Anyway, so then he said, I still don’t get what the big deal is.
So then I told him that I had never even showered naked in front of other girls. Let alone swam.
He sat there, a piece of salad hanging out of his mouth. Then he said, what about after your basketball practices? (I used to have them before school).
Nope, I said. We would all sponge bathe, huddled in corners.
Yeah, I said. All of us except Mary Huang who to this day is someone I will always admire for her guts and her confidence.
He stared at me. You’re not serious.
You never showered at the high school?
So since this conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about being naked. Specifically being naked around members of the same sex. This is NOT a sexual post at all, it’s a body post. It’s a skin post. It’s a cottage cheese embarrassment post? A modesty post? An insecurity post? Was I normal? Is that normal? Is that what everyone did? What would I do today?
Also, I don’t think all men are completely comfortable nude around their peers. Are they?
There are so many questions.
But the writing exercise.
Write about swimming naked with JFK.
Write about what your main character (male or female) would do if they had to be naked in a semi-public way (locker room, dressing room with friends, swimming in a lake, etc. ). Are they embarrassed? Are their friends embarrassed? Is it normal?
What about at home? Do their parents walk around in their underwear? Do they shower even in their swimsuit? What is the body culture of their house.
This is a big issue, especially with teens. Get to know your main characters, and your supporting ones, with a few naked scenes.