Christmas Advent #13: Nudity

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.

What?

Yeah, Dad.

Never?

Never.

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.

What?

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.

I’m serious.

You never showered at the high school?

Never.

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.

Just kidding.

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. 

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Christmas Advent #13: Nudity

  1. I’ve always showered naked (I should end my sentence there–it’s kind of funny) with other girls in high school. So not a big deal. But my daughter would FREAK if she ever had to do that, so I just think it’s a case of your environment or how and where you grew up. Not weird at all.

    But, dude. In college, a couple of my girlfriends came home with me to Hawaii over the summer and one day at the beach we decided to go skinny dipping. Broad daylight, we took our suits off while in the water. No one could see anything through the water a few feet away, let alone from shore. But holy cow, I’ve never felt so free in my life. Physically and emotionally. Haha. I think there is something liberating to swimming naked.

    And I totally walk around in my underwear at home. Don’t judge me. 🙂

    Also, you’ve read a part of my novel. My girl MC has no problem being naked in the shower in front of girls. Or boys. 🙂

    • So how is your daughter growing up differently than you? Especially since you walk around in your underwear (which I’m fine with, no judgment here) and felt completely open when you were her age. Is it the community? Her friends? Not being in that environment as much?

      One time my friends and i rode our bikes around at midnight with our shirts off. It was CRAZY! Of course we still has our bras on and it was pitch black outside but it did feel oddly freeing. And dangerous.

      What about later in the book, when things changed for your MC. Wouldn’t she have some inhibitions?

      • I think the fact that she was homeschooled up until last year has something to do with it, lol. But in my HS we HAD to shower after PE…no sponge baths allowed. I think we just got used to it.

        You’re totally right about my MC…later in the book someone does try to shower with her and she flips out.

        I really like this exercise. I’ve been thinking about all my characters and how they would feel being semi-publicly naked. All so different for various reasons.

  2. Oh Ann Dee. I am so sorry for you that you haven’t swam naked with anyone. I make a point to skinny dip at least one time a year. It’s best if you’re at a lake, so I usually reserve our annual Lake Tahoe trip for that. I’ve done it during the day, but it’s best at night under the stars.

    I try to teach my girls that it’s okay to dress in front of other people. When we are in the locker room at the pool, I won’t hold a towel up for them. I say, “What’s the big deal, we’re all girls here.” I don’t want them to be ashamed or feel embarrassed of their bodies.

    Also, when I was in college, I saw one of my friends in the locker room at the pool. I had a towel wrapped around my hair and that was all, because–you know–I was in a LOCKER ROOM AT A POOL. I went over and talked to her for a while. I found out later, I was the first person she’d ever seen naked. EVER. And she was totally freaked out. And I was just standing in front of her naked talking about the weather or something like it was no big deal.

    I think it’s interesting how people grow up differently about this. I’m not sure about my MC. I’ll have to think about that. I think she would be okay with it, but she doesn’t really have the opportunity. Maybe I should give her the opportunity. Hmm.

    • I think every character deserves a good naked scene. If you need any help writing one… 🙂

    • I think it’s so important to teach your girls to comfortable with their bodies. I was NOT comfortable with my body at all growing up. At all. Swimming about killed me.

      Also, I may have swam a tiny bit naked at lake powell once because a bunch of girls were doing but I only did it for a few seconds because I was scared out of my mind. I may have to take up skinny dipping in my old age.

      And one last thing, I have a friend who is totally comfortable with being naked and once she and her roommate decided to play a prank on another roommate and just walked into her room completely naked and asked her a normal whatever question. The girl was traumatized and couldn’t speak to them for weeks. So interesting how different we all about it.

      And I agree with Ilima. It’s always good to have a little nakedness here and there.

  3. Estee

    When I was in about seventh grade, our PE teacher announced that we were all required to shower and towels would no longer be allowed in the showers with us: ie no more sponge baths. I thought I would DIE. It was seriously gut wrenchingly horrible. That was after my mom died, and there was no way I was going to bring THAT issue up with my dad (who I’d never seen in his pajamas let alone underwear). I spent a night in agonizing fear. The next day the teacher announced that due to the overwhelming response of the other girls’ mothers, we would be allowed to keep our towels. Phew. I think it’s totally the environment a person’s raised in: not only in their own home, but the type of community they grow up in.

    My mc does have to change her clothes a couple of times in front of another girl, and it’s not a big deal to her. She’s much more confident than me.

    • I would die too if a PE teacher even talked about it. I just wouldn’t have showered or something. I remember boys being required to shower and some of my friends would just go to the sinks and get their hair wet so the teacher would think they’d showered.

  4. In high school my best friends and I would drive out in the country, trespass on this property with a small, but perfect pond, and skinny dip. It was so freeing, floating in the water, not worrying about what was above or below the water line, enjoying the water lapping against us, and staring at the stars above (all the while making sure the outside lights didn’t come on at the house not too far from us). My mind is turning with how to write some nude scenes for my MC. She wears a bowling jacket all the time like it’s a shield, so getting her into nothing-I think it’s just what she needs. Also Ilima’s right-every book should have a little bit.

    I grew up in a home where it was totally normal to walk in on my mom in the bath tub to ask her an important question (like do you know where my homework is?) and dribble water into her belly button. Yup.

  5. i wonder if it has most to do with self confidence and less to do with environment? or probably both. growing up, my home environment was super comfortable with nakedness. however, i was extremely insecure about my body and not confident in general, so being naked in front of other girls terrified me. some girls at school did shower in front of everyone, but it wasn’t required, so not many.

    i have never loved my body, so being naked in front of any women besides my immediate family (mom, sisters, daughters) or doctors (who are in another category and don’t bother me at all) is something i avoid completely. i can change clothes in front of other women, but not be completely naked. i wonder if it would change if i were super fit and loved what i looked like?

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