How your comfort zone with nudity can affect your self-image, and your children’s
I did not grow up in a naked house. When I was a kid, doors were closed while we showered and sandwiches were made while we were wearing pants. The body was not frowned upon; it was simply private. I continue to be somewhat ambivalent about being nude. I enjoy, for example, unclothed post-shower strolls around my apartment, and I love to strip down on the rare occasions when I have access to a steam room. But the limits of my affection for nudity were tested by a recent relationship with a very hairy man who liked to take his clothes off, and keep them off — even while doing mundane things like cryptic-crossword puzzles.
I tried to play it cool but quietly cringed every time he sat down on my off-white armchair.
People grow up experiencing varying degrees of nudity, of course. Supermodel Heidi Klum recently revealed that she was raised in a house with often (and proudly) naked parents, and chanteuse Christina Aguilera and her former husband once raved about spending Sundays in the buff. And a new reality-television show, Nak’d Truth, just auditioned prospective cast members who were willing to live together at a “clothing-optional” oceanside resort in Florida.
For Kelly Flynn, one of the best things about growing up in a rural area with few visible neighbours was the opportunity to strip down and run free. Kelly, a 39-year-old humanitarian-relief worker and mother of two who lives in Comox, B.C., had parents who weren’t crazy about closed doors and drawn curtains. The bliss of those early years was broken when she started school. “My mother sat me and my twin sister down and said, ‘Girls, you’re going to be starting kindergarten, and this is what it is — and by the way, keep your clothes on all day.’”
While Kelly was becoming acquainted with society’s hang-ups about nudity, her mother continued her ambivalence toward being dressed. She often gardened in a loose sundress (with nothing underneath) or even ditched clothing altogether. When Kelly brought friends or boyfriends home, she would have to do some initial scouting. “There was an island in our kitchen, and if I came home with my boyfriend and she didn’t come out from behind the island, I knew she was naked from the waist down,” says Kelly. “It was my cue to remove us so she could go off and get dressed.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Beth Palmer, a 27-year-old graduate student at York University in Toronto, who says that she grew up in a household where nudity was not the norm. “I’m a WASP,” she explains. “We are into clothes and not talking about feelings.” In addition to the practical advantages of clothing — Beth grew up in a limestone house built in the early 19th century that she describes as “drafty” — she just finds being dressed more comfortable. “I don’t like sitting on things naked,” says Beth. (Amen, sister.)
While Beth’s attitude toward nudity is tantamount to a shrug, Stef Hurst, 30, takes her distaste for it a little further. While her parents were completely comfortable being seen naked, Stef, a teacher in Ontario, says that she is “never nude” — even in the company of her husband. “When we’re having sex, I’ll be naked, but I’ll put clothes on as soon as we’re done,” she says. When Stef showers, she puts on her bathrobe and underwear before she starts drying her hair. She doesn’t think that her preference for clothes has any deeper meaning. “I’m comfortable with my body,” she says. “I just feel more comfortable with layers against my skin.”
Original publication 8 March, 2011
Posted on NatCorn 25th October 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.