On a trip this week-end I was overnighting with old friends (not people with a "clothes-are-optional here" mindset); and over a glass of wine before supper, one of them said, "I feel as though my whole self simply can not be wholly present at the school where I teach." It's a conservative private school; she's a good teacher with many solid years in her field. But her political views, important as they are to her, would not be welcomed in her work-place: so she chooses not to bring them up. But she feels somewhat diminished by the fact, and feels also that the opportunity for a conversation that could be expansive and helpful to her and to her colleagues, both, is not there. And both sides lose something because of the non-conversation.
Nudist readers probably know where this blog is going, don't you.
Yesterday I was mowing my small and largely unfenced yard. It occurred to me that it would be fun to get a picture of myself pushing the lawnmower and to send it to a friend who does spend a lot of time naked himself; I wish thinking of entitling the picture, "Nudist Mows His Lawn". The irony, which my nudist friend would have gotten, is that I was wearing, not just sneakers, but also a t-shirt and jeans; nonetheless, it certainly was a nudist who was pushing the lawnmower: but the nudist was not naked at that moment.
Isn't it the dilemma we all face? Something is so important to us, even defining in large part who we are; but we feel we can't be open about it in the moment that we are in. If I'm honest about my politics, those at work won't like me; if I push my lawnmower across my yard wearing tennis shoes and nothing more, somebody will see me and, worse than that, call the cops! Nevertheless, "my whole self" includes my "self-who-prefers-wearing-nothing"; and when I'm wearing something my whole self is not quite wholly present.
Well: maybe it would be too dangerous to mow the lawn naked in this rural community. But I've heard of it being done elsewhere, if not here. I guess I'm envious of the guy who said, "When I got to be fifty, I didn't care anymore what people thought."
I actually wish I had not cared what people thought when I was twenty-eight, which would have been the time to "out myself as a guy who wears nothing when he can". Then I could have had the last thirty years to "not worry what people thought" — at least about my being naked. If they thought anything.
So I wonder if, the next time I'm in one of these "encounter groups" where everyone is invited to say one or two things they feel important about themselves, I might be able to say, "Well, for one thing, I'm a nudist."
Would it not be wonderful if it led to a moment like the one that Richard Foley described in his blog a couple of days ago: sitting naked in the garden when the post-person came and learning that there was no problem for either of them.
I wonder if I could at least get up the nerve to get one of those t-shirts with the logo, "Naked underneath these clothes" — and wear it when I next mow the lawn. I suppose it wouldn't be as comfortable as I imagine naked lawn-mowing to be.
But it might get a conversation going: one which could be of value to all of us.