Family legend has it that as a boy of 4 or 5, my wet, naked body might have killed my great-aunt Agnes. This of course, is purely speculation. She was, after all, 88 years old when her heart gave out. But she did have that heart attack almost three weeks to the day after I, fresh out of the shower, gave her a nude performance of the “bunny hop.”
As a child, I loved to be naked. My mother used to let me dry off after a bath by sprinting around the house and yard like a freshly washed greyhound. I remember hot summer nights and the joy of running wet and nude on our newly mowed lawn.
I don’t recall the origin of the bunny hop. I do know it consisted of holding your hands in front of your chest, in rabbit position, while at the same time taking several quick jumps. The jumping movement caused anything not tied down to bounce. You can imagine what a figure I cut, as I executed the dance for my great-aunt. (If you are having trouble conceptualizing, picture a wet, hyperactive, shaved monkey.)
On the Sensitive Side
Agnes was born and raised in rural Canada. She never married and, as far as anyone could remember, never dated. Part of our family lore was that as a young girl Agnes had a medical procedure that (technically) made her no longer a virgin. Supposedly the doctor gave her a document that explained, to any future suitors, that although Agnes’ hymen was no longer intact, she was in fact a virgin; Agnes kept her certificate of virginity handy well into her 80s in case anyone was interested. I remember her vaguely as a quiet, sullen, ancient woman with a mustache.
The family legend continues that after I took my bows and exited, Agnes remained distracted the entire evening. She was inept during the after-dinner hearts game and retired early, claiming a headache.
I don’t think my aunt’s heart attack had anything to do with the ending of my nude dancing career. But I do know that not long after the deadly bunny hop episode, I began dry myself with a bath towel.
Whatever the case, whatever the cause, I’m sad it has ended.
We all would be better off if we could feel comfortable doing a naked bunny hop at the drop of a hat.
Adam and Eve felt shame for their nudity only after they committed their apple-eating sin. Before that, they were in the buff and digging it. I can relate.
In the new-age, sprout-eating crowd in which my bride and I hang, there are occasional incidents of au naturel behavior. It’s mostly confined to saunas, hot tubs, all very private and proper. We are all good friends, having known one another for many years. I don’t feel at all uncomfortable when the garments fly, but I do feel different.
Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that certain parts of our anatomy are off limits to the casual observer. On hot summer afternoons, I might do yard work shirtless and, other than the blinding glare reflected off my pasty skin, no one notices. If my wife were to do the same, then it would stop traffic.
I think it is safe to blame religion.
Be they Puritans, Christians, Jews or Muslims, most religious people preach the wearing of clothes. (Mike Huckabee suggests two layers.) It is this same attitude of modesty that makes us so obsessed with our own and others’ bodies. In many cultures and countries, mixed sexes disrobe without shame or embarrassment. Public baths and nude beaches don’t seem to be any big deal except to the visiting Westerners who come to leer.
Somewhere, sometime ago, some people decided what was proper, and what was immodest, and we bought into it. Whomever those people were, they determined that a naked body was not natural but sexual.
I’m not sure exactly at what age I lost my innocence, or exactly what caused me to lose it. It was probably a combination of my Catholic training and my parents’ sensibilities. But somewhere along the line, like Adam and Eve, I became modest. Gone are the days when I frolicked like a wild creature, comfortable with my native state. Try as I might, even with dear friends, I feel an underlying shyness that prevents me from feeling totally natural when I’m ... well, you know, natural.
Call it modesty, prudence or propriety. I’m most comfortable (and more attractive) when I’m clothed. Maybe there’s still that lingering doubt that the family legend is fact. Certain parts of my anatomy can be deadly to those with weak hearts … or weak stomachs.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On hot summer afternoons, I might do yard work shirtless and, other than the blinding glare reflected off my pasty skin, no one notices. If my wife were to do the same, then it would stop traffic.