Why taking your clothes off doesn’t always mean being vulnerable.
I’ve never seen being naked as that big of a deal. I do not feel an iota of vulnerability being naked. My body is as it is. Some days I like it better than others. I always hate my stretch marks from steroids I require for my asthma as well as adrenal insufficiency or scars I have from surgeries, but it’s not like I can do anything about that. I try not to over-think that which isn’t in my control.
No, I’m not a part of a naturalist movement. I would probably be OK being one of those nude models for an art school or participating in one of those body love campaigns. Not because I am anywhere close to having what would be considered a perfect body, but because I’m comfortable enough. I’m not about to go posting on Instagram trying to free my female nipple. I understand that there is a huge importance behind that movement especially with women and public breastfeeding. I understand that it’s strange that one body part is societally taboo for one gender and not for the other. It’s strange that a man could have his shirt off and it wouldn’t change a movie’s MPAA rating. I may be considered a free spirit. I was one of those children who peeled off their clothes as soon as I got home from school and loved to run through the sprinkler in my underwear. I was also in theatre and pageants growing up so mastering the quick change was a must. You couldn’t be concerned with who was around because you needed to get back out there on the stage.
When you’ve spent your entire life dealing with various health issues, many people will see you in some state of undress. It’s gotten to the point where if I have a large bruise on my leg that needs to be checked out, I’ll just pull my pants off versus layer up with a gown and blankets. If you are a close friend of mine, there is a good chance that you’ve seen me in some state of undress especially if you’ve been around me while I’ve been ill.
I had a hospital stay last year while I was out of town. I was extremely sick and needed someone to be with me to make sure I was properly taken care of. You’d be surprised how many hours it takes to get medication deemed as “emergent and necessary”.
One of my best guy friends stepped up to the task and upon him fell a series of probably odd scenarios. I had to get a couple of lung scans which required the removal of my nipple piercing jewelry, which my friend carried around in a container because they are expensive and he wanted to make sure I didn’t lose them. I bet he never thought that would be on his plan list for the day.
To break the tension of how stressful the ER was, we’d scope out medical students who had “dating potential”. My friend picked out one for me – “that could be your next boyfriend, or well… you guys could go on a few dates before you realize that you deserve better. He has great hair, though!”
(He did have great hair!)
Shortly following, a female nurse came in to do an EKG which requires leads to be placed all across your chest. She wanted to get the task completed as soon as possible, ignored that my friend was in the room, and made no effort to keep any form of modesty for me. I had no bra on. I was fully exposed. Unfortunately, I’m used to this. Plenty of medical staff has seen more of me than I’d generally prefer because they don’t often care to try to keep me remotely covered even though they could. You adapt. You learn to let it not bother you so much.
My friend sat in the corner with his head turned trying to retain modesty on my behalf. My shirt was all the way pulled up. Right at that moment, that medical student walked in to ask questions. He initially didn’t quite notice the toplessness, but then he did and couldn’t look away (I would probably have troubles looking away too – they’re just there). Then my friend realized the medical student was awkwardly trying not to look at my tits and started chuckling in the corner. I began to laugh and I really needed to remain still for this test but ended up in a coughing jag due to the bizarreness of the entire situation and having bronchitis. I’ve had another friend be in a hospital room with me when a chest x-ray of me was displayed. It showed a lot more than he bargained for and he broke the weird moment with, “Huh, so that’s what you look like without a shirt on.” It was pretty much perfect.
In conversations with friends the topic of dating and sexuality comes up because when isn’t that a hot topic?
I always find it unique when people gauge their comfortableness with another human being with, “But would you let them see you naked?” This is a bad gauge for me. This should probably never be my gauge of any kind for dating. If someone says they would only be comfortable around the man or woman they are dating with the lights out, I immediately realize that my view of the world has been undeniably altered by my life experiences in the hospital.
Here’s the thing though, naked is just one form of vulnerability. Here are things that would get me:
“Sami, would you let the person you are dating know you are experiencing extreme pain or would you fake being fine?” Ouch (literally and for me to think about).
“Sami, would you minimize your health issues because that would be too real for you to explain?” Yes, and I have. Being sick is my naked. Sometimes I’m even afraid people I’m going out with will read things I’ve written about being sick and to me that would be like someone finding naked pictures.
Maybe it’s time we start questioning ourselves honestly to find what our point of “nakedness” is. If we are always dancing around things that are more important to us than whether someone has seen us with our clothes on or not, will we ever allow ourselves to be fully vulnerable or fully “naked” to someone else? If you can never talk about how you have a bad relationship with your parents after dating someone for months, does it really matter that your significant other has seen you in your birthday suit? We can spend a given amount of time hiding behind clothes. How long can we hide behind personas and expect positive results or healthy relationships?
Photo: Flickr/Peter Alfred Hess