I always found amusing that episode of Sex & The City where Charlotte was traumatized at the thought of being getting naked in the steam room at her gym. Unable to drop her towel, she flees the room, crying, “I didn’t grow up in a naked house!”
Charlotte, girl: I feel your pain. I definitely didn’t grow up in a naked house. In general, black families don't play that. But I don't think it's just a racial thing. America is not a naked country. Nekkid ladies at the gym and nudist colonies notwithstanding, we Americans like our genitalia nice and covered, thank you very much.
So it’s a little weird to me that running around naked is very much part of my children’s culture.
As you know, I am married to a German. As far as I can tell, most Germans grow up in a naked house. Go to any beach, lake, river, pond, canal, pool or water fountain in Germany, prepare to throw your hands over your eyes. You'll see far more bouncing, jiggling naked flesh than you ever cared to see. Naked people fishing. Waving from boats. Taking a stroll along a shore. Gardening (I swear, I've seen it). And you're not even safe if people wear bathing suits, because when they decide to change into their regular clothes, off the bathing suits go without so much as a discrete towel in place.
I’m kind of used to Rampant German Nakedness now, but this wasn’t always the case. I got my first taste of it about 12 years ago, when my husband Dawg (back then, my new boyfriend) and I traveled from New York to Germany for the baptism of my husband’s Godson.
Now, “nakedness” and “baptism” aren’t really two concepts that go hand-in-hand. For example, you wouldn’t think to yourself: “Oh, I really have to get in shape for this baptism because we might end up naked afterwards.” Right? But that’s what happened.
Oh, I didn’t get naked. But after the baptism and a lovely, graceful lunch, we went for a walk in the woods, came upon a lake, and the next thing I knew every single one of my new boyfriend’s friends, male and female, were stripping off their clothes and frolicking about, buck naked, in the water. I remember sitting on a nearby log, dazed, wearing the red and white silk dress I had bought for the occasion, feeling ridiculously overdressed. I didn’t know where to look, especially when various naked friends came up to me, dripping wet, asking didn’t I want to join in? (I couldn't really look any of them in the eye for days after. A case of knowing too much, too soon.)
Mercifully, Dawg did not abandon me to frolic with his friends, but sat with me on the log. I can’t remember the exact words of our conversation, but I vaguely recall a hastily whispered explanation of the significance of FreiKörperKultur (Free Body Culture) and the assurance that I didn’t need to participate.
And now my kids are a part of this. Every time we get near the smallest body water, my boys start stripping. Actually, they don’t even wait for water. Even just running around the house, they prefer to be “free.” My husband doesn’t bat an eye at this and I know that many little kids like to shun clothes, so I try to be cool. But give me time and eventually you’ll see me sprinting after them, brandishing a pair of underwear. I know it’s all innocent and silly for me to care, but in the end, this part of my culture appears to be deeply engrained in me. I’m just not that comfortable with having a naked house.
I think I’m fighting a losing battle, though. We spent the last week in Corsica, and my kids never wore clothes when they didn’t have to. At one point we were on the beach when, apropos of nothing, my oldest boy stopped playing in the sand and proclaimed dramatically, “ I NEVER want to wear a bathing suit!”
Oh boy. Think I'll have some 'splaining to do when we're at the beach in the U.S. this summer.
* Full disclosure: I did go topless on a Greek beach once on my honeymoon. To be honest, it was kinda of nice!