Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"What do you mean you swam naked in the Mediterranean broad daylight?!" 

My mom was behind the wheel. The light had turned green. There was a line of cars behind us. She wouldn't take her foot off the brake, and I had no idea her reaction would be so strong to my declaration. 


We'd been lightheartedly discussing my trip to France the summer before, and this particular story fell naturally out of my lips. It was warm. There were a lot of naked people lounging on the beach and swimming in the water. I was in France. I was young. Why not try it? 

When I told her, though, it not only shocked her, but it upset her. Looking back, I think this could have actually been one of those defining moments mothers and daughters have. Those ones where you look at each other and notice something different, something neither of you had seen before, whether it was because you'd covered it up or just hadn't thought it previously warranted attention. But what it boiled down to was that she thought it shameful to prance about on a beach in Provence with my bosom exposed. 

At first, I answered with something young and rash and silly because I still didn't understand it. But I've had a while to think about it. A lot has happened since that conversation. I should have said, "You can only feel shame through the eyes of others. What you have inside you, as long as it is good, as long as you strive every day to be your best self, then shame cannot exist."

To me, being naked feels good. And powerful. And so utterly, incomparably woman. I'm not saying it's easy or that I want to be naked in front of everyone ever that I've ever met, but under the right circumstances and with the right person (or people! Menage, I'm looking at you!), it can be life changing.

In the Mediterranean, as soon as I took off my bathing suit top, I was enamored. I realized how powerful it was, this idea of nudity, the act of being naked, being without clothes, without barriers, without anything other than our skin to hold us in. 

Up until then, my life had been contained in the ideas, beliefs, and customs that my parents had given to me. I wasn't a rebellious child. In fact, I quite enjoyed following the rules. I'd grown up in a small town. I'd attended my first year of college pretty successfully without any major happenings to alter my mindset. This trip to France was a sort of intentional catalyst. I was venturing to a new country for the first time in my life. Ready for adventure. Ready for the new, the unseen, the unfelt. I was still a virgin. No man had ever seen me naked before. In fact, I don't believe I'd ever really seen myself naked.

But as I've said before, going to a new country, to a place where the people's minds and bodies and hearts have traversed a landscape vastly differing from my own led me to a new, unexplored, untouched place inside myself. I was hoping for this when I left. And I certainly got it.

My mother and I argued over my acceptance and love of nudity for a good while. I believed, and still believe, that there is nothing like standing in front of another human being, naked and exposed. You don't have to feel beautiful or confident or natural. All you have is the small offering, the tiny thing inside you that says, "This is who I am." 

Some men (or women, for all those gentlemen readers! do we have gentleman readers? i hope we do!) will laugh at your offering, will mock it, will avert their eyes because they don't understand what you have given. They don't know how to look at you without flinching. That's okay. Those aren't the important people. It's the ones that see you naked, see you standing there shivering and drooping and wrinkling and worrying about breasts that are too small or too big and breathing much too fast because you have all this fear and hunger and hope racing through you at once, but the most you can do is stand still and let him look. And when he does, he smiles. He holds his arms out to you. He kisses your trembling hands, kisses your breasts that aren't the right size, kisses your scar from bearing his children. He doesn't flinch or look away.

No, instead, he's before you as well. He's breathing just as fast. 
You are naked, and it is beautiful.

So today, as a writer, as a woman, as a lover, as a human, I say to you, my lovelies, 
let yourself be naked.


Lily said...

Edith, what an absolutely lovely post. So honest and insightful.

I too adore France. It was the first place I stripped off on a beach with a bunch of mates and splashed into the water, I remember we were all laughing and excited by our daring, we must have been quite a spectacle!

My mother didn't have quite the same reaction as yours when I told her, purely because she had done the same thing herself on several occasions!

Love the pictures you sourced, and yes, I hope we have gentlemen readers too :-)

Lily x

SusieJ said...

A touching and beautiful post Edith. Hugs xx

Edith DuBois said...

Lily - there really is nothing like running around naked in France, is there? Thank you for your sweet words! <3

SusieJ - thank you so much!!! HUGS FOREVER! <3