Written in response to Michelle Toussaint’s thought-provoking post.
In the land of the naked, the clothed human is a freak.
The opening paragraph of this post took me back to a time, perhaps twenty years ago, at Glastonbury festival. It was a sweltering summer, and no amount of hastily smeared wetwipes could make me feel clean. I decided to brave the communal showers, which, short of squatting naked beneath a standpipe in the corner of a field, were all that was available in those days. I walked into the shower tent, and found myself at the back of a queue of men and women of all ages. Those immediately in front of me were hastily removing their clothing, while the people ahead of them appeared relaxed in their nakedness. The act of disrobing was uncomfortable. I felt shy, embarrassed, ashamed to expose the scars from forty-odd years of living; if I had been younger I would have been ashamed of the tiny flaws of youth.
The strange thing was, as soon as my clothes were off, I relaxed. Shedding my garments made me feel empowered. I became at ease with all of those strangers. My self-esteem got a lift; I felt as if after all, I was not so different, perhaps I was even the equal of others. We all had the same aim, to wash off the dirt – there was no other agenda. They weren’t checking out my quivering bits any more than I was checking out theirs. If any of us happened to notice the celulite or unsightly mark on the body of another, we accepted it as part of their being. No negatives judgements were made. If I learnt anything that day, it was that we are all physically imperfect – except for the georgeous, long-legged, fine featured young Affro-Caribbean woman with a ring in each perfect nipple; there was bound to be an exception to the rule. She and I showered side by side, chatting like two people standing at a bus stop, and she told me all about her college course.
Michelle doesn’t ask us whether we would prance naked in Piccadilly Circus, but if we would be prepared to share our darkest secrets with others; to rip open the envelope kept in a hidden compartment beneath all the important documents, where we hope it will never be found, and throw the ignominous contents to the eager throngs. I consider myself to be unusually open about my past, and the weaknesses which currently beset me, but even I cling precariously to a little dignity. There are snippets about myself which I wouldn’t be prepared to share. I say that not with pride, but with a degree of mortification, because I believe that if we were all entirely honest about ourselves, it would be a little like standing naked in the shower tent at Glastonbury Festival. There may be more love and less judgement in the world. None of us could pretend to have the right to cast the first stone, except perhaps the beautiful Affro-Caribbean Goddess, but I don’t think she would wish to bring herself down to that level.
While this is a little simplistic, and doesn’t take into account the psychopaths of the world, I think there is something to be said for it. Am I being naïve? I’d love some feedback on this subject.
If the only way that I can respond to a post is by writing my own post, with a link to the post which interests me, then so be it. Maybe I’ll keep doing this until I sort out my technical difficulty – ie. my comments disappear from your blog when I click Send.
©Jane Paterson Basil