The first time I really thought about nakedness, about my own naked body in particular, about the fact that animals were always naked, and people almost never were, I was in my neighbor's swimming pool. I was around 8 and the older kids had gone to get snacks and dry towels. The adults were doing adult things. I was the only person in a 50-foot-long blue basin filled with 80-degree water. I slipped off my shoulder straps and suddenly rolled down my suit, caught it with my toe and flipped it onto the cement edge of the pool. I did the breaststroke for one lap and my own myopic, lifted-head crawl for another. For however long it takes three kids to make bologna sandwiches and find beach towels, I was in a new world, like the first man on the moon, had Neil Armstrong been given to giggling.
No one had mentioned this world to me. I went from pajamas to underwear to clothes every morning and back the other way every night. And somehow no one had said anything to me about what a good time was to be had between pajamas and underwear. After my Saturday of Nakedness, you might think there'd have been no stopping me. There was plenty stopping me: my parents, both of whom appeared, even in my dreams, fully clothed; school; boys; cold weather. But when I could, I'd lie under our willow tree, shielded by its long green curtain, and read P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Parker in nothing but my socks. Naked and laughing.
Middle age has not improved my appearance (I know there are women who turn 50 and become superbly fit, entering marathons and climbing Mount McKinley; I am not one of them), but it hasn't cost me much, either. I still tend to think, as a friend of mine once said, if I'm naked and smiling, I figure he's a lucky man. At this stage, the body's like a face: It tells the story of who you are and how you feel about it. And I would say to any man or woman, if you find yourself getting naked with someone who says anything uncomplimentary (or even neutral—who the hell wants neutral at a time like this?) about you and your parts, get up, put on your clothes, and go home. Of course he's only kidding; sure, she's just making an observation. No and no. In fact, if they don't make you feel beautiful, go home.
Best Naked Saturday Since I Was 8: The man I love is standing in front of me, in our bedroom. He's not naked; he's actually more than naked: He's wearing an undershirt, a very wide, white, and necessary mesh-and-Velcro lumbar support wrap, and the navy blue socks that are usually hidden by his suit trousers. His boxers are off because he's coming to bed; his undershirt and socks are on because his terrible back pain makes both the reaching up and the bending over difficult. He looks at himself in the mirror and laughs out loud. He puts his black fedora on his head and models the whole look for me.
Naked and laughing. Can't beat it.
Amy Bloom is the author of
Away (Random House).
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