“Sir, I need you to step out of the water.”
Nope. Nuh-uh. Not a chance. I didn’t care if it was a cop trying to remove me from the lake.
Middle of August, with its ridiculous heat and enough humidity to make it feel as if I were trying to breathe through a wet blanket.
Even way past midnight, the only relief came because the sun finally burned out and went to sleep. It didn’t help much. I still felt as if the blazing ball had left me smoldering in its embers.
I just happened to drive past a lake, and I steered my truck down a small road until I found the water. I found a public swimming place, complete with a wooden dock floating in the middle, but it was so late I was the only one there.
I kicked off my shoes and waded a little, wishing I’d brought a suit for swimming.
Then it hit me: I had a suit.
My birthday suit.
Again, no one else was anywhere around, so I peeled off my clothes and piled them on the sand.
And then? Sweet freedom. I dove and paddled for a while, letting the water give what the heat denied me: relief.
“Sir, I need you to step out of the water.”
I hadn’t seen the car drive up. I hadn’t seen the lights on top.
But I sure heard that lady police officer’s voice.
She repeated her command. “Sir, I need you to step out of the water.”
Had it been a male officer, I still wouldn’t have come out. But a lady?
No, ma’am, I answered politely while standing in waist-deep water.
She picked up my clothes and asked, “Are these yours?”
Yes, ma’am. They sure are.
“Is that why you won’t come out of the water?”
Yup. You nailed it.
She laughed for a minute before walking toward her vehicle.
“You can pick these up at our department tomorrow.” Then she left.
Get that? She arrested my clothes.
I can promise you this: I drove the speed limit all the way back home. Last thing I needed was another cop pulling me over and asking why I was committing a DWI (Driving While Indecent).
At my apartment complex, I dug around in my truck until I found a piece of plastic under the seat. I ran through the parking lot looking like Tarzan with a cheap loincloth. I hoped there weren’t any children out that late. They’d have needed some serious therapy.
I’ve had years of experience with nekkedness, so when Le’Anne told me the theme for this month’s Charm issue was nudity, I hoped like crazy she only expected me to write and not pose. (That would have to go in the Halloween issue.)
I swear I’m not an exhibitionist. My lone trek to a nudist beach in San Diego was a total misunderstanding. I just heard it was a popular beach. I strolled down with fishing rod in hand, expecting to land a fish or two.
I wore only a pair of shorts, and after seeing all the others basking buck nekked on the sand, I realized I was still way overdressed. I excused myself and found a beach where I didn’t have to see full moons in the middle of the day. I don’t know why those people were giving me dirty looks. It’s not like one can look mean while sprawled over the sand in the raw.
When did we all get so weird about this whole naked thing? I can understand cave dudes and dudettes wearing those saber-tooth tiger robes to ward off the cold. Here in East Texas, we likely stay dressed so as to give the mosquitoes a smaller dining area. That makes sense to me.
But every single one of us greeted the world completely naked, and we didn’t seem to care one whit about what anyone thought of it. Only later did we start worrying about covering ourselves — first with clothing and, for the ladies, with makeup.
We get way too carried away with our exteriors. Certain clothes, certain brands of war paint (I mean, makeup). Over time, we ended up putting far too much pressure on ourselves to dress and look a certain way. There are those who drive themselves to high levels of anxiety only because they don’t look the way they think they should. BodyImage.com reports that 70 percent of women don’t like the way they look; 30 percent of those develop eating disorders trying to maintain a specific body image. Men are just as susceptible to low self-esteem centered on image. The same web site reports 37 percent of 30 million guys think they’re supposed to look like Captain America. When they don’t, they get depressed.
See what happens when we can’t just accept how we are? We end up worrying about all the wrong things.
We were born in a state of au naturel, the official definition of which is “with no elaborate treatment, dressing or preparation.” We humans later included the “naked” part as a sort of sly wink.
We skinny-dipped around the womb for months, caring not a whit about the way we looked. We’d have stayed naked — at least until it got cold outside — if our parents hadn’t insisted on dressing us immediately.
We were perfectly happy with the way we looked.
So what happened? We grew older and more aware of others. Human nature kicked in, and we found ourselves swept up in the tide of personal expectations. Why don’t I look more like that person? Will people like me better if I paint my face or sculpt my body?
So much pressure, and it begins squeezing us at such an early age.
Recently, my wife and I celebrated the arrival of a new granddaughter. We were there when little Laine made her entrance, and the child wore the same birthday suit we all wore the day we were born. Little Laine popped out wearing nothing but wide-eyed wonder.
She didn’t stop on the way down the birth canal and duck into a dressing womb to impress anyone with her entrance. She didn’t take a detour into a restroom to put on her makeup. She came out looking beautiful and without feeling an ounce of apprehension over her appearance.
Although she did pull a blanket over herself when I started shooting pics, I’m hoping it was more because she was cold and not because she was getting all modest on us.
I hope she stays that way forever: Zero pressure. Here I am. Love me.
I realize we can’t just run around buck nekked when we feel like it. There are laws against it. (At least that’s what they told me last week at Academy when I was … never mind.)
But we can keep our sense of freedom by being ourselves. We can work out because it makes us feel good, not because we’re trying to look a certain way. My love handles ain’t going away any time soon. I’ll just consider them accessories to my birthday suit.
Ladies can wear makeup because it makes them feel pretty, not because they’re attempting to appease the masses.
Whenever possible, ditch the makeup — and, when appropriate, the clothes. Enjoy a little taste of freedom. It’s got a flavor you won’t soon forget.
Face it. We’ll own these birthday suits until the day we die, and unlike our favorite pair of old jean shorts or those ’80s leg warmers, they won’t go out of style.
We might as well get some use out of ’em.