Good Girls (Don’t) Wear Underpants

February 24, 2009

My daughter is a nudist. She is an unrepentant clothes-doffing, underwear-eschewing, bum-baring, breeze-loving, parts-showing nudist. It’s sort of awesome, but also a little disconcerting.

She doesn’t try to leave the house naked, although she has, in the heat of summer, had more than one naked spree in the yard. She just prefers, while indoors, to conduct her day without clothing. Which, you know, I sort of understand. Sort of. If I was a compact little person and did not fear knocking over coffee mugs with my pendulous boobs, I might enjoy doffing my clothing while going about my day. But I’m not a compact little person, and I might knock over coffee mugs with my pendulous boobs and, also, frighten any passers-by who might look in the windows. So it’s just not for me. But for Emilia? It’s simply the best condition in which to pass one’s time.

So it is that she watches television naked, plays the piano naked, paints pictures naked, reads stories naked, does yoga naked (seriously), dances naked, eats cookies naked, and discourses on the superiority of Diego to Dora and Grover to Elmo and DJ Lance to Barney naked. Which, as I said, is sort of awesome, in a Platonic perfection of the forms kind of way (anyone who has ever doubted the classical argument that there is such a thing as the perfect form of any actual or abstract thing need, I think, only consider the tiny perfect physical form of a very young human being to be convinced that there is some force to that argument.) But it’s also a little disconcerting. We are – I am – accustomed to moving through life clothed, for the most part. To all of sudden be accompanied, always (in the home, at least), by a tiny little naked being is a disruption of my usual way of doing things. It is to be thrust, suddenly, into a landscape that bears no small resemblance to an all-toddler performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, full of naked sprites wearing funny hats and masks and giggling maniacally.

It’s a little strange.

I love that my daughter so exults in her physical being, that she is so unreservedly comfortable with her physical self. And yet I catch myself, sometimes, pestering her about sweaters and socks and underpants. Aren’t you cold? I ask. Would you like to put on socks? And, where are your underpants? Let’s put on underpants, shall we? You love your underpants!

And she rolls her eyes at me and says, no.

No, they’re lost.

No, they blew off.

No, because my pachina can’t breathe.

No, because my pachina gets scared in the dark.

No, because Swiper stole them.

All of which are entirely reasonable explanations for the absence of underpants, I suppose, but still: that she finds it necessary to justify her nudity to me – and that she demonstrates no end of creativity in coming up with such justifications – makes me feel, I don’t know, a little guilty? When I pester her about putting something on – sweater, socks, underpants – I worry that I am nudging the boundaries of shaming. That she feels compelled to defend her choice to be naked, that she constructs ever more elaborate explanations for shunning underwear (my pachina gets scared in the dark!) – is that evidence that she struggles under the gaze of an over-anxious, prudish mother? Am I sending the wrong message (naked is wrong, naked is bad, naked is not how we live, good girls don’t get naked, good girls wear underpants), even though I don’t intend to send that message, even though I don’t want to send that message?

I don’t worry about her becoming a lifelong nudist. I worry about her getting cold. I also worry about her peeing on the couch, which hasn’t happened yet, but still: one particularly engrossing episode of Global Grover and all the Scotchguard in the world won’t save our off-white sofa. I don’t worry about her being too fond of nudity. I don’t know that it’s possible to be over-fond of one’s own nudity. Her pleasure in her own nakedness is, I think, lovely. I love she loves her own skin, that she is most comfortable in the raw, that she curls up like a hairless cat on the sofa and tucks her feet under her bum and snuggles against her blankie and then waves one tiny hand imperiously to demand a cookie and some milk, both of which taste undeniably better when the crumbs and dribbles can roll down one’s bare chest and get caught in one’s navel. I love that she loves her little self, that she exults in her physicality, that she takes joy in feeling the heat from the fireplace warm her naked bottom, or the scratch of the wool rug against her bare belly, or the soft curve of the sofa pillows against the skin of her back. I love that she is so unabashedly, physically she. So I resolve to not worry about shame or unshame and to just let her be.

But if she pees on my couch, those underpants are going on with duct tape.

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    Anonymous February 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Oh, yes, this is what we refer to as the “Nakey Years” in our family. Both my kids went through it and the youngest is in the tail end. It’s almost bittersweet when it ends because it may very well be the last time in their life where they love their bodies unconditionally.

    KayleighJeanne February 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    It sounds like your home is a lot warmer than ours is, or your daughter has much thicker blood than my own. We put on a hat and mittens as soon as we get out of bed. Heaven help you if you can’t find a hat and mittens. A naked girl sounds like a lot less maintenance.

    Miss Grace February 24, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I was a childhood nudist. And we lived out in the isolated countryside, so I ran around naked outside until I was, oh I dunno? Seven? Eight?

    Gabriel’s a nudist, I’m not overly concerned, as long as he refrains from touching his penis while he’s eating, sitting on my lap, etc.

    Domestic Extraordinaire February 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    both of mine went thru the naked phase as well. When I go to my friend’s house who has 3 under the age of 4-sometimes I wonder why they are shedding their clothes, but then i remember.

    As for the peeing on the couch thing-I always set the kitchen timer to remind the girls to go. I would set it at 45 min intervals. They didn’t have to go, they just had to try.

    Issas Crazy World February 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    No, because my pachina gets scared in the dark… might be the best reason I’ve ever heard to not wear clothes.

    I have one of these, a mini-nudist in the making. Sadly, as she’s gotten older, she’s conforming to the thought of clothes. It was always going to happen. A few words from friends, seeing how others are…but I’ll be honest, I kinda miss it. When it’s fully over, when she goes to closing the door to change like my seven year old does, when modesty fully takes over, I will be sad.

    ps. I’m with you on the couch peeing. That would have been the end of it, had it ever happened.

    Sarah @ February 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I think it’s great that she’s so comfortable in her skin. If I had drapes, I might like to walk around naked more often too lol.

    Just maybe make sure that nothing really fascinating ever shows on the television! =)

    Lynn (Walking With Scissors) February 24, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    My son (who is 6) refuses to wear clothes in the house either. He does keep his undies on, though. But he doesn’t have a pachina, dark-fearing or otherwise, which might have something to do with it.

    When I asked him when he would decide to start wearing clothes in the house, he replied, “When I’m 18.” I guess we’ll see.

    Pamela February 24, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    My people used to greet guests at the door completely naked. They could strip down in less than four seconds flat. It was amazing.

    My pachina is sort of fond of the dark. She’s a little shy now that three people have crawled out of her.

    Ali February 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    My next door neighbours son walks around in his underpants. HE’S 25.

    I once took a package round that had been delivered to my house while they were out and he was there in his underpants. IT BURNED MY EYES.

    I was a nudist too as a kid, ran around outside starkers. Wish I had that kinda confidence still. Well, maybe not in the garden…

    Amber February 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    We have a rule that everyone must wear underwear in our house. Maybe I’m causing shame, I don’t know, but we’ve had the rule since my kidlet was 2 and she’s cool with it. It’s a reasonable level of propriety to me, especially when we have guests. Plus, my kid is learning to wipe her own butt right now, and without the underwear, well…I shudder to imagine.

    Angella February 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I love her excuses. My pachina gets scared of the dark too.

    Planet Mom February 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Gotta love kids and their beloved nekkid time. Thankfully, ours has morphed over the years (with twin nudists and their frightened-of-the-dark paginas!) to the window of time just prior to and following a bath. It used to more closely resemble the circus you’ve so aptly described, however.

    I will pray for you. And your lovely couch. ;-)

    Ms. Moon February 24, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    My babies were nudists too. It would seem to be universal. We lived out in the boonies so they could run around naked, inside and out. Oh, I miss that. I made them wear clothes when we went to town, of course, but I had one friend whom we visited whom the children felt so comfortable with (and she with them) that the second we got to her house, they would strip again. She would set up an ice chest in her living room on towels and they “swam” in it while we talked.
    They will never forget that. Nor will I.

    Magpie February 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I can’t really tell you why, but I love this post. And my child strips at the drop of a hat, too. The one time it kind of made me cringe was the night she insisted on sleeping nekkid. Somehow, that seemed more wrong than being naked while running around the house or backyard.

    Mrs. C. February 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Dang, I wish I was that comfortable with my own self that going around naked was no big thing. Oh, to be young and cute again…

    Ahem. The only reason one might insist on underwear, if it were an issue, is for the idea of privacy. It’s easier to teach about protecting one’s private parts from being bothered if they are truly private. I had to explain to my son, when there was a classmate of his who liked to show his penis to the girls at school, that privacy goes both ways. You have the right to keep your private parts private, but you also can’t violate someone’s else’s right to not have to see your private parts. That being said, if you’re not bothered, don’t worry ’bout it at home.

    ComfyMom~Stacey February 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    My boys, especially the younger one, love being naked. We live in the country, surrounded by cow pastures. They are naked outside in warm weather as well as inside all year round. They swim naked, they eat naked, they play Wii naked. The house is freezing in my opinion. I don’t see how they stand it.

    When we visit my parents they have to wear clothing all the time because naked just does not work with my parents. Shame shame shame on you naked people. So I tell the boys it is the custom of their grandparents to only be naked in the bathtub and we must conform to custom when we are visitors. The boys think it is funny to humor their grandparents.

    Julie Cole February 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Mine like to run around naked yelling “healthy bodies!!!”
    And bathing suits in the back yard pool always seem to be optional! :)

    Emily February 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I loved being nekid as a kid – although my mother was always mortified. I seem to remember a story of me taking off in a grocery store and her finding items of my clothes in the aisle until she came across a giggling naked me 1 aisle over!

    It went away just as quickly as it started (although it came back in my mid-20′s but that a whole other story)

    I wouldn’t worry about trying to dress her up until the pee thing happens. As females we tend to dislike our bodies so much let her revel in the joy of it!

    Wendy Hill February 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t have any kids yet, but I tend to run around naked in the morning until my hair is done and makeup is put on. Hey, we were brought into this world naked – live free!

    Bronnie February 24, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    My kids both went through this stage, and Miss 6 is still going through it! I love that they feel free and comfortable with their bodies (I do insist they put a towel down if they are sitting on the couch though!) My daughter constantly peels clothes off, but she understands it’s okay at home – not at school! And at night, she likes to nude because: ‘my Bagina needs to breathe!”
    You know what? I think it’s fine. They have plenty of time to feel self-conscious and cover up in the future!

    Michelle February 24, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    SO CUTE!!!

    Mandy February 24, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    This story reminds me of my neighbourhood best friend who used to take off all her clothes, put them in a wagon and pull them around the block.

    Now she’s a high powered lawyer in NYC. And I think she wears all her clothes in public.


    motherbumper February 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    In these here parts, the newest pachina gets scared in the dark too. Gigi yells solidarity to her streaking sistah.

    chermonblie February 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    The little boy in my house runs around like his butt is on fire the second the diaper comes off. I think he’s part pup though…he has a penchant for marking territory. :) Gotta love the steam cleaner! ;)

    momartfully February 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I love this. Around here it’s called “naked baby alert”.

    How cute is it that her pachina is afraid of the dark? Very logical.

    Mimi February 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Here we have: naked baby time! After supper, all the clothes come off, and she does some naked sprints through the house. My very favorite part is after the bath, when she races me back to her room: steamy, pink, squealing naked toddler, racing down a 20 foot hallway. Perfect.

    You know, I was the nudist in teh family before she came along. I slept naked, walked around the house naked in teh morning, was utterly shameless. And now, in the face of her perfect baby naked self, I feel a little awkard for my lumps, my bumps, my hair, my dimply skin. Hm.

    Amy February 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I came over here from your post on blogher about tats and nursing… looks like you’ve moved on to nakey-ness. Logical course.

    Your ink is great BTW and I doubt it’s something you’ll ever regret getting.

    Marin February 24, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Her excuses about her pachina are just about the best reasons I’ve ever heard to not wear clothing.

    Eh. As long as she ends up as a well-adjusted adult, I say let her go nekkid. It has to be good for the skin, right?

    Parent Club February 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    OMG – LOVE it.

    Mad February 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I too was a childhood nudist (actually I’m still nude like 70% of my time at home). My mum loves telling stories about how she would struggle for hours to get me in clothes when guests were coming, only for me to go upstairs immediately once she was occupied with said guests, take off all my clothes and come downstairs nude to declare I wanted to be a “naked dancer”. Haha, Emilia is awesome.

    Dana February 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Dawson has yet to spring nakedness upon me, in fact he’s to the point where he’s requesting privacy. He no longer wants me to help him get dressed, he doesn’t want me to see him in his underpants. Which I totally understand, I don’t want to be seen in my undies either. He’s only four years old. Is that when this whole thing begins? I don’t know…

    Veronica February 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    My daughter spends all her time naked now too, which is much more pleasant now that she has learnt to wee in her potty. Thankfully our couches are dark blue.

    She has gotten to the point that if I put clothes on her she immediately thinks we are going in the car. I’m not looking forward to winter in the slightest.

    Her Bad Mother February 24, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Mimi – “and now, in the face of her perfect baby naked self, I feel a little awkard for my lumps, my bumps, my hair, my dimply skin. Hm.”


    rachel - a southern fairytale February 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    “with duct tape” AMEN!

    My daughter, at 5, still wants to be nude in the house, all the time. My husband, not all for it ;-) But you know what, if I were that damn cute naked, I’d rock it too. Clothes are so constricting.

    Thank you for saying what I think, so much better than I can.

    Bea February 24, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Pie peed on my couch. On my 38th birthday. After two months of being basically fully toilet trained. And really? Pee on the couch isn’t that big a deal. It wipes up fast and it doesn’t leave a smell. Unlike the barf that was all over my couch last week. (My new couch. Did I make that part clear?)

    Redneck Mommy February 24, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    One day, I shall teach the child to run naked through the trees and the joy of sitting on a sunny deck with your boobs hanging out.


    I didn’t say I’d SHOW her. Just, you know, teach her. Using my WORDS.


    Visuals would be better.

    Her Bad Mother February 24, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Bea: yeah, but pee’s, like, YELLOW. On white: not good.

    Eva February 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    My little girl loved the pics of the little naked girl painting! She is totally jealous. She likes to be naked, too. I just worry about her being cold. I KNOW she’s cold–I can touch her–but okay. Usually she leaves clothes on and just doesn’t want sweater or socks.

    Molly C February 24, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    No, because my pachina gets scared in the dark


    my mother always said she never told me to cover up because she didn’t want me to feel ashamed of my body. You seem like you’ve got your head on straight, so I’m sure Emilia will be fine. I still chill naked. Naked=awesome!

    Rebekah February 24, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    The Pachina Monologues – awesome.

    Kim February 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    I adore her excuses — scared in the dark, that is the best!

    My Amelia is doing this same thing. She loves being naked. Mostly I don’t mind…but when she is sticking her finger in her bum, yeah, that’s not my favorite.

    I think naked toddlers are great and fine. My almost 5 year old…not so much. ;)

    Motherhood Uncensored February 24, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.

    She and her anxious, suffocated pachina.

    Mary Moore February 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    TOo cute. My kids went through this too. My husband is still going through it.

    Jennifer February 24, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Glad to see others go through this, when my now 8 year old was between the ages of 2 up until this past summer I swear our childrens services was going to end up at my door. He would strip as he ran out to play in the yard, you could follow the trail of clothes. He would play naked in the yard with all my neighbors driving by. He still likes to only play in his underwear. At least we are that far now!!!!

    ❉ pixie ❉ February 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I have a picture of my not-quite two year old son and I doing the downward dog—he’s naked (I’m not). It’s adorable.

    We have naked time at our house on an almost daily basis. He loves it.

    Karen February 24, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    That was a fun time for my girls. 4yr old still does sometimes. So cute

    tallulah February 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Izzy at 5 3/4 (as he so proudly beams)walks in the door from Kindergarten and promptly takes off his clothes. Unless someone comes over (to his parents coaxing), he stays butt-ass naked until he has to get dressed for school the next day (at noon).

    Izzy has planned our next vacation to a nude beach and tells everyone he knows about it.

    His parents are reluctant….his siblings refuse. What to do? He’s comfortable with his body and doesn’t care what people think….so we celebrate!

    irlmumof2 February 25, 2009 at 12:20 am

    My DD was a nekie baby too! It kind of morphed into only being nekie just before bath, into DD, now 12, locking the door when she has to change. My DS is only 2, and he is just discovering the wonder and freedom of being nekie, and it is glorious. It will pass all to soon, so I’ll enjoy it while I can, instead of worrying about it like I did with DD.

    AmyAnne February 25, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Not a lot of nakedness at my house full of girls. Now I’m like, I missed something, what did I miss?! I’ve never discouraged nakedness….what am I doing wrong here?! WHY DON’T MY GIRLS FEEL FREE TO BE NAKED?!!

    Whatever. I’ll make them take off their clothes after school tomorrow and see if they like it. I’ll let you know how it works out.

    BTW that’s a PERFECT application for duct tape.

    Lady M February 25, 2009 at 1:52 am

    What a beautiful sprite!

    I remember Dana Carvey in some old interview saying that his kids disliked clothes so much that they had to establish “Naked Time” and “Clothing Time” in order to ever get them dressed.

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