A Garden, Locked

July 20, 2009

Emilia, as I’ve noted here before, is a nudist. She is an enthusiastic and committed nudist, the sort of nudist who exhorts others to join her in her worship of nature. Don’t you like taking your clothes off? she’ll ask as she discards her underpants. Don’t you like being naked?

mud trollop

Being naked is very nice, I always say. But so is being clothed. I don’t add that the further one’s boobs sag in the absence of a bra, the more appealing is the state of clothedness. She has plenty of time to learn that for herself.

I like naked better, she invariably replies. I like being naked LOTS better.

I like that Emilia likes being naked. Her comfort in her own skin – and the joy that she experiences when she feels the play of wind or grass or sunlight or dirt upon that skin – is a reminder that our bodies are miracles of both function and form and that their function and form are sometimes best appreciated in their natural state. This is something that I have trouble remembering in my relationship with my own body, as I bind it and cover it and fret over it. I watch Emilia, sometimes, as she frolics, naked, with utter abandon, and envy her obliviousness to the cultural baggage that grown-ups – most grown-ups – grown-ups like me – attach to bodies. (Thank you, New York Times, for – ahem – laying bare this baggage as it pertains to children. Good to know that such venerable purveyors of news as yourselves are worried about the dangers that attend to bare preschooler skin.)

It’s this obliviousness, this innocence, that cements my resolve to do as little as possible to discourage her love of her own private state of nature. She’s my perfect little noble savage, a creature unencumbered by (better, perhaps, to say, a creature who does not feel, does not notice the encumbrance of) the chains of social propriety, the chains that will, inevitably (that do, now), bind her to a social world in which the rules dictate that one must always keeps one’s bottom covered. Her joy in her experience of freedom is a joy to me, and because it is a freedom that is in so many respects so short-lived, I want her to enjoy it while she can. There is time enough for her feel the constraints of modesty and shame; this is her time for knowing the joys of shamelessness.

mud trollop IIThis is not to say, of course, that I encourage or even allow such abandon outside of her own private state of nature: this state of nature is, for her, just that – private. She knows that she must wear clothes to preschool and to the supermarket and in the front yard; she knows, already, that social life is clothed life, that the kinds of freedoms that we enjoy in private do not always extend to the public, that the rules are different, are more restrictive, out there. She knows already that there’s no such thing as absolute freedom, that freedom inside and freedom outside are two very different things, and that just because one wants to be free, to act freely, in every sphere, does not mean that one is free. She understands that although her natural condition is freedom, she is still restricted by chains, whether those be the chains imposed by Mommy and Daddy, or the chains imposed by the world outside. She understands (mostly) that those chains are necessary, even good.

But she does not understand, yet, that the weight of those chains can, and probably will, restrict her joy in such things as the kiss of sun on bare skin and the gentle lash of wind on one’s bottom and the tickle of dirt in one’s navel. She does not – yet? – know that her body, the body that is the vehicle of such unfettered pleasure, may – will? – become something strange and embarrassing and shameful. She has not yet learned that clothing is, for adults, something more than just a uniform to be worn in daily social life,  more than just decoration applied to the purpose of parading about the public sphere – that it is also (mostly?) a protective barrier that shields us from our own and others’ anxieties about our natural state. She has not yet learned that we grown-ups hide our bodies because there is so much about our bodies that cause us fear. She has not yet learned to be be afraid or ashamed or anxious about her body. And I would love to forestall this lesson for her, would love to find some way to guarantee that she never learn it, but I doubt that I can, and so I simply try to delay it as long as possible.

And I do this by whispering, whenever she asks, whenever I can: yes, yes, my love, naked is wonderful, your body is wonderful, you are wonderful.


mud trollop on the run

Do your children run free in their state of nature? Or do they – or you – prefer their bottoms covered? I wouldn’t condemn anyone who prefers to not let their children run naked. My husband is not as comfortable as I with the persistent nudity, nor are some other well-loved adults in Emilia’s life. So although I would bristle at anyone who chastised Emilia – or me – for her love of her natural state, I wouldn’t begrudge anyone to feel or act differently with their own children.

That said, naked is better. Emilia says so.

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    mimi July 21, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Ha! Pynchon is laughing and laughing lately, because Munchkin likes to go BARE BUM. Shirts she can take or leave, but pants she is always looking for reasons to be rid of. You will oftentimes find her of a morning having breakfast half naked, watching tv half naked, playing doll house half-naked. It’s always the bottom half that’s naked.

    At the cottage, she learned the sad lesson of the vinyl chair, pitifully peeling up one bare bum cheek, only to find the other one then stuck. Alternate and repeat until she hollered for help: MOM! MY BUM IS STICKY ON THIS CHAIR! The only solution I could offer? Underwear.

    And so, civilization won that round.
    .-= mimi´s last blog ..Use your words! =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 22, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Civilization FTW! At least where vinyl is concerned.

    Dr. P. Rapoport July 22, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Nice story, thanks. But some things you write as inevitable aren’t. The embarrassment and shame over body parts are avoidable, and the sense of freedom in nudity may remain, through the philosophy and practice of naturism.

    Many well-meaning comments here betray that misunderstanding. There is no inevitability to the loss of body freedom.

    That’s not to say Emilia never has to wear clothes. It is to say that she doesn’t have to develop a clothing compulsion or body phobia that comes with unhealthy attitudes towards the body.

    By the way, that breasts change shape with age has little to do with wearing a bra; it’s much more dependent on genetics and physiology. In other words, bra wearing does not prevent breasts from hanging lower. Nor is there anything wrong with breasts that do that.

    Her Bad Mother July 22, 2009 at 9:37 am

    You’re right – shame isn’t inevitable. I hope to do my part to keep it at bay with my children. But there IS some loss – as adults we are almost always more self-conscious about our bodies, if only from a social perspective. And we are certainly more aware of public restrictions. No more stripping down to underpants at the beach!

    And, the whole bra/boob thing? Is not about trying to forestall the inevitable (the-already-occurred) – it’s more about comfort and self-consciousness ;)

    Karen July 22, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Then there are those who couldn’t possibly care less. Who don’t care one little iota whether they are naked or clothed, whether they are wearing pajamas, jeans and a T-shirt, swim trunks, or nothing. Who want to just GET ON WITH IT, whatever IT is this time, without changing the state of their clothing.
    For the most part, in my experience, they are boys. My son is one of them. He’s always been this way. He’s 8 now, and we still have occasional arguments that begin “But why CAN’T I just wear my pajamas to school?”

    Tracy July 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I wish that my kids loved being naked the way your sweet daughter does. My 5 year old would run naked at Gramma’s house when he was younger, but no longer do I get so see his cute little naked butt streaking across the yard. And my other little boy absolutely loses his mind at not having clothes on outside of the bathtub. Why? I am not sure…but each is different. Cherish this time before she finds flaws in her bodys that she will see eventually. Sad for all of us.

    Shawna July 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    When my 3-year-old daughter sees one of us heading for our pool she’s out of her clothes in about 3 seconds flat. However, if she want to be held up by hand in the water instead of towed around in a float we have her put her bikini bottom on. No one really wants to grab her nekkid bum bare-handed.

    My 1-year-old son is regularly peeled out of all his clothes and diaper to let him splash from the pool steps. Well, as “regularly” as this unseasonably cool summer allows.

    I’m a big fan of skinny dipping myself, though I wait until after dark in deference to the neighbours though.

    Belle July 24, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    My 8 year old has spent her entire life “losing” as much clothing as possible. At her 4th birthday party she stripped down to her skin and ran through the house and yard, in front of the guests. When asked what she was doing, she replied “naked is good for you.”

    Karina July 26, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I know I’m a little late to the party but I thought I would throw this out there. I am completely comfortable in my natural state. Much more than I am clothed with pieces to bind and pinch me and cause odd bumps and divots to form. This is not to say that my body is perfect, far from it. I weigh twice what I did in high school (which was an admittedly small amount) and I had a baby not quite a year ago.

    I fully plan on letting my daughter be naked as much as she wants to be. My mother always let me and my siblings run around naked. I think I had to start wearing panties at 4 or 5 but I remember bathing with my little sisters when I was as old as 10 or 11. It was never a big deal. I think what you are doing is the best thing you can do for Emilia. While I have all of the normal hang-ups about my body that other women have, I never feel as comfortable as I do in nothing but my own skin.


    Barbara(Blood, Sweat and Heels) July 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Awesome post. Yes, even at 34 I like to run amuck naked….in my apt. Mostly….
    .-= Barbara(Blood, Sweat and Heels)´s last blog ..Eau de Fish =-.

    hannah July 30, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    reading this made me cry with joy at what a wonderful gift you are giving to your daughter. i agree she may not always have the same inhibitions about nudity, but i gaurantee you have helped shape a confident, secure and strong little lady. kudos to you mama!

    my blog: ‘to the moon and back’ http:thebloodfamily.net

    chrissi August 2, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    My little nut is two and a half and is always naked :) It’s a daily battle to get her to wear clothes and it’s a losing battle at that. Two days ago we were outside and I caught, with my camera, her stripping down to nothing, grinning like a mini Cheshire cat. When my husband got her dressed again, she cried and screamed at the top of her lungs “I LIKE NAKED! I AM NAKED! I BE NAKED!” he he, sweet little thing ;)
    .-= chrissi´s last blog ..August Already?! =-.

    Sara Rose August 4, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I’m new to your blog, so Hi! I love this! My daughter Eva is 3 1/2 and she L-O-V-E-S being naked. I don’t mind one darned bit. She knows we wear clothes to go out in public, but if its in our house or yard, she can run free as can be. I want her to be modest but proud of herself and free of the crushing insecurities that we all face. I’ll also let my son Owen run naked if he so chooses. Seeing as he’s only 5 weeks right now, I choose it for him. Glad to have found you!
    .-= Sara Rose´s last blog ..The Boys (One More Blog) =-.

    tallulah August 5, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I have several posts on this subject as well.

    Izzy (age 6) will not wear clothes unless:

    A. Going out of the house to school or the market. (Even then,he does not understand why clothes are needed)

    B. When someone comes over to the house (then Izzy hurriedly runs to his bedroom and pulls on a pair of underwear.)

    The boy is a nudist despite the other 6 people in his family that wear clothes.
    I love him for it.

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