My Grandmother Tells a Story About a Naked Gardener
So I was reading this Metafilter post about a man who was arrested for being naked in his own kitchen Apparently details are still forthcoming, but regardless it shocked me that it COULD be considered illegal to be naked in one's own home. I mean even if the guy IS a flasher, he was in his own freakin' house!

Being raised in a "medical" family (ie both parents worked in medicine as do several members of my extended family) nudity was not considered, in and of itself, sexual. I didn't understand nudity as being funny (why did anyone care?) nor do I see it as something threatening. Not that I was going to go to school naked, but certainly it was OK to be naked in a private setting. So much so that when I was very young, I often went skinny dipping in our pool as did my mother. (I know, that Mere Lapin is a racy one!) Now my house was in the middle of the forest and the only side of the house that faced the street was protected by a very high fence. Thus no one could casually spy me swimming regardless of whether I was clothed or naked.

I've continued to have a rather casual attitude towards nudity-more European than American I suppose. I do lounge in my apartment naked (not as much now that there are workmen outside my window ALL THE TIME), and it is how I prefer to sleep in the summer. I'm not trying to let you in on more than you need to know, but I think I should be OK doing that. And if someone DOES spy me naked accidentally, they should just avert their eyes and move along not call the freakin' cops even if there is a 7 year old kid in tow. It's just not something to freak out about.

If you are one of those people, DO NOT GO TO A BEACH IN EUROPE. It's rather common to see even 7 year old children stark naked, casually playing in the water. My Parisian boyfriend made fun of Americans as Puritans, and in this respect he is right. I was perfectly comfortable hanging out with topless matrons and naked kids because, again, I don't think of nudity as shameful or inherently sexual.

But all of this is aside from the point, I wanted to share with you a story my grandmother told me, which illustrates how much our attitudes have changed. Not just towards nudity but towards out neighbors, particularly when children are involved. (This whole "think of the children" cult is plain old ridiculous. I'm not going to get into it in detail, but just seeing someone naked? Not that scarring for a kid especially if the parent talks to the child about it instead of creating a media frenzy. But I digress.)

In the early 70s, a psychiatrist and his wife moved into the neighborhood where my grandmother lived. Apparently, the psychiatrist liked gardening in the nude. So every day, he would go out there naked. Now my grandmother could care less, but she was amused by let's call it the theater of neighborhood drama. The neighbors would call the cops, who would arrive, and tell him to put on clothes. He would argue for a bit and then do so. Well this played itself out every day for almost two weeks. Finally, the cops said, "Listen, we can't show up here EVERYDAY. You need to wear clothes when you garden or when you're outside your home or we'll be forced to arrest you."

The next day the psychiatrist was gardening clothed. So a week goes by, and the neighborhood finally begins to believe the reign of the naked gardener is over. They become convinced when he and his lovely wife decided to have a cocktail party to make amends for the dispute and get to know people. Imagine the horror one their faces when he opened the door to greet all of his guests in the nude!

The point was since he was IN the house, this was perfectly fine, and my grandmother thought it was AWESOMELY entertaining, which I think is the right attitude to have. If it was me, I would have laughed and said "OK where's the wine and cheese?" After that, the neighborhood arrived at a comfortable truce-inside the house he and his wife could frolic in the nude, while outside he would dress. Essentially, everybody wins.

Except now in which heaven forfend a 7 year old gaze upon a naked human being. Sheesh.

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