And in the naked light I saw: Nudity, shame and celebrity


I have never, ever enjoyed being naked. Not as a child, and certainly not as an adult. I did not grow up in a naked house. My parents were firm believers in sheathing our naked bits in layers of clothing, preferably made from wool. I don't walk around my house naked. I don't go to sleep naked. I don't wash the dishes, or so any sort of housework, naked. I don't soak for hours in the tub or read books naked in front of my fireplace or go to nudist beaches. And I cannot relate to those inane magazine spreads featuring naked models just lounging around, looking simultaneously bored and glamorous. Those are the worst.

So you can imagine my confusion when I, chronic avoider of nakedness, gave birth to three children who adore nothing more than being au natural. My children are the nudist version of Hansel and Gretel, shedding clothes around the house the moment they arrive home from school. They strut from room to room, bare stomachs jutting out in front of them, without a care in the world. Warm, rainy weather brings not the opportunity to huddle inside watching cartoons, but the chance to scamper outside in rainboots and their birthday suits. Their bodies are an endless source of fascination, and their lumps, smells and sounds are debated with the same intensity as the Nurenburg trials.

As far as my children are concerned, clothes are confining, itchy, suffocating instruments of torment better left to uptight adults like myself. Clothes squeeze their necks and leave marks on their skin. Clothes make them sweaty. No matter what they're made from, clothes will never feel as good as being naked does.

The other day I came across the following quote from Carey Mulligan, the pixie-like actress from An Education (one of my favorite movies):
"I tend to clamp up on camera, but this meant working with no inhibitions. I mean, I don't wear a bikini on the beach. I walk around my house in pyjamas. I haven't seen myself naked in the mirror for probably a decade. I'm very prudish."
I like to think that actresses spend hours starring at their naked reflections in the mirror, transfixed by their own glistening perfection. They pay obscene sums to personal trainers and get spray-tanned and spend long, luxurious hours under the strong hands of a masseuse at an exotic spa somewhere in Bali. It's challenging for me to wrap my head around the concept that tiny framed Carey Mulligan, she of the pixie cut and poreless skin, purposely avoids seeing her nude self. I wonder if her prudishness is a cover for body insecurity. I wonder if she feels ashamed with how she looks. And I wonder if she always has. Did she wander around naked as a child and stomp around nude in the rain? Did she shed her clothes like a snake slithering from its skin after a day at school? Did her body ever fascinate and entertain, rather than admonish and scold?

I wonder if I will ever be comfortable being naked. Perhaps I'm just not a naked person. But it would be nice not to avert my eyes when faced with my own nude reflection. Claiming my nakedness would reaffirm my commitment towards self-acceptance, flaws and all. It would help destroy those irrational thoughts of having to be being perfect or looking as I "should."  It would force me to examine who I am without my protective layers of wool and cotton, cable knit and denim. And it would bring me closer to the pure delight of living in my body and embracing what it is to be me.

Now I ask you: How comfortable are you with being naked? Do you enjoy spending time in the nude when you're at home? Does your naked body make you feel self-conscious, whether you're alone or with a significant other? Has being naked ever interfered between intimate moments with your spouse or boyfriend?


  1. I must admit I have a different oppinion about my body. I like being naked, sleping naked or just walking around the house. I don't mind seing my skin, it is mine and I live in this body- how can I hate it or feel bad about it?
    I suppose I got used to it, seing it, although there are many things I would like on it to change, I still feel good in my skin.
    My family never walked naked in the house, so it is not something I have learned. I just had to admit myself there is nothing bed in bare skin. I don't think it is something everyone should feel and/or do, you either like it or not.

  2. We are a naked family. My daughter, my husband and my self are all happy to be nude while at home. I was raised in a naked house when I lived with my mom but half covered up while living with my dad. Now as a wife and mother we are a naked family and are completely comfortable in our skins. I think that this helped me as a teenaged girl be OK with my body and myself. I was fortunate enough to not fall prey to the self hatred that most girls do. I am by no means perfect now or then.

  3. I hate being naked, except in the shower :-) I was traumatized at 6th grade camp when all the girls had to shower in front of each other and the teachers/staff. Horrifying!! :-)

  4. I have a friend who is SUPER anti-naked. I did not know people were so opposed to being in the nude in the privacy of their own homes until I met her. I am not into the whole putting yourself on display thing but on the other hand, it's just a body, we've all got 'em.

  5. I actually really enjoy being naked. I rarely ever am, because this is a cold country and we live on a ground floor flat, but given the chance I would. I hate seeing myself in the mirror in my underwear, but complete nakedness I am fine with, oddly. I think it's because it's a natural state.

    I used to run life drawing classes and it was the same. obviously the model would be naked and that was fine, but once they started getting dressed and were half-naked it somehow became embarrassing.

  6. I have two naked kids. My husband and I are practical nudists - no problem getting nude when circumstances sanction it - and where my family is concerned, I have no hang-ups about my naked self.

    But if I, even for a moment, start to make comparisons with the airbrushed models I see in magazines, I instantly feel judged.

  7. I died laughing at this. Mostly because I'm just like you. I don't even own a pair of "pj shorts" because I like my legs fully covered. I'm such a prude! I actually haven't worn a swim suit in 2 years (not a big swimmer). The other day my hubby adoringly teased me and called me a "never nude" (if you haven't seen Arrested Development, you must. You will laugh forever at his "never nude" complex). All that said, and in all seriousness, I can only laugh so much before I admit it has to do with self confidence on some level. I recently started getting ready in the bathroom (alone) naked a few days a week to get used to seeing my body and feel ok with it. Try that toots! Just know you aren't alone.

    ps. Carey Mulligan is my favorite actress ever. I love her modesty in interviews, in quotes like that, and in her fashion choices.

    pps. You are the sweetest person for your comment on my blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  8. I've had to buy pajamas recently for a family outing as I normally wear nothing at all. I have my stretch marks, small breasts, a bit of a belly, and hair in places where it should not be on me -- short story: I'm transgender -- but otherwise I'm fine with what I have, and don't mind looking in the mirror at myself for long periods of time.

    You'll get to where you want to be. Just take it one step at time. The bathroom mirror for five minutes is a start.

  9. I'm pretty much barely dressed all the time at home -- my step kids once gave me a robe as a birthday gift. Oops! Anyway, I don't sit around staring at myself, I just sorta ... hang out!

  10. I'm a naked person. I didn't know that I would be until I realized how my pjs twisted around me and were so uncomfortable. I tried sleeping in the nudes and it was the best thing ever! FREEDOM! I feel that I look better naked than I do clothed. When I have clothes on it's like some one else (the designer? the seamstress?) is deciding where part of my body begin and end. My waist has to be in a certain place because that's where is it on the dress and I feel like I just don't quite fit. When I'm nudeypants my body is allowed to just be what it is, on it's own terms. I don't always like what I see but I know that it's mine and it works. I went to a nude beach in Spain once and it fine because everyone was naked. I was there with 2 friends, 1 who decided to get naked too and 1 who opted to remain clothed. It was way more awkward to talk to my clothed girl friend than my naked guy friend when I was naked too. Plus swimming nude is probably the best thing in the world!!!

  11. I'll admit that I'm not OK with being naked in front of anyone other than my boyfriend. Even then, I almost never hang out naked around our apartment. In fact, I'm usually only naked when it's necessary. I never really thought of myself as much of a prude until I had my first massage a few weeks ago and couldn't relax because I kept worrying if any unmentionable body parts were being exposed. It reminded me of being at the gyno, which I REALLY do not like. But, no one really likes that...

    It's weird that I never really thought about it until I was naked in front of someone who I didn't think had any right to see me like that. I'm glad you wrote this post because I've been thinking about this since I had that massage. I can't wait to see you at the Texas Style Council!

  12. While I didn't grow up in a naked family necessarily, I do have 3 sisters and no brothers, and sharing of rooms and bathrooms was a given. I guess I always felt somewhat comfortable with the whole naked thing, I mean, I've baked cookies naked, and as a teenager, I may have sunbathed on our trampoline in the buff a few times when my parents were out of town. (Don't tell, I'll bet that would still really piss 'em off.) I guess I used to walk around naked more, but as my sons have gotten older I've realized I need to cover up to protect their sanity. I still can't sleep naked though, or I have dreams that I'm out in public...well...naked. Not cool.

  13. I remember reading a tip in a magazine that if you do chores naked, you'll lose yourself in the movement and forget about being naked, and then you'll feel even better when you put your clothes back on. At the time I think I was willing to try just about anything to stop the negative thoughts in my head, so I tried it and really enjoyed it. Now I always want to sleep naked, even when it's cold, and I've noticed that I do find clothes to be more stifling (I prefer to be mostly covered up when I dress for work - knee-length skirts and sleeves).

    It's an interesting topic to think about though, because when I'm naked by myself it feels very... intimate. Like I can connect with myself better when I don't have a costume. But I'm with a significant other or in a public shower, the potential for judgment creeps in and interrupts my time with myself, so it kind of takes away from the experience. Hmm.. now I'm off to ponder that contrast. Thanks for the thought-provoking post :)

  14. I don't mind being naked, generally. I usually sleep in only panties, mostly because I don't like the feeling of wearing clothes while under a blanket. I sometimes walk around naked too, but being a college student in a dorm room, there's not many places I can go and still maintain a positive reputation.

    However, I am careful about nudity in front of others. I hate making people uncomfortable, so I usually err on the side of caution and stay as covered up as possible while others are around, just in case. Though on my dance team, we're cool just straight up changing clothes in the middle of the dance room, which I appreciate. It's much more convenient, let me tell you, since the nearest bathroom is the size of an office cubicle.

  15. I grew up in a not-naked family (although my mother is at the same time not terribly bothered about it -- she's German, and she thinks the way American/Canadians get all fussed up about nudity is ridiculous).

    I used to be very prudish in high school, mostly because I was bullied about my body a lot, and felt ugly. Changing laboriously for gym in an open locker room without exposing an inch of flesh, that kind of thing.

    Then I got older and finally escaped the toxic pond of school. First, I started going to a lot of festivals. And I was still fattish, with lumps and sort of ugly breasts and all the rest -- but you know, you go to an outdoor place where almost everyone drops clothes as soon as they get out of the car, and it's amazing how much more beautiful EVERYONE is naked. Including imperfect people. People who look gawky or squat or awkward in clothes, old people, fat people, skinny people, are ALL exactly as they should be, naked.

    Then I started posing for artists, and that's a different kind of naked too -- because almost everyone looking at you with a pencil in their hand forgets that you are a body almost as soon as you get up there. You turn into shapes, light, shade, challenges, and I like it a lot; it feels almost like a kind of meditation, to hold a pose under the lights, exploring the tiny shifts and movements and discomforts of my body through time.

    I don't feel as self-conscious naked as I do clothed -- because there's no HIDING anything. With clothes on, I can fool myself that I'm fooling others: maybe I'm hiding that belly pooch, with this skirt. No one can see the way my tummy skin droops from weight loss or gain, or the way my ass is starting to pucker with cellulite. My bra is holding my tits up, so nobody knows that every since they first appeared, they've been as saggy and stretchmarked as an ancient granny's. Naked, there I am, you know? And so is everyone else.

  16. I actually adore being naked at home. I am one of those women who lounges around in the nude haha. I'll be doing dishes or reading a book or cleaning the bathroom... all in the nude (I have since learned frying bacon is not a nude thing to do). Funnily enough, I am so shy about my shape in public, that I stopped wearing pants so nobody would see the outline of my crotch. Weird, eh? I really do love clothes though, and sometimes I actually prefer wearing some to being nude, but only for the sake of enjoying the item, and not for being not-nude.


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