Naked By Another Name

How can you write about a naked character, without using the word naked, or nude, or bare, or nekkid, skyclad, au naturel or any of those terms? It’s not all that difficult, but it can be a challenge, and it points to the intrinsic nature of writing as opposed to the visual arts: the play between what the writer may make obvious or explicit, and what the writer might leave up to the imagination of the reader.

Such was the challenge that we took on as a small group of naturist writers at the workshop that D. H. Jonathan and I ran last June at the AANR-SW convention at Oaklake Trails Naturist Park. Dan (D. H. Jonathan) produced a great write-up of the event that appeared in the most recent AANR Bulletin, and I wrote a profile of Dan’s work for my Disrobing Suspense series. We gave the writers about ten minutes to produce a description of someone, nude, in any kind of setting but without using the words listed above. Dan and I wrote entries for the exercise as well.

One man wrote of a friend of his, in the moment that she first got up the courage to drop her clothes at the beach. Another participant veered off topic and ended up writing about her childhood (hey, when the spirit moves you…). Here’s my entry:

He wasn’t the tallest, he realized, but at least he wasn’t the shortest. And even as he felt this, he wondered why that would be any more important undressed than dressed. And he felt sorry to have thought that. What did it matter? Did he pity the shortest guy? Not really.

So he stepped forward, just as all the other guys did, one by one onto the scale. Then he stepped to the side and extended his arms, and bent over, then stood upright again, and turned his head and coughed, and extended his arm for blood to be drawn, and all the other steps the athletes on the track team had to take to get through their physical. And he thought, if he was embarrassed at first, now he felt proud, completely unashamed standing unclothed among his peers. He understood that what he really felt, was good.

Lining up for medical exam. Source unknown.

I wrote that based on my memory of being on the junior high cross-country team back in the early 80s. What to do with that recollection now? Maybe I’ll incorporate it into some story or longer piece at some point, but in any case, when it came to me in the moment, unbidden, it helped reinforce for me how many contexts there used to be (and hopefully still are) for social nudity.

8 thoughts on “Naked By Another Name”

  1. Good thinking, Will, and good writing. You’re recognizing what, for many of us is a bit of a dilemma: how to write of one’s nakedness (anyone’s nakedness!) without, well, being “obtuse” about it. Pushing one’s creativity that much further, if you will. I need to think more about how one does that. Meanwhile, I write, right now, … well, you know.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Allen! I’m glad you appreciate the nature of this challenge, and I know you are certainly able to meet it.

  2. Will, several years ago I wrote in my diary on ‘Cat’s Chat’ about my ‘Slow Journey to Nakedness’. Part of it:

    “At age 12, I went to a ‘big boys’ boarding school, the equivalent of North America’s Junior High; swimsuits were not worn in gym class when we were in the pool or at closed, in-school, events and I concluded ‘I guess that’s what big boys do’. Comfort, ease of movement, and no longer wearing a cold, damp and clingy woollen suit that never seemed to dry before the next time you had to wear it seemed like considerable benefits. I do not recall any sense of loss of privacy or embarrassment, except the day I did a really good belly-flop off the springboard, with no textile protection at all; that stung, all over! 😳 After that event, the gym master walked slowly the length of the 25 metre pool, came up to me (I am terrified now, as well as bright red and stinging!) … and asked me if I would come to practice with the junior swim team! That meant even more time in the pool, free of swimwear – that could only be good, and definitely better than the cold, muddy football field or hot, dry, dusty cricket pitch which were the seasonal alternatives!

    “We used communal showers in a large, open common shower room after gym class or any other sports event; again, ‘I guess that’s what big boys do’ and there was no sense of embarrassment.

    “We had a communal changing room – there was no space for shyness or modesty, and changing quickly after gym class and before the next class, there was no time for them”.

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thanks for contributing this terrific recollection! And, I can’t help but notice, it is a text that does not mention any of those words at all (nude, bare, etc.) – impressive. I like, as well, how your memory conveys the joy of swimming clothesfree, even if an occasional belly flop might sting a bit more!

      I think there are some websites and forums out there dedicated to documentation of nude swimming in schools and YMCAs and the like – you probably know more about this than I. On my part, I’m not quite old enough to have participated in nude swim classes, but in the early to mid 80s we did indeed still have communal showers that everybody used at the end of phys. ed. class before going to the next class. How times have changed.

  3. Nudism is such a shocking word because its so descriptive of ones state of dress! It’s not typically seen in more common, everyday readings.

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