Archive of ‘Writing’ category

Naked

The idea of nakedness has long enthralled or appalled me. From the masterpieces of the Dutch masters with those half-dressed women draped over chaise longue, surrounded by cherubs, babies or interested men, to those dreams in which I find myself half dressed, no skirt or underpants, those dreams in which I find myself fearful of exposure or discovery.

I watched a Youtube clip the other day where the film makers arranged for a young mother breastfeeding a small baby to sit on a park bench in the middle of a busy street somewhere in America.

They filmed her and watched and waited as passers-by saw fit to insult the woman for her disgusting behaviour. Men and women alike.

Even when she responded, ‘I’m just feeding my baby,’ they said she should be doing it in private.

And then, by way of contrast they chose another beautiful and well-endowed model to sit on this same bench with her breasts half exposed. This time although people passed by and many looked – one man even came over and began to chat the woman up – not one of them threw insulting language her way.

The point of the story?

Well they then placed the two women side by side on the same bench and waited. They also propped a male type of minder against a fence nearby and when people stopped to insult the mother feeding her baby, this male minder asked the question:

‘Why is she, the women with the low-cut cleavage okay and she, the breast-feeding mother not?’

The typical response from the one or two they recorded – both men I observed, ‘She’s hot,’ referring to the full breasted model, but ‘She’s disgusting,’ referring to the breastfeeding mother.

So, nakedness in all its many forms can trouble us. It’s not nakedness per se, the nakedness of a new born, of a small child in a bath, though.

It’s the prurient eyes of adults, some adults, including the distorted minds of the paedophiles who can fast shift that naked innocence of childhood into something else, something to be exploited.

And it’s not long after we get into double numbers in age, ten years and over that we begin to feel uncomfortable about being seen naked.

So, nakedness is clearly connected to the sexual.

My analyst once told me that a father who walks around naked in one family, or a mother or any parental figure who walks around naked in one family, might signify very little given the intent of their nakedness. Comfort, convenience whatever but in another household, such as my own, a father sitting in his chair in the loungeroom stark naked carries a heavy weight.

The weight of exhibitionism, as if like a peeping Tom he draws pleasure out of disturbing his children and his wife by his nakedness.

This then in contrast to the folks who take themselves off to nudist camps.

I suspect the motivation behind nudist camps are many and varied but some of them might well be as seemingly innocent as wanting to go back to nature, so called, of waning to go back to the way things were for us when we were born. Wanting to be free of the pressure of clothing, even though clothing is a great help when it’s freezing cold and you’re in danger of hypothermia and death if you don’t rug up.

And there you have it, a potted history of nakedness, though I left out one essential point here and that is the imbalance between those who are naked and those clothed. And the way this reflects something of our misogynistic world today.

Those men in suits who look on at the naked woman in the garden from that famous painting of Suzanna and the Elders.

As Hannah Gadsby points out in her famous ‘Nanette’ performance. What was wrong with women in these centuries that they could not do up their blouse buttons and so found themselves with one breast popping out inadvertently?

Even writing this risks censure and titillation, the topic itself so troublesome. Most likely because it brings out the vulnerability in us all.

The Nazis stripped naked the Jews on their way to the gas chambers, for all sorts of complicated reasons, like wanting to get at their valuables, but also, I think to disarm and humiliate them, wanting to render them like cattle on their way to her slaughter.

Nakedness is inevitable for us humans, but it’s also loaded.

 

The stuff of nightmares

They delivered the flowers at the door, three large boxes, including three bridal bouquets, a corsage for the father of the bride and an extra-large bouquet for the bride herself. She took one look and started to hyperventilate.

‘What’s wrong?’ said bridesmaid number one, perched on a stool, her hair under the deft hands of a mobile hairdresser.

‘Look at that flower’

‘What flower’

‘The one in the middle, that green thing. It looks like an inverted shower hose, all those little holes. I can’t carry that.’ The bride covered her newly made up face in her hands. ‘It gives me nightmares.’

The discussion continued through the smell of baked croissants, a morning snack to sop up the glass of champagne that was meant to ease the tensions. In time, the bride’s sister nicked out to the florist, hopeful of buying a bouquet of less exotic flowers to replace the shower head.

She came back with yellow buttons and green leaves. But no matter how they tried they could not pluck out the offending bloom without destroying the look of the bouquet, which had been designed by one of Melbourne’s top florists to blend with the theme of the day. A decor to inspire people with the feel of Mount Fuji in Japan, a mountain that had inspired the bride during one of her visits. Its tall trees, white peaks and rocky outcrops.

The florist had promised a bouquet of flowers, green with a touch of gold and clumps of moss, with no idea that the offending flower would turn into the stuff of nightmares.

When she was a little girl the bride developed a phobia of the statue on top of the church near her home. This statue of the blessed Virgin Mary in gold on top of Our Lady of Victories Basilica. A gold woman who held aloft a sceptre and orb in one hand and her baby Jesus son in the other.

‘That lady on the top of the church,’ her father had told her one day as they walked together to the shops to buy bread and milk, ‘That lady up there,’ he said pointing. ‘She comes out at night and climbs down those steps there on the side.’ He pointed to a narrow line of steps that formed a ladder nearby the statue. ‘She comes down at night with her broom to sweep the church.’

The bride at six years of age could not sleep then, not that she said as much to anyone, not until later when she talked of her fear of things that might crawl out of the offending flower when she remembered the gold woman on the church.

Every night the six-year-old bride had stood at her window and craned to see the statue, visible above the trees and houses that separated her house from the church. Every night she wondered.

What if the gold woman took her broom and came to visit the bride?

What if the gold woman came with her broom into the bride’s house and swept up the corridor, up the stairs and through the bedroom door to the then six-year-old bride as she stood at her window?

What if the gold woman with her broom was not the helpful cleaning woman the bride’s father had suggested but was instead a witch with cracked and crooked teeth and black eyes?

What if the gold lady was a witch with a long nose and a hairy wart on the end. And what if the gold woman’s broom was in fact a witches’ broom and came with the most repulsive smell, the smell of putrid ponds that were filled with dead frogs and the witch woman wanted to take the bride, a girl of six years old and terrified on her broomstick out into the night to the place where witches take children who have not gone to sleep in their beds at night as they should.? Children who instead stood by the window and waited to catch out the witch woman and her broom stick and needed to be removed otherwise they would give the game away.

Then all the world would know about the bad smell that came from the compost bin in the kitchen, the bad feeling that came over the bride at the sight of the shower hose flower belonged to the secret place of witches and she would never be safe again.

 

 

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