When I was around the age of 10, I started to become increasingly frustrated with my body. It did not perform as well as I would have liked, it was not developing the way I would have liked, and it was becoming more and more a source of ostracization and shame from my peers. Yet for some reason, I was actually quite confident in the nude.
This may have been helped by a book series I was getting into at the time–The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. For those who don’t know this was an early breakout work of feminist science fiction, and as a plot device the telempathic bond between dragon and rider would, at the time of dragons mating, would cause the riders of the respective dragons to mate as well. Thus, the Weyrs of Pern (where the dragons, riders, and support staff resided) adopted different cultural mores than the rest of Pern–and indeed, would be quite revolutionary even by our current 21st century standards. One of these changes in cultural mores was a casualness around nudity, even across gender boundaries. There was a recognition that nudity wasn’t evil, and that it wasn’t inherently sexual either.
This really seemed very true for me. While I hated public change rooms because of how mean other boys could be, at home I often chose to sleep in the nude and to walk around the house nude when I needed to go to the bathroom in the night, or some such. This continued for a while until my parents had enough and quite strongly encouraged me to put some clothes on out of consideration for others. Yet even when I started doing so, I remained quite comfortable in both being nude and seeing others nude.
Sometime in high school, I also read Star Wars: Clone Wars: Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. In this wonderful tale of Jedi Master Mace Windu returning to his home planet of Haruun Kal on a dual rescue/investigative mission, there is one scene that took my aspirations of nudity to a whole new level. Mace Windu belongs to a native people called the Korunnai, yet the spaceport is controlled by offworld settlers called the Balawai. These Balawai have relegated the Korunnai to second-class citizens, and treat them with immense disrespect. When Mace Windu arrives at the spaceport checkpoint he is told to strip naked and get into a sonic shower. Windu keeps his bag with him after bribing a guard to allow it because he’s not confident his lighsaber’s disguise will pass muster. A couple of Balawai guards confront him while stark naked demanding he turn over his bag. It is noted that most beings would be so vulnerable and intimidated by being forced into such a confrontation while naked. Yet Windu remains as poised as if he’s wearing armour. The Balawai don’t quite know what to do when things don’t appear to be going to script but proceed to try to put this Korun male in his place–the result, of course is that end up on the floor with some broken bones before they know what hit them.
This image of being so calm and confident even while naked was one that I aspired to. Now, don’t get me wrong–my martial ability while clothed is limited, and my ability to do so while naked is basically non-existent. Yet that calm confidence is something we can all aspire to, and reach merely by being at home in our bodies.
As the years have gone on, I’ve become much more at home in my body, and I’ve only become more comfortable in the nude. Yet for me, even when I had a generally poor relationship with my body, I was comfortable in the nude, and I’ve come to see that that was a sign of hope, that it was one thing in my power to control. For a host of reasons the performance of my body and many of my physical attributes were largely out of my control–yet the ability to comfortable and confident when nude WAS something I could control, and that no one could take away, and I cherished that. And I eventually took that sense of control and empowerment and applied it to other aspects of my body. May you all find ways to embrace your body as well.