We lived next door to a nudist couple back in the early 2000s. In the interest of anonymity, I will refer to them as Kurt and Kitty.
Kurt and Kitty were roughly the same age as my parents. They had typical, middle-class jobs, were members of the Catholic church near the beach, and were terrific neighbors in all respects. When Kurt and Kitty had steak for dinner, they saved the bones and brought them over for our dog. Kurt helped Todd with the pool when the pump stopped working or when the algae got out of hand. Kitty, (ironically) a talented seamstress, occasionally hemmed pants for me. When I was expecting, she even made a beautiful quilt for our baby.
Todd and I never saw Kurt or Kitty in the buff. We did not learn they were nudists until after they moved away, but we always knew something was up. They always took forever to get to the door, and when they finally answered, they were often wearing robes. Despite the fact that their home had a pool, a hot tub and was less than 10 miles from the beach, they spent every weekend at a vacation trailer. Sometimes Kitty (and again, let me emphasize that this gal was as old as my mother) would wear a temporary tattoo on her chest. Just for funsies. Once I went next door to bring over a piece of their mail we’d received by mistake, and I found the two of them having a candlelight dinner. It was the middle of the week, and Kitty denied that there was any special occasion being celebrated.
“I bet you kids do this all the time, being newlyweds and all,” Kitty said. (Kitty would have lost that bet.)
Todd and I had several working theories about Kurt and Kitty. We initially assumed that they were newlyweds, but they had kids together, college-age kids, so that theory didn’t pan out. We then decided that they were either participating in some sort of “improve your marriage” workshop or (and this was the theory we preferred) that they were swingers.
It didn’t matter to us what Kurt and Kitty were doing on the weekend by candlelight at that trailer in their robes and temporary tattoos. They were pool-cleaning, pants-hemming salt-of-the-earth folks. Good neighbors. Still, the wondering got to us.
The truth about Kurt and Kitty came not from them, but from their oldest son, our friend, who went on to purchase their house. He had us over for a cookout, and it just came up.
“Well, you know about mom and dad, right?” he said.
“Tell us!” we demanded. “Are they swingers?”
“No, they’re not swingers. They’re nudists.” The vacation trailer, it turned out, was at a nudist resort.
People like Kurt and Kitty really buck the trend. We love to stay covered up in the US. Most of us would call this tendency “modest.” I suppose our friends in Europe would say we are “prudish.”
Like most American stereotypes, this fits me like a glove. (A modest, full-coverage glove. Not the fingerless variety.) I was raised to wear a slip under a dress. To pin the shoulder seam of my blouse to my bra strap if there were a chance it might accidentally show.
As self-conscious as I may be about displaying skin, my daughter is ten-times worse. I won’t elaborate because, well, like I said, she is modest. She doesn’t want you reading about her neuroses. This is my blog and not my daughter’s, so I will give you my perspective. I occasionally find it difficult as a mother to strike the right balance between Your body is a gift from God, a vehicle for your soul, and there is nothing to be ashamed of, and Your body is private and special, cover it up or you’ll end up on a “Girls Gone Wild” video. How do we teach privacy without shame?
When we decided to remodel our bathroom, with regard to artwork, I decided I might like a tasteful nude drawing of some kind. My daughter was horrified at this idea, of course, and her reaction solidified my decision to buy and display such a sketch. I thought maybe it would help drive home the idea that bodies are and do lots of things, that they come in all different shapes and sizes, and that nudity and sexuality are not one and the same thing.
I am pleased to announce that, after searching for several months, I have finally found the right girl. She is pictured at the top of the blog.
The vendor from whom I purchased this piece, a gentleman I met at Scott’s Antique Market, told me that she was drawn by deceased Atlanta artist, Helen Haynes Schneeberger. This vendor went on to say that her work is on display at the High Museum of Art. He said that he purchased Schneeberger’s sketch book from her daughter. I have nothing to authenticate this, and I’m not concerned about it. It was a low price point, and we purchased the drawing for aesthetic appeal, not as an investment. Anyway, what do you think of her?
There must have been one hundred Schneeberger sketches in this book. Making a choice was difficult. I think what appealed to me about the drawing I chose was how modest, almost self-conscious, the figure seems. Chin down. Wrists over her belly. This girl, I thought, she is going to fit right in at my house.
I let my daughter name the woman in the sketch. She settled on Eve. She seemed to find some peace once the figure had a biblical name. I asked my five year old son what his opinion was, and he said, “I like it more than I thought I would.”
I wish that for all of us. That we can decide we like our bodies better than we thought. You, me, Eve, and 60-year-old couples at nudist resorts dining by the forgiving glow of candlelight.