Naked vs Nude
We come into this world after gloriously skinny-dipping or “swimming in the nude” during gestation in our mother’s womb. Soon after taking our first breath, we are swaddled in some kind of covering and, thereafter, live life bound by a cultural conformity that we cover our nudity, be it with Dolce and Gabbana or a loin cloth. If you are fortunate enough to skinny-dip when you are grown, it usually is under cover of darkness and moonlight and can be in a lake, the ocean, or a favorite swimming hole with no cover of clothing. An exhilarating experience.
Let’s look at the connotative difference between naked and nude. According to Webster:
naked (adjective) Origin: before 900 Middle English naked
• being without clothing or covering
• without adequate clothing or covering
• bare of any covering, vegetation, foliage
• bare, stripped, or destitute
• without customary covering, container, or protection
• without carpets, hangings, or furnishings
• defenseless, exposed
• exposed to view or plainly revealed
• plain spoken, blunt
• naked or unclothed
• without usual covering
nude (noun) Origin 1525-35 Latin nudus
• a sculpture, painting of a nude human figure
• an unclothed human figure
• condition of being unclothed
• a color that falls within the spectrum of human skin color
The definition of naked, to my naked eye, appears to win the naughty vote. A bit grim, even. The definition of nude, on the other hand, can be a noun naming a work of art, an adjective describing a human appropriately unclothed; as in sleeping or swimming in the nude, or a color that is closest to the hue of Caucasian skin.
So, as is the usual doing of humans, we have turned something of a natural state, nude (acceptable connotation), into an unnatural state, naked (unacceptable connotation) by definition of experience. Is it because we really believe that Adam and Eve covered their privates in the Garden? Or do we believe that “private parts” are not sexual if covered?
Hair and plant and animal skins provided protection and warmth to human beings in earlier times and now in what we consider primitive cultures. Coverings were necessary (e.g. on feet) to improve mobility on the ground. Now we have a multi-billion dollar clothing and fashion industry dedicated to and dictating dressing us up or down. There’s underwear and socks and hosiery for the first layer, then our clothes, then outerwear and shoes for the third layer to protect against the elements. And do not be out of fashion. Discard or giveaway and buy new clothes to fit the trends.
There are aspects of buying clothes that confound me. Getting a new seasonal bathing suit can feel equally exhilarating or stressful. Most bathing suits, whether basic or glam, are usually designed to visually enhance the desirable or minimize that which is deemed undesirable. We are put in a mindset that selection is dependent on, for example, one’s weight, height, shape, physical endowment, and even age (yes, the “miracle suit” trims a mature frame). The word, “swimming”, rarely enters the design equation. Selections in hand, we are directed to a dressing room with the worst possible fluorescent lighting. There is no coconut yum yum, piña colada, or tropical smelling suntan lotion to put one in the right frame of mind. But we continue the pursuit for the perfect suit. So we can cover our bodies with clever styling during one of the most buff and natural of all activities featuring our buoyancy in water. Did anyone find it odd or file protest that the Olympic swimmers (and gymnasts and track & field athletes for that matter) had ample skin exposed in a public setting on a televised world stage? No, because less is more promotes performance in this scenario. I mean, really, what swimmer, gymnast or track & field athlete wins a medal if they wear layers of clothes? “Skimpy” took on a whole new meaning in Rio.
I love the feel of water on my butt-naked self. I think that’s why I have always incorporated the Ode to the Evening Bath in my life almost on a daily basis. Finishing the day in a tub of fragrant water brings me round to my best self and where I feel closest to Baby Heaven. I vote for a universal building code that general contractors who build homes provide a “must-have” bathtub clause in the plans.
On a similar note, can we please quit dressing up our babies and tots with designer garb on a regular basis? We do that for our aesthetic, not theirs. A single nappie on a baby can be enough. Let them suck on their toes, look at their reflections, and be in touch with their natural covering instead of covering them up all the time. I recall a famous family summer reunion where all the kid cousins played a resounding game of badminton totally naked as jaybirds. I admit, when asked, not admitting to who gave them permission to do so. They all, to this day, laugh with unbridled delight at the memory. A proud, reverent, healthy respect and love of our bodies can be nurtured in childhood. This supports the strength of our oneness rather than the shaming of our separateness.
There are two scenes in the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, in which the character, an aging actress, demonstrates a perfect, zestful confidence in life, including her physical body and appearance. Her portrait (a nude) is being completed in one scene, complete with chaise and feather boa. The other scene was the eye opener for me. She re-enacts the fountain episode from La Dolce Vita in the fountain at the town’s center. Some observers in the film found her behavior an indulgent display of drunken lunacy and bad manners. To me, the scene was visually stunning, vulnerable, poignant and sensuous. I have yet to see any happening where clothes were so absolutely irrelevant to beauty. I actually recalled no clothes at all in the scene.
Let’s face it, I was not without adequate covering during the writing of this post. But I was without my usual covering. Nude can be inspiring.
I suggest every human on Planet Earth draw a bath and soak awhile. Bathe in your innocence. Sometime soon, hear?