...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

Random Day o' Nekkidness

So as I mentioned in a previous blog, I went with a couple friends to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MichFest) this past August. I had been told ahead of time by one of my friends who had gone the year before that there is a plethora of nekkidness at this festival--it's a chicks-only thing, so many (and I mean MANY) women take advantage and either spend the week (if the weather's nice) walking around in the buff or at least walking around topless.

Now, I was raised in a nekkid-friendly family--my sisters and mom barge in and out of the bathroom while other people are taking baths, peeing, etc. etc. and I've had many a conversation with my mom while i was propped on the toilet and she was plunked down in the tub shaving--so needless to say, I wasn't all that freaked out at the prospect.

Anyways, the first full day I was at the festival, I decided to take part in a workshop called something to the effect of DRAWING AND SELF-IMAGE. The point of the workshop was to get you to sit in front of a mirror and draw a nude self-portrait to get you really thinking about how you perceive your own body. (*Sidenote--as potentially lame as the workshop may sound, it was actually quite interesting to see the drawings people ended up with--women with enormous breasts usually had portraits where the breast-size was mutatedly large and that kinda thing.) Going into the workshop, I knew my shirt was gonna have to come off at some point and I wasn't real worried about it. But as the time grew near, I started to get surprisingly fidgety--when was an appropriate time to take it off? perhaps I shoulda just taken it off BEFORE I got there? Once we were finally decked out with charcoal, large sheets of paper, and mirrors, it was time.

And off it came. But strangely enough, I was slightly uncomfortable at first. But this dissipated quickly when I started drawing. Mirror in one hand, pencil and paper in the other, sitting in cargo shorts in the grass in a little grove of trees with twenty other women, swatting away an occasional confused ant that found itself skittering towards my navel or a fly droning next to my ear. It was quite liberating, and I ended up with a couple pretty wicked-cool sketches.

At the end of the workshop, I sat debating whether or not to throw my shirt back on or just continue to go topless for the afternoon. It was 80 and there was bright sun (this weather, thankfully, continued the whole week--it was absolutely gorgeous), so it didn't take long for me to decide "fuck the shirt." I tossed my backpack on and headed back to my tent.

And THIS is where it got even stranger. As I hiked the 10-minutes back to my tent, I found myself completely uncomfortable with my (half-)nekkidness, something I'd never expected. The reason was that my ears had turned into radar and kept seeking out the deviant catcall, the masculine heckle from the crowd, my eyes were downcast to avoid what I expected to be the silent disdain of other females walking around who were judging the fact that I was "scantily clad." My body was literally tensed up and felt like the frazzled tip of an electrical wire because of this. It was something I had definitely not expected, something I didn't even realize was that ingrained in me. And yet it was.


That's how the equation goes in our culture. So I felt kinda slutty trekking around topless. I felt like I was DESERVING of some random heckle or catcall dropped on me from the crowd.

I point no fingers of blame, hold no one gender accountable for this--it's just part of our culture. We equate nudity with sex, with the forbidden, with the "dirty." And, unbeknownst to me, this was ingrained in me far deeper than I had expected.

And yet the catcall never came. Neither did the heckle.

So slowly I grew used to this state of being. The first day or two, I felt self-conscious. I was hyper-aware that I was very bare. And I was hyper-aware of other folks' nakedness. My eyes went straight to the breast whenever a chick walked by. Ingrained.

If you were sitting there, reading the beginning of this blog, thinking about chicks walking around naked and half-naked, thinking there's something deviant about all this, you get my point. Fear of the naked body is SO deeply ingrained in us.

But even by the next day, this self-consciousness was history. I was attending workshops topless, doing yoga with other topless chicks in the middle of bright green fields of grass beneath the midday sun, sitting watching concerts topless, perusing the craft tents, eating dinner with my friends and balancing my dishes against my breasts as I waited in line. It was absolutely and completely liberating. (This amazement might be slightly difficult to understand for a male as the shirt can come off of them in public without even a blink of acknowledgment. But for a woman, this is a strange and unique experience.) It was amazing, AMAZING, to be able to feel the sun warm my breasts for the first time in like 20 years. I mean, the damn things hadn't seen the sun in so long that they weren't even sure how to BURN correctly. They sorta just "blotched" instead.

But damn if I didn't take advantage--all I wore all week was underwear and a sheer crimson-colored wrap around my waist and thighs. It would've been a damn shame to have done otherwise as the weather was gorgeous.

And it was amazing, because by the end of the week, the female body (MY body) had become completely neutralized, completely desexualized. I didn't even bat an eye when some chick with enormous beautiful breasts went traipsing by on her way to get food. By the end of the week, I was back to being four years old again, running around without a shirt on without even a second thought.

And dammit if I didn't learn something from that experience. I mean, these are the hulking forms we trudge around in all day, that we do the best to hide beneath layers of clothes. And why? This is us, in our barest and rawest form. This is us undisguised. Are we THAT afraid of ourselves?

* * * * * * *


Inspired by the Michigan
Womyn's Music Festival

Never having felt at one with the earth,
Never having felt at ease among men,
I spend this week baring breasts to the sun.
The first day, I walk nervously like Eve
outside the Garden, dodging cat-calls and
biting back at fingers flat as whistles
that once fed her. But these breasts are no more
than elbows, elicit no stares; just sit
and cradle the light the sun's tipped upon
them. My spirit hardens like a bare fist.
This is the first time my breasts have felt sun
since childhood, nipples cracked open like dark
meaty chestnuts beneath the mid-day glare.
I am pleased. Each woman is fruit and not
just a seed. It's no wonder we have been
the object of so many poems. And yet

by mid-week, this fierce fruit is burning. I
half-want this safe-space to be no longer
safe. I want to be fruit cracked open on
wet tongue. By the end of this week, I want
teeth sunken in me and I want to be
harvested under some stranger's rough stare.
Despite sun, I want to be the other
reason we've been the object of so many poems.
©2004 LS

Some links to some beautiful nude artwork:

Egon Schiele

Almond Chu

Spencer Tunick

Get nekkid for art! I am!
Spencer Tunick comes to Cleveland.



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