Completely naked

Darren D'Altorio

Sunday nights, trash nights, before I roll the garbage out to the curb, I strip off all my clothes and leave them in a little pile on the bench by the front door.

Naked, I approach the street with the garbage can, which smashes the grass under its weight. It’s one of the busiest streets in Akron during the day. But come 2 a.m., traffic is sparse. After the can is in position on the curb, I don’t hurry back to my pile of clothes. Instead, I pace the dew-soaked grass, and I let the night air touch all the parts of my body it normally can’t.

Normalcy. In psychological terms, this word governs our existence in America. It’s the status quo. It’s the argument-ending phrase every parent employs with a curious child who is asking nuisance questions, “Because, that’s how it is.” It is the understood way of doing things, and if a person decides to go against those societal customs, they are not normal.

Nudity has always been a normal part of humanity. Generally speaking, art, fashion, literature and documentaries about indigenous tribes throughout the world illustrate that point. Not until the Puritans landed in America and founded a country based on a strict moral code has the taboo notion of nudity been a reality. That status has held pretty strong through the centuries. Consequently, being naked in America is not normal.

Here we are, living in a polarized America over the topic of nudity. No shirt, no shoes, no service – discriminatory. In June 2008, the Associated Press reported an uprising of anti-nudist activity in a Vermont beach town where beach-goers enjoyed being naked at the beach. The reason for petitioning to have a law enacted that would ban nudity at the beach: It’s “about common public decency,” said Tony Strange, a Vermont man who started the petitioning. If a cop saw me partake in my Sunday ritual, fines and a night in jail could be a reality because of Ohio’s Public Indecency law, which prohibits me to expose my private parts or engage in masturbation where people other than my family might see me.

This summer, children were dragged into the nudity debate. Innocent, naked children hoping to escape the summer heat by stripping down and running through the sprinkler were made objects of parents’ bantering in a New York Times article “When do they need a fig leaf?” The conflict presented in the article pits the belief that nudity is a natural, normal expression of freedom that captures the essence of childhood against the notion that nudity is an affront to civility, a source of discomfort and an invite for pedophilic attention.

The article’s conflict is a great summation of the competing viewpoints in our society as a whole. Nudists and naturists believe being naked is a healthy form of expression, allowing oneself to develop a comfort level with his or her body while developing a stronger relationship with the natural world. The proper, clothed folks believe that being naked is a degenerative behavior that slaps civility and decency in the face.

Too many problems in our society come from how the American public discourse addresses topics like nudity. Porn is rampant. Advertising messages are more undressed and provocative every year. Women and men alike feel shame and discomfort about their own bodies. I don’t think this is acceptable. You is something you should always be comfortable with.

Because nudity is taboo, it is exploitable. People literally get off on nudity alone. Show the average American man a sculpture of Aphrodite, I’ll bet he gets aroused. That is a problem. Being hush-hush about nudity doesn’t help anything. It only furthers the idea that nudity is wrong or purely sexual.

I don’t want to live in a naked society. Clothes and style are sweet for many reasons. But, every once in a while, people should embrace nudity outside of the house to feel the positive effects nakedness can have on the soul. If you’re camping, sit around the fire naked with your friends and just talk. If you’re swimming, be the first person to twist your trunks above your head, hollering loudly, and toss them at least 10 yards away. And if you’re taking out the trash at night, get naked and do it. The air really does feel amazing against every inch of skin.

If a car happens to drive by, maybe the headlights will catch a piece of exposed flesh. The driver will pass by thinking, “Did I just see some nakedness?” And you can walk back to the pile of clothes near the front door wearing only a smile.

Darren D’Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major. Share your naked tales with him at [email protected]