Tuesday Morning of 6 May 2002
Kate, my 4 year old, crawled around the corner into the room pushing a big, grey, toy horse with a shaggy, black mane. A naked, plastic woman was bent backwards across the saddle of the horse with her large, plastic breasts pointing up and out into the parlor. Unlike her limbs, her breasts were immovable. I was amused by the way Kate had the doll face-up over the horse instead of draped face-down as “in reality.”
Morgan, my 9 year old, stares.
“Oh, my God,” she blurts out. “A naked Barbie!”
Hmmnn, not only is my third grader a self-professed Atheist, who like many Atheists continue to use the Lord’s name, but she has become increasingly self-conscious about her pre-budding figure.
“Kate, are you ready to go to the bus stop with me and Morgan?” I asked.
“You are NOT taking a naked Barbie to the bus stop!” Morgan declared.
“Aw, shoot, Morgan. I’m gonna take us all to that family nudist colony at Snoqualmie this summer we heard about so we can ALL walk around naked with everyone else. There’s nothing wrong with being naked. There’s nothing wrong with your body. Old people. Babies. Fat people. Skinny folks. All walkin’ around naked.”
“Yeah!” shouts Kate. “We all walk around naked inside our house anyway.”
“Eww! Gross!” Morgan makes gagging sounds.
At first I thought it was funny. Then I wondered if I was being disrespectful of where Morgan was in her development. My agenda as her Father was for her to feel that our bodies are natural, normal, and healthy as they are, and there’s nothing wrong with nudity. I didn’t stop and think at the time that maybe there was nothing wrong with wearing clothes, either. I just want people to get these are choices, not ironclad moral issues.
There was a time at Orca Landing, an urban cooperative in North Seattle my family lived in for almost 7 years, all the members walked around naked from time to time, some more so than others. Then gradually we started wearing more and more clothes. Events such as having children around with grandparents and other relatives popping over to visit them.
An incident occurred at a party with children around where three guests, two men and a woman, had sex out back in our hot tub. Fortunately, no kids saw anything as it was pretty late. My wife at the time, Gwen, and I didn’t hear about the incident till the next day. The resulting uproar, however, motivated us to shake our heads at such irresponsible and disrespectful behavior, especially considering the professions of at least two of the folks involved, and caused us to implement new rules regulating open nudity. We banned sexual behavior out in the open in our common areas including the hot tub for sure.
We used to let Morgan play naked in our front yard. Then one summer Gwen decided to make Morgan pull on underwear whenever our daughter went outside. At first I disagreed, and then I relented. Fear of pedophiles and other sexual predators cruising by generated powerful aversions. An article had come out in the daily paper that our Greenwood neighborhood had one of the highest concentrations of relocated “sexually disturbed” men. A housemate remarked it was “socially and developmentally appropriate” for Morgan to now have to wear clothes outside. Morgan, still a preschooler, was deemed “too old” to run naked out of doors.
Is Morgan’s newfound self-consciousness with her body a normal, healthy developmental phase where the biological organism instinctively seeks to protect itself during transition, or is it inculcated from social and cultural conditioning, including what many alternatives consider the aberrations and distortions of mainstream culture? Isn’t peer pressure but the reflection of mainstream culture and media indoctrination, or is it a normal, biological herd-and-pack mentality to protect the vulnerable at a crucial phase of development?
Or, the ultimate cop-out answer, “both?” Because if it is “both,” then so what? What then? Also, if Orca Landing had been a rural rather than an urban cooperative with greater privacy in remote area rather than neighbors next door and across the street, well, would that have made any difference on the idea “its time for Morgan to stop running around naked?”
I realize one thing I appreciate about sex-positive culture is that it honors the body and all body types. Yes, I know, we should not equate nudity with sex ,and not all body types are healthy. But those are not my points. As human beings have a body, and human beings are sexual beings from before birth to (after?) death, I seek to instill respect, honor, and self-love for the human body as a whole even in minors.
And yes, a naked Barbie … and a naked toy horse both made it to the bus stop. But all the real people wore clothes. And not just because of protection from the elements or from imagined predators.
Morgan and I walked to the bus top along Fremont Avenue North with Kate cradling her naked Barbie doll and her naked horsie, too. While we waited Kate crawled around in circles pushing the doll bent back abnormally so its breasts jutted firmly skyward. She clearly delighted in such play, and she clearly delighted in antagonizing her older, more prudish (or should I say “prudent?”) sister.
Morgan would walk away and scowl, then look over in disgust as if her kid sister pushing a naked Barbie doll on a shaggy grey pony horse was the stupidest thing in the world.
Morgan would grumble, and Kate would ignore her. I stood there prepared to intervene if necessary.
And the big yellow school bus trundled up and carted Morgan off to elementary school. I walked back to the house with Katie, who treasured her naked toys with gleeful joy. We never made it to the family nudist camp, either.
William Dudley Bass
Revised March 2012
NOTE: This originally appeared in my older blog, Cultivate and Harvest, on November 19, 2008, at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2008/11/naked-barbies-at-bus-stop.html. Then it was edited, revised, and re-published here on my new website. Thank you.
Copyright © 2002, 2008, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.