It might not look like it to the naked eye, but I long to be the nude sunbather. There used to be one in every movie about sexual awakening — a woman on a terrace a few doors down. Happens to take off her bikini top. Thinks no one is watching. Likes the breezes on her skin. Can’t be bothered to use a pronoun.
The nude sunbather is always peeped by the neighborhood boys. She is the Mrs. Robinson archetype. Never is a nude sunbather depicted as simply a person enjoying the sun on her skin. She’s always an object. And often she’s considered too much woman — fearsome in her epidermal freedom.
What would be great is to be the nude sunbather without the eyes on her. To simply be able to exist without the weight of a culture’s worth of judgments and attention. Just to be a body being itself in the sun.
After having a winter where my body was medicalized every day for a few months I started getting this huge urge to skinny-dip. I wanted to feel my body as a body in the world again. Something that naturally derives pleasure from being touched by a breeze. This human body in her entirety endured a lot. It would feel nice to treat her to that kind of gentle simplicity, as opposed to radioactive rays and the occasional needle.
I would like to replace the feeling of having a physicist poke my nipple with a pen.
I think I’ve only skinny-dipped once — in the pool at an ex’s parents’ house, and that was fine, but I did it just because I wanted to be sexy and cool. I can’t say I had any real urge to do it. Now I do. But by the time summer was almost over, do you think I’d put my bareness into a body of water yet? No, of course not. Spandex on, like a respectable person.
What was I waiting for? Permission? Maybe. I think I was waiting for there to be no eyes around. I was waiting to be close enough to an unpopulated body of water at night. Preferably in the darkness of the new moon.
What is this strange feeling of not wanting to be seen but wanting to feel? It’s what advertising and our culture are designed to keep a woman from experiencing. But I don’t want to think about any of that. I just want to be nude. For a minute.
So I take my shirt off outside for a minute on the deck at my family’s beach house in the middle of the night. It helps. It is exhilarating. And it really turns my shit around.
Finally, appropriately (or inappropriately, depending on where you're standing), by the light of the most recent full moon, I get my nude body into a body of water known for a certain transcendentalist writer taking up residence near its peaty shores. My husband and my best lady pals and I creep from a secret parking lot, pull off our bathing suits (which we wear in case of chickening out), and wobble into the pond, averting our eyes to allow each other’s jiggly bits their jiggly, vulnerable freedom.
And it is glorious.
Happy full moon! There’s still time to put your full moon into a body of water. But only if you feel like it, homes! I showed you mine so if you feel like it, show me yours. Except for you, Anthony Weiner.
(By “show me yours” I mean tell me about your skinny-dipping escapades or when you’ve felt like you just needed to be a sensual beast in soothing environs.)
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.