"Women should try to increase their size rather than decrease it| because the bigger we are the more space we take up and the more we have to be reckoned with." - Roseanne Barr
It was my first semester at graduate school in San Francisco. It had been a particularly grueling day of classes and so the artsy-fartsy| touch-feely professor decided we needed to do a little de-stressing before heading home to do homework. He instructed the class to get into groups of three and do a two-people massaging one-person exercise. In the time it took for me to turn to the two people sitting closest to me and ask them to be in my group| I looked back at the front and there was my professor stark naked.
To say the least| I was shocked. However| not so shocked as when all my classmates followed suit and took off their clothes. Out of my embarrassment at being the only person left with clothes on| I managed to take off my shirt| but kept my bra on.
There were two thoughts that ran through my head during the exercise. The first was oh-my-goodness-this-really-should-be-bizarre| but it was not bizarre at all. In fact| I had one of those surreal moments of this feels so very good and natural.
The second thought was| pragmatically (not arrogantly) speaking| I probably had the most in-shape body of the lot since I spent heaps of time at the gym. Why then was I so gosh darned uptight in not wanting anyone to see me naked?
Three years later| I was back at school taking an advanced course in sex therapy. In the 1970s| the sex therapist duo of Hartman and Fithian came up with a groundbreaking sex therapy approach that the class was to try first hand. With seven-foot mirrors to our front and to our back| every individual in the class was to strip down naked and describe from head to toe what they liked and disliked about their body.
Now in the three years between these two events| I had a lot of time to think about why I was so bothered about being naked in front of people. With fresh eyes| I read magazine articles with titles like| 10 Tricks to Hide Your Bulges. I watched Atkins and WeightWatchers commercials advocating losing weight before bikini season. I walked by cosmetic counters with miracle cures to eliminate unsightly cellulite. It became apparent that everyone and everything was screaming at every woman every minute of the day as to just how unattractive her body is to look at.
Also during that time| part of my schoolwork was to watch hundreds of hours of California-style| free-love naked videos that starred average looking people. I must admit it was difficult getting used to the not-perfect-Hollywood body types on screen. Yet| for the first time ever| I saw just how beautiful the human body is without the help of silicone implants| liposuction and Botox injections. In fact| I noticed more beauty in the imperfections as it made those people unique.
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So there I was| three years later| taking off my clothes in front of my class. As tears streamed down my face and my whole body shook| I realized society's perfectionist values still had a stronghold on me. I kept thinking how ludicrous my emotional outbreak was because I did the exact same drill everyday in the gym locker room.
Interestingly enough| none of the women in this class could get completely naked: we only stripped down to our bras and panties. And none of us could say a lot of things we liked about our bodies. The men| on the other hand| were pretty nonchalant about being naked and were happy to talk about their less-than-perfect figures as absolutely divine. The difference in the men's and women's naked attitudes made me furious.
In that moment| something in me snapped and my mind made a fundamental shift. For many days after the exercise| I was angry. Angry at all the wasted years of my life spent feeling inadequate about my body. Angry at how much of my sexuality was stifled because I could not accept my imperfections as unique. Angry that I could not let people get close because my body insecurities pushed them away.
After the naked-perfectionist anger came the naked-reality calm. I would be lying if I said I always feel 100% great about my body| because I do not. However| when I look in the mirror| I no longer home in on all my imperfections. Instead| I see just how beautiful my body is| warts and all. In accepting my body| my sexuality is able to ooze out of every pore.
Now I have a new piece of the life-puzzle called| I'm okay with my nakedness. Try the naked journey yourself. It is worth the trip!"