Seeing People Naked

Dimples. Cellulite. Unseemly birthmarks. Tan lines. Stray, fine hairs forgotten by the razor. When one strips down to nothing, their nuances become amplified. Clothing protects us from the elements, but it also protects us from vulnerability. From being seen sans flourish. From being naked.

Nudity is just one way of appearing naked, though. In reality, we’re capable of exposing ourselves in a number of ways. Like going nude, we reserve these moments of starkness for the people we trust most. Parading around in our birthday suits can actually be the least intimate way of giving someone an unobstructed view of who we are. One night stands and nude beaches come to mind – in these scenarios, we’re giving strangers a looksee at the things we typically shroud. This lack of discrimination lends the other degrees of Being Naked some borrowed intimacy.

How else can one appear naked? One example is when you ask someone to edit something for you. Whether you’re an editor or you’re helping your friend proof their research paper, baring witness to the way one lays their words is a deeply personal experience. For whatever reason, the writer is trying to articulate their unique worldview – perhaps they’re applying for grad school or a job that requires a case study analysis. In offering your eyes, you’re exposed to what someone deems their best. You discover which words they misuse, or the ones they like to repeat. You can deduce if this person is a perfectionist, if they committed these words to paper in a harried fashion, if they believe what they’re saying. You can sense if they’re going through something emotional or if they’re confident in their ability to eloquently express themselves. Seeing someone’s train of thought typed out in Times New Roman, before it’s been shone and tidied, gives a great deal of insight into how their mind works. They are intellectually naked.

When someone allows you to see how they interact with their family, they are naked.  They are entrusting you with years of yard sales and bad grades, fights about piercings, pets who have been put to sleep. They’re exposing you to the people who know them best, the ones whose day-to-day absence is of no consequence, the ones who know them on a level so deep that it cannot be altered by age, job promotions, relocations. You are experiencing them as a whole for the first time – as someone who has a past, a childhood. A family adds context to a person, which you may be unaware of when you introduce someone to yours. We can see you, now.

Seeing someone when they’re sick is like seeing someone naked. They are in no condition to preen and peacock, no; they are a pile of used tissues and lukewarm, half-full mugs of tea. The idea of prying themselves from the couch to expel their feverish urine frightens them. They will throw up in a small wastebasket or a wok and they won’t have the energy to feel embarrassed about it. They might groan or release small yelps, they might cry. This is a person at their most pathetic, stripped of the ability to mask their incompetence. This is a person who called you because they thought you’d be able to handle seeing them at their worst.

Sometimes it’s easiest to take in a spatter of pimples or ingrown hairs. It’s easy to be content in closing our eyes and running our hands across the balmy skin of a stranger. But someone who is emotionally naked, who is daring you to experience them on a deeper level, who believes you’re worthy not just of their nudity, but of their nakedness? That’s worth celebrating. TC mark

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