Heritage Undressed

When I say that my family is freer than most, I mean that in a fairly literal sense. While most
By Aria S.K. Laskin

When I say that my family is freer than most, I mean that in a fairly literal sense. While most people use these 700 words to wax poetic about how they found themselves abroad or about how their weird family is actually normal, I cannot do the same, because I have yet to find myself, and my weird family is actually weird. While I could talk about the film canister filled with leafy greens I was given over Christmas break by an extended family member or the tears that spill out of my father’s eyes whenever he watches “Bigfoot,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” or any other movie not worth crying over, what I really want to talk about is how my family loves to be naked.

Naked in the kitchen. Naked in the living room. Running around naked. Sitting naked. Swinging arms, legs and other limbs naked. Naked happy. Naked melancholy. Locks? Nonexistent. Doors? Not necessary. If my home was a movie that made my father weep, it would be called “A Naked League of their Own.” And I would be Kit, except that I would never have played on the same team as my sister and my name would be Tool Kit, because I am the worst character of all.

When I was 11, I decided that my body had changed. I started wearing a bra (waste of money), shaving my legs (waste of time) and applying deodorant (this I could have done more frequently). The frequent nudity of my father, mother and two sisters began to alarm me, and I soon made it clear that it was inappropriate to appear without clothing in the presence of my overwhelming maturity. Thankfully, my family complied, save for one of my sisters, who remains naked to this day. My life went on a little more clothed, and their lives went on a little more clandestine. It still never occurred to me, however, that my new aversion to nudity was actually an act of conformity, even when my proud display of a naked picture of my sister and cousin on my grade five locker door resulted in accusations of “porn-lover” and “gaylord” (which is not even a related insult).

One fateful evening freshman year, as I traded weird family stories with my new roommates, I told everyone about the nudist colony of five in which I had been raised. What, they asked, incredulous? You’ve seen your parents naked? They’ve seen you naked? I came out of the womb clothed! Neither of my parents have genitals! Only then did I realize that my 11 year old sensibilities had not been so off the mark—instead of being raised by Ken and Barbie, I was the spawn of a pack of lawless Jewish hippie crazies! I wasn’t a prude, but my family was perverted! Hah!

Three years later, as I prepare to graduate, perhaps the only things I can take away from my liberal arts education is that smooth plastic is the poor man’s crotch, my parents are fairly average hippies, and my family is not actually perverted, but highly tuned to the natural state of humanity. A 1999 study cited on sleepnaked.org found that 38 out of 45 participants fell asleep faster, slept better and woke more energized when they were in the buff. The Olympics used to be a nude event. Traditional art lauds the naked body as the height of beauty and purity. Our forbearers caught on too—a naked disco, Starkers!, is held monthly in London; many indigenous Brazilian tribes wear next to no clothes on a daily basis; Germany plays host to various naked cycling competitions throughout the year; and some South Asian ancient traditions conflate nudity with holiness. Being naked is better for us physically, belongs to us historically, and is embraced by some of us culturally. So why can’t my family be naked?

In a 1995 study by UCLA psychology professor Paul Okami, it was shown that children who see their parents naked are in no way worse off than their prudish counterparts. In my experience, a naked family normalizes nudity in a wonderfully productive way. Being naked never feels wrong, embarrassing or innately and cheaply sexual to me; it is an empowering and liberating state of being. This is the legacy I owe to my family.

My family is far more clothed these days (save for my naked sister), but when I happen to see a nipple, I don’t flinch anymore. If it’s a naked sibling, I may consider joining in. Everyone has different levels of comfort with their body, and I am blessed that my upbringing cemented in me the ability to be comfortable in my own skin, in my own home, with my own people. If this is weird, I don’t want to be normal. My brain owes Eve a debt for eating the fruit, but when it comes to my body, I think I will stick with my family in upholding the values of Eden.

–Aria S.K. Laskin ’08 invites all interested houseguests to her nudist paradise home in beautiful British Columbia. Underwear counts.