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I have never had so much of an issue with my body as I have when it comes to sex. I think at some point G-d decided to have a massive laugh by pairing one of the most pleasurable instances of human existence with one of the most awkward, unnerving and baring requirements. Nudity is scary, it’s fucking terrifying for most people, and when it comes to someone who has the modesty of a Puritan/Talibanese Woman/some chick in the Victorian age who thinks showing ankles is a ‘bit much.’ Well nudity is the equivalent of facing a team of rabid angry wolverines who are carrying newly purchased M-16s. And armor piercing bullets.
I hate naked sex. I like sex, but I hate the naked part. I avoid getting naked most often, trying to hold out for heavy petting, long make-out sessions, the ever-failing ‘dry hump.’ Just as a side note, the suggestion of “Baby, why don’t we just…you know, dry hump” paired with a winkwink, is terribly un-sexy, and elicits either the immediate departure of the other party, or a small laugh before she again attempts to rip your shirt off.
Perhaps it was more this fear than any moral compass that led me to retain my virginity until I was 21 ½, and yes, that half counts for a whole lot of tension, so I include it. I think I was more afraid of someone seeing me naked than the actual acts of sex, and so I made myself unattainable as I attended an all-girls school. Yes, I said all-girls. Know what kind of girls attend all-girls schools? A few repressed chicks, a handful of lesbians and a massive demographic known as LUGs or BUGs, which respectively stands for lesbians until graduation or bisexual until graduation. I was in lesbian wonderland, and I was known as ‘Extra Virgin’.
It was not a shining moment for my sexual prowess, if entire absence of prowess can be named as such. I was more a sexual vacuum, an unnatural void of sex. I was Anti-Sex, the Archenemy of Mojo, the Master of Masturbation, the Saddest Girl on Campus. But I got awesome grades.
In the end, I finally dropped my pants for the dreaded ex, the first ‘true love,’ which we all know means ‘true infatuation with something that may or may not bite your head off after they have your babies and are done humping you.’ It was a mortifying experience in which she compared my body to pictures she had seen of me wearing a swimsuit in high school when I didn’t have the freshman 15, the sophomore 15, and the junior 20 added into the curves. Then she burst into tears, had a wiggins, and fled the room to lock herself in the bathroom. I know there are valid reasons for all of this, but my virgin now turned not so virgin brain didn’t really care and instead went out to the porch for a cigarette, suddenly noticing a pool of disappointment welling up to my waist over the fact that sex is kinda lame.
Of course I tried again, and she found the whimsy for intercourse in the general television room of the dorm, with a pair of handcuffs, on Naked Sam. Naked Sam was weirded out enough by being naked, but cuffed to a lamp that was bolted to a table for ‘security purposes,’ this was a whole new ultra-level of uncomfortableness. Even worse was the way things played out when my pregnant girlfriend developed the whimsy for a sandwich and got up and left me alone as she made herself a snack. As she was gone, in walked the RA that truly despised me, probably the only other person there who had a larger bug up her butt than myself, and she saw Naked Sam.
What followed included a lot of screaming, a scramble to detach myself from said lamp, the complete failure of it, a threat to call the police, and the assistance from a friend in my dorm who answered my screams for help and proceeded to dismantle the handcuffs before the cops arrived.
On the upside, I didn’t get criminal charges pressed against me.
On the downside, I have always been terrified of nudity since. I see it as something that can get me in trouble, something people just don’t want to see, something ‘not good.’ This extends even beyond me, to other people. I have been just as uncomfortable with other naked people as I am with my own parts.
As a note to the reader, if residing in an all-girls Arts Dorm, and unnerved by nudity, do NOT mention this to the other women, or they will create a game called Make Sam Blush and Run Away, also known as Flash Sam. I saw more boobies in one year than I have seen in the rest of my life, and all of them made me highly uncomfortable. However, if you like being flashed, going along the same method is quite effective for seeing lots of boobies.
The woman I have slept with since have had an uncanny habit of backhandedly insulting my body. I’m not sure what exactly they were expecting when the clothes came off, perhaps they thought I was wearing some sort of slight fat suit, or that I was one of those girls from the romance movies where when they strip down and take off their glasses they suddenly become smoking model hot.
The women I do sleep with have somewhat of a carte blanche to be bitchy about my figure because they tend to be sticks, tiny little creatures that I refuse to get on top of for fear of slipping and crushing them. They are toothpick girls, stick figures with pretty faces and bad attitudes and believe me, I do not pick them, they pick me, often in a forceful and at first appealing fashion. This is appealing until they start the whole ‘remodel’ of me, changing clothes, pushing attitudes, fighting habits, remodeling me as if I was a room painted the wrong color or a couch in need of re-upholstering. This is not so sexy and often is the first road sign down the highway of crazy that most of the women I have slept with drive consistent routes to and from on.
One girlfriend mentioned that I should take better care of my body. You know she said, “You would look great if you dropped even a few pounds.” It would be healthier. Instead of telling her to get the fuck out of my bed, I wandered to the bathroom and looked at my nakedness, pinching and turning, trying to see myself with a few less pounds. I didn’t tell her that I don’t mind my weight, because I minded everything about myself: my weight, my face, the cluster of freckles on the left side of my stomach, the mole on my back, the way my eyes sink in, the scars I have from hip surgeries and an appendectomy, my height, the way my voice sounds…the list would take pages and all of it is about me, myself, and not this skinny naked perfect thing sitting in my bed ordering me toward a diet and more exercise.
It took a very long time for me to realize what the real problem was. It wasn’t these girls and their despicable comments. It wasn’t the women flashing me, or society’s manner of deifying beauty, or the fact that my first two attempts at sex were utter failures that almost ended with a night in jail and a terribly bad story in the school newspaper.
In the end, the problem was me.
Post-car-wreck-that-changed-my-life, my modest self refused help going to the bathroom in the hospital. I was wracked with pain, my brain likely swelling in my skull, screaming obscenities at my mother and the nurses, and mindlessly operating my body. I do not remember this because the brain wasn’t working at the time, it was busy watching parts of itself die off, ruin themselves against the inside of my skull, damage itself in ways even brain doctors can’t explain; little invisible injuries that would redefine my future self, my future life, that would one day put these words onto this page.
As that went on, every time I had to pee, I would fight nurses and parents to lift myself up, I would clutch at the back of my gown so nothing was seen, and I would close myself alone in the bathroom, using it alone, putting myself through massive amounts of unnecessary pain so no one would see me.
I was Agony, the crown princess of Pride. I was Shame. I was never naked around anyone.
As parts of me died away and other parts of me remained drugged and semi-catatonic and homebound, I fought my sister Elisa as she helped me to bathe, something sorely needed as the hospitals never really get rid of all that blood that comes from a wreck. I battled her as she did her best to get my stubborn ass in a tub and scrub out my hair, which still had bits of glass in it, my face which was bruised and grimy, everything but the arm which remained encased in a massive pink block of foam we had dubbed the ‘cat toy’ due to its appearance and my cat’s fondness of attacking it while I slept.
Eventually I gave in. Eventually something in my brain lost a fight and I learned to accept help. I learned I couldn’t be alone safely in a bathtub with morphine pumping through my veins. I learned that I shouldn’t be so scared of nudity and should maybe be a little more scared about what was going on, the injuries I had and the ones that had yet to be discovered. Eventually I stopped giving my poor sister hell.
Sometime after the wreck I was about to get involved with another girl. After a particularly long day, she saw me spark up a cigarette and piped up. So, how many of those do you smoke a day?
I shrugged, not actually knowing. I was a social smoker, so it wasn’t too much of an occurrence. I was more surprised I was going to get the “cigarettes kill you” talk from her as she had never shown much of an interest in my well-being. If I called up sick for a date, she generally said, “Oh, let me know when you get better. I’m too busy right now to fight a cold.”
I was just thinking, she said, “If you smoke a lot of those, you get that haggard wrinkly look as you get older, and that is not very sexy. So how many would you say you smoke?”
She was worried about me getting ugly. She was worried about wrinkles. She was worried about my face and body and skin and could care less about lungs and heart and blood and all the vital things that kept my body working. In the end, if we managed to stay together and she didn’t run me over with her Forester or eat my soul, or any of the other things girls tended to try with me, she would leave me ultimately because I became ‘ugly.’
I am covered in scars. I am overweight. I am not the prettiest girl on earth; I am not in the top ten percent. But I am smart, I am moral, I am loving and trustworthy and kind and funny and goddamnit I can cook one helluva meal.
And I’m no longer the problem.
I told her we were done, and I went home and I invited my family over for Sunday dinner and we had a crab boil and I ate all I wanted, getting grease and crab everywhere. That evening, when everyone had left, I hit the shower, emerging naked to see myself in full view of the mirror.
Examining, I saw all the things I had hated, and they seemed small, still there, but much smaller compared to that freckle I love between my breasts which are awesome knockers, natural pin-up kind of stuff and the thick brown hair I have that girls love to run their hands through and the great cupid’s bow my lips have and the well-sculpted forearms leading into hands that have perfect thumbs (not scary Megan Fox toe-thumbs) and I liked what I saw.
In a room with just me and my cat I walked naked comfortably to bed, sliding in under the sheets, completely okay with my nakedness, proud I had changed enough to take this one small step.
I fell asleep, finally okay with nakedness.
Until my feral cat bit me on the breast and then skittered away across my chest leaving bloody tracks of claw marks, and I decided pajamas in my bed are an okay and somewhat vitally lifesaving choice.
"A Note on My Naked Body" is an excpert from a book-length piece called "Fat: The Story of a Diet." The author, Samantha Gellar, can be reached at email@example.com