Several years ago, when Oliver was about three, he barged into the bathroom just as I was getting out of the shower. And then ran excitedly out of the room and reported to his dad, “Mommy has a mustache on her wee-wee!”
And now you all know that I do not wax everything off. Congratulations, Internet!
I’m not super shy about nakedness. Like, whatever, it’s just my body. I do leave the house clothed, because contrary to popular belief, I am not in fact Kate Conway (it's the hair, you guys!). But I’ve been known to walk around my non-air-conditioned house naked, particularly after a shower. On the hottest days, air-drying is necessary.
As far as being naked in front of my kid, I did it all the time when he was younger. There were times when I needed to shower and he needed a bath, and I couldn’t leave him alone in the house while I showered, so I just had him shower with me. I was also usually unclothed while getting ready for work every morning. I mean, the kid has definitely seen boobs. It was really not a big deal.
But then as Oliver got older and we started potty training, it was as if some switch was flipped in his brain. Like he suddenly realized that girls and boys really do have different equipment. One day I caught him looking at me -- like really observing -- and I decided it was time to stop being undressed in front of him. So I put on a goddamn bathrobe already.
And then of course, we had the mustache on the wee-wee incident.
Now he’s seven, and he is asking questions about babies. He has a crush on a girl at school. He’s asking me stuff about whether second graders can have girlfriends. Things are changing.
And yet, he’s still too young to go into a public bathroom by himself. If he’s out somewhere with only me, he has to go into the ladies’ room. I’m reminded of the Louis C.K. bit on taking his girls into the men’s room at JFK International Airport: “Look girls, nine penises!”
There was a time when going into the ladies’ room didn’t bother him, but now, of course, it does. Depending on the restroom, I either have him wait right outside the stall for me so that I can see his feet, or I have him come into the stall with me and turn around to face the door.
But there’s still an embarrassment factor for him. We went to see a movie a couple of weeks ago, and, of course, he had to use the bathroom after the movie was over. When we walked in, a girl his age was walking out with her mother. I could tell he felt awkward and embarrassed. But what other choice do I have?
The fact is, the kid is aware of bodies, and he likes girls, even if he isn’t quite sure what that means yet. I try not to make a big deal of nudity, because I don’t want him to think there is anything wrong with his body, or anyone else’s. But I’m not so sure I should subject him to MY nudity.
Recently we watched “Enter the Dragon” and he saw his first naked boobs in a movie, a rite of passage for many young lads (both my ex and my boyfriend say their first movie boobs were Beverly D’Angelo’s in “Vacation”). Not only was Oliver totally not embarrassed to be viewing this in front of me, but he asked me if I could rewind it so he could see that scene again.
And yet, the other day when my shirt was kind of hanging open without my knowledge, he pointed it out to me and said, “I don’t want to see your, um, thingy. Your bra.” And I thanked him for letting me know and adjusted my blouse. So there is a line there.
Sure, I saw my mother naked plenty of times when I was growing up, but we are both female. To me, for some reason, this is a different thing. Even then, I remember being embarrassed to get into the shower in front of her once I started going through puberty.
I think there is just a certain point where parents and children should not see each other naked.
Oliver, at seven, is far from puberty, but already he does not want me in the bathroom while he’s in the bath (but thinks nothing of mooning me, go figure). I’ve tried to teach him that his body is his own, and that no one can look at it or touch it without his permission. We’ve talked about how the only people who are allowed to see his body are me, his dad, and his pediatrician.
I hope that my son develops a healthy body image, and learns to respect others’ bodies and boundaries, and I hope I’m going about it the right way.
So, am I just being stuffy and Puritanical about this whole nudity thing? Were your parents naked free-love hippies? Do you walk around with no clothes on, in front of your kids? And I want to know if you remember the first time you saw nudity or sex in a movie. I think mine was “Yentl,” because that is a super interesting film to make your six-year-old see with you. Mom.
Somer is fully clothed on Twitter (sorry) @somersherwood