Naked or Nude

When I was in college many years ago I worked as an artists’ model – sometimes draped or costumed, sometimes nude.  Only the very first time without clothing was difficult and then only for a few seconds.  Truth be told, I was 18 and 19 and knew I had a beautiful body.  I enjoyed being looked at, studied with an artist’s eye.  I felt in no danger.  The class setting was perfectly safe because of the numbers and I only worked with single artists in their studios if I knew them well from class.

In later years, when people asked me about the experience I often heard “being naked in front of a group of clothed people all looking at me is one of my worst nightmares.  How could you do it?”  I could do it because I didn’t feel naked.  Naked is exposed, embarrassed. Nude is the stuff of comfort in one’s own skin, and of “great art”.  In my young womanhood when I was modeling I never felt  embarrassed or exposed.  I just didn’t.

Zoom ahead a number of years, a large number.  I have an outdoor hot tub on my back deck. I had it installed not for pleasure but for medicinal reasons.  The body aches of my old bones and joints, exacerbated by many years of fibromyalgia (Thank you, Lady Gaga, for making this condition known to the world) makes soaking in hot water almost a medical necessity. Our house has no usable indoor bath tub so my partner and I use the hot tub frequently, night or day.

Recently my teen aged grand daughter stayed with us for a week and I couldn’t get her to use it with me or without, with a bathing suit or without.  For her, sitting in a tub of hot water happened only in the privacy of a bathroom with a locked door.  Had I invited her in when my partner was away from the house ….maybe, but it just didn’t work out that way and she is far too modest to risk any other arrangement.

Last week my beloved younger brother stayed with us for several days.  I thought a hot tub right outside his door while his home in Pennsylvania was expecting a snow storm might be a fun California experience.  I offered privacy or company, bathing suits or no, but somehow we just never got around to it.  Modesty again maybe or just too little time for everything on his visit.

In the more than a year since the tub has been installed many of our friends have ooohed and aahed and asked to be invited to use it.  I have offered all carte blanche.  Again I have offered company, since the tub holds 6, or privacy, and use with or without bathing suits, under the cover of darkness or pleasantly baking in the sun.  In all this time only one couple has used it, at night, privately without our company.

In my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I regularly shared hot tubs with friends and strangers.  We often went to popular clothing optional retreats and shared tubs with all who could fit in. I think the difference between then and now is the exact difference between nudity and nakedness.

Naked bodies of those in their 70’s or thereabouts are not what they were a half century earlier.  Certainly they are not an aesthetic delight like a strong young body of a younger person might be.  Before, sharing a hot tub with friends or strangers, we were all nude.  Now, after time has done its work of scars and pounds and unwanted sags and hair, we would all be naked…or feel naked.  How each of us feels in our body – nude or naked – is the distinction.

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