When I left the British Isles for Scandinavia I was expecting to get an education in sustainable development not body awareness, but I am so glad I did.
If you flick through our family album you quickly see a trend emerge; from birth to the age of three I spent most of my life naked. I refused to wear those hideous dungarees or matching short and t-shirt number. I wanted to be free and run around like nature intended. I posed at every opportunity in all my naked glory, head in hands, bare bottom out, stretched long in the bath tub with no care in the world. Fast-forward to the mid-1990s and I am wearing clothes – all the time! Madness! Why hide such a peachy bum and all that lovely baby fat? (although I suppose I couldn’t claim baby fat by the time I had reached 10 – blame all those funsize Mars bars…)
Now, I am sure this is the same for most of us. And in reality you shouldn’t be parading around the streets every day in the nude – I mean, come on, England gets chilly in December. But doesn’t it make you wonder why we are so keen on covering up our ‘decency’ yet flaunt our boobs on a night out? And in hiding all of our features, only to then maximise them up in the clothes we wear aren’t we just sexualising our bodies and removing ourselves from the innocence of being naked?
There are so many sex scandals in the papers these days I’ve lost count. And while heinous and unforgivable, have we not all played a part in the demise of respect for the naked body?
I was so happy to hear The Sun finally got rid of Page 3, and all this talk of banning top shelf titles is promising, but I still think there is much more to be done. And it starts with how the UK views nakedness. We quiver at the thought of someone else seeing us naked; so much so that many are too embarrassed to let their loved ones see their wobbly bits. It’s all part of the UK culture, which is inherently shy.
So when I left for university in August 2014 I never expected to have an education in body awareness. My Master’s brought me to Stockholm – the home of the cinnamon bun and communal changing rooms (if you ever encounter both together do let me know). Living in Sweden changed my relationship to nakedness forever.
Swimming is my one true love – and it kept me sane during the long winter months. However, my first trip to the pool was quite eye opening. Everyone gets changed in one giant room so there is no hiding your scars, misshapen nipples or lady garden. I have to say that the first trip was very uncomfortable. I am predisposed to grab my private parts and shuffle into a corner in these types of situations. Why? I honestly don’t know. What I eventually realised though is that we have developed an anxiety about being naked and this has to change. Not only because you learn to appreciate all the wonderfully different body shapes out there, but you dampen the sexual connotations associated with nudity.
There are nearly 3.8 million naturists in the UK, but it’s fair to say that the majority of us spend of our time fully clothed, maybe even as much as half of our lives, if wearing a bikini doesn’t count. And there’s something really sad about that.
So I want to challenge you to ‘be more naked’ (#bemorenaked). What’s stopping you? It is really liberating to think you can walk along the beach with no clothes on and start to see your body in new ways.
I’ve never been completely happy with my body, but now I love it. I have rolls but to be honest I am never going to give up my double helping of pasta or all the baked goods. But because I now see my body as something powerful I want to look after it. So I’ve started treating it better. I am drinking less alcohol, walking more and flaunting it where it is currently appropriate. So I’m not advocating that you go to your local swimming bath this weekend and strip off in front of the receptionist proclaiming ‘be more naked’, but I do suggest you take a long hard look at your naked self.
And if you see a sign for a nudist beach this summer then consider taking the bumpy road to a new life. Our bodies are not fantasies, they are fantastic. They are real, and we need to see them more, as they are meant to be seen. If we did, then young girls would be exposed to what bodies actually look like rather than just the glossy, airbrushed versions.
And, if you know of any good spots to get naked then please let me know as I am new to the being naked movement. But I plan on making a start by joining Bristol’s naked bike ride in June. Why not do the same? Go on, be brave – it makes you feel more beautiful.