Happy Nude Year!

By Mike Murphy

Two recent incidents triggered the topic for this article.  First, on a recent trip we stayed in one of those motel rooms that has a full-length mirror on the bathroom wall placed where you can’t avoid staring at it when stepping out of the shower.  That was fine when I was in my twenties and all parts of my body were located where they should be.  But now some regions have headed south and I can’t hold my breath long enough to permanently relocate them.

When I first opened the shower curtain and saw my reflection I screamed, thinking that we must be sharing the room with attendees of a senior sumo wrestlers convention.  For future showers I dried and dressed while still behind the curtain.

The ultimate solution is to simply not turn on the bathroom light during my stay which also can be a bit hazardous at my age since the motel toilet seats are located approximately two inches above the floor creating the possibility of completely missing the runway as I attempt an instrument landing in the dark.

The next experience occurred while I was doing some serious academic research on the Internet when suddenly up popped nude pictures of Kim Kardashian!  I was never so shocked and embarrassed in my life and had no idea how this could have happened simply by my accidentally typing “totally nude pictures of Kim Kardashian” on Google when I meant to type “the Balkan crisis of 1914.”  I must have hit a wrong key or two.

I bet a lot of you have had similar experiences, say you’re a college student doing research to find some fun things to do on your spring break trip so you Google “50 weird things to do in an elevator” and, bingo, suddenly you’re watching Lady Gaga wearing an outfit consisting of three slices of strategically placed Spam, gyrating like a spastic cuckoo bird while singing her latest hit.

All of this started my thinking about why our modern day culture is so fascinated with nudity, especially when one considers how far we have come since the days when cavemen considered a porcupine-hide thong and saber-toothed tiger teeth bling-bling as formal wear.  Now when we have an endless variety of clothing to choose from—I myself have a closet jam-packed with nearly three flannel shirts—we suddenly have this uncontrollable urge to be seen in public wearing nothing.

Humans first started wearing some type of clothing about 170,000 years ago.  And let me tell you, that stuff was made to last.  In fact I still wear a pair of oak bark socks which were all the rage back then.  People who study such things were able to establish this starting date because that is when the clothing louse first appeared to join its cousin the hair louse.  Both types of lice were then joined much later by the computer bug which has really loused things up.

Recently, a shoe over 5,000 years old was discovered, having been preserved in sheep dung.  And here I’ve been wasting money on expensive shoe polish to protect my footwear all these years.

Originally, ancient Greek athletes wore clothing while competing.  However, legend has it that, in 720 BC, an unusually long loincloth worn by a sprinter named Viagras fell off and tripped up the other race competitors, resulting in the then naked runner’s victory.  This was the first recorded incident of a wardrobe malfunction.  From then on, Olympic athletes competed nude for some time.

Of course, females were not allowed to compete back then, nor even allowed to attend and watch the Games, which explains why Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other famous Greek philosophers all got their start as cheer leaders.

Another historic moment in the history of public nudity was the famous ride of Lady Godiva whose husband promised to lower taxes for the people if his wife would ride a horse through the town’s streets while completely nude, covered with only her long hair.  Thankfully, President Obama has not made the same offer to Mitch McConnell who barely has enough hair to cover his nose.  And if he did ride, I doubt if there would be even one Peeping Tom to worry about!

In 1936, a man’s right to appear bare-chested in public was made legal in the United States which, combined with the end of Prohibition, was an important stage in the evolution of the modern-day NFL fan.

Despite reports of nudity at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, it was difficult to see through all the mud, pot smoke, and “long beautiful hair.”

Today there are even nudist resorts one can visit.  Among other proper dining etiquette tips listed on their websites, they also suggest guests do not let the waiter serve you hot soup and that first-timers should be extra careful at the outdoor barbecue wienie roast.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello retired after a 35-year teaching and coaching career.  He has a master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is an Associated Press award-winning columnist.