In preparation for the month my two older girls will be at sleepaway camp, I made a list of everything I wanted to get done while they’re out of the house. It includes lofty goals like clean out the garage, give away all the clothes they never wear, and vacuum under the furniture. It also holds smaller, more personal desires, like take a walk every day, finish that novel I’ve been reading for two months, and get a facial. This summer to-do list gathers together the tasks that fell by the wayside during the school year, the spring cleaning I never got to in the spring and the intentions I periodically set for myself in an effort to take care, make better and create space.
The girls have been gone for two weeks now. While I’ve checked a few items off the list, with plenty more to keep me busy, there’s one that isn’t even on the list that I seem to fulfill on an almost daily basis: Walk Around the House Naked.
For those who routinely saunter through the hallways of their homes in the nude, this might not seem like a big deal and certainly not to-do-list worthy. For others, having the kids out of the house is the perfect opportunity to be naked as often as possible. For me, being naked is neither routine nor a conscious desire. Yet, here I am doing a load of laundry totally naked, walking leisurely downstairs for a Diet Coke and a handful of pretzels, naked, and lying on my bed scrolling through Facebook totally naked.
With three kids and a husband constantly in and out of the bedroom and bathroom, I rarely have my body to myself. Whoever built our house did not put locks on any of the interior doors, so I’m often at the mercy of my husband’s appraising gaze, the curious eyes of my tween and teen girls, and the innocent, no-filter comments from my 4-year-old: “You have mushy butt, Mama!” Despite my ongoing lectures about boundaries, they often barge in with an, “Oh, sorry Mom,” followed by a request of some sort. It’s kind of sweet having them around, but it doesn’t leave me much time or privacy to hang out with my naked self. Now that I have the house to myself, I realize what I’ve been missing.
I’ve developed a new appreciation for my mid-40s body, which is definitely not the same body I had in my 20s and early 30s, before marriage and motherhood. Back then, my skin was supple and taut, and my ass didn’t hang halfway down the back of my thighs. Unfortunately, those were the years I worried the most about the way my body looked. There were always pounds to lose, muscles to shape, too much in one place and not enough in another. I worried about keeping up with the skinny downtown girls. I wondered what a potential boyfriend would think of my naked body: Would it be good enough for someone else to love, never mind me?
These days I’m more inclined to view my naked body with gratitude and a healthy dose of “hell yeah.” I know what my body can do, where it’s been, its limitations and its surprising resilience. My body has run a marathon even though it really isn’t cut out for it. It’s played in tennis tournaments, performed in diving competitions and hustled during swim meets. My body has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail for three weeks and scaled Mount Washington in the late August snow. It tried snowboarding and then skiing, but never really got the hang of either, preferring ice-skating instead. It’s never missed a beat during years of step class or refused to try a pose over years of yoga and now barre class. It’s carried, birthed and nourished three children and healed after a difficult miscarriage. There’s still a fair bit of cataloging that goes on—freckles, scars and moles, wrinkles and crepe-y skin, slightly sagging inner thighs and stretch marks—but the scrutiny is more observation than critique. Honestly, I like the way I look, and even better, I like the way I feel.
I’ve got two more weeks before I’m back to a full house, and I plan to be naked for a lot of it. I’m going to finish that novel, maybe get a facial, and think about cleaning out the garage. Oh, and I’ve added one more task to my to-do list: Call the locksmith.