I don’t have a problem with personal space. Maybe I do. It depends on who you ask, though I’m not really asking.
Personal space is a bit of a misnomer; I’m not talking about the guy who stands just a little too close, test-marketing his new kimchi mouthwash in your personal demographic. No, I’m talking more about private space. As in, the space around one’s privates. I’m talking about nudity.
Now I’m no Nevernude, but I’m by no means an exhibitionist, either. I might walk around the house without a shirt, sometimes pants, sure. But that’s mostly out of slothfulness; there’s a pretty distinct line between strutting and just having no shame. I don’t particularly like public swimming pools or beaches or other showcasing arenas; I wear a towel in the sauna, that’s just me.
For about as long as I can remember, my father has walked around naked. Not all over the house or anything. And not in the middle of the afternoon or near meal times; only in the mornings, during The Routine. The area between my parent’s bedroom and the bathroom had been zoned under the lesser-known YMCA Locker Room designation long before I had a vote. Grandfathered in, just as my brother and I were to the world of familial nudity.
The family that nudes together, stays together; the Conley family crest. The four of us shared that lone bathroom in the formative years, but I didn’t actually mind my dad air-drying every morning, like an apple pie on Dr. Freud’s windowsill. The static of the AM talk radio competing with his hair dryer; I just assumed this was how every family rolled. But no preadolescent boy wants to be naked in front of a mirror, let alone a nuclear family member.
Call it the Locker Room Bell Curve: Men get older, they care less; they strut and they have no shame. You must be over the age of 50 to pull this off; these dangly gents are always the ones that want to strike up a lengthy conversation, borrow your deoderant. They also really need to make eye contact, to face you, to eschew underpants. They have nowhere else to be except right here, dialoguing in Nakedtown, population you. I can’t wait to turn 50.
Well, now the towel is on the proverbial other floor, my friends. This ‘constant supervision’ thing has its dark side, the little things you don’t think about. I shower in front of Bub, change clothes and yes, go to the bathroom. The question is, when does this sort of behavior become unacceptable?
I remember one time we were staying with my grandparents. I was taking a bath, just a bit too old for the little sailboat still in there. My grandmother walked in as usual to give me a towel and help me out, and I remember feeling self-conscious for the first time. I asked her if she could just leave the towel; I wasn’t quite ready to get out yet. She asked if I was sure. “Don’t make it weird, grandma!” I screamed.
Okay, that last part never happened. She nodded, we both knew what it meant. Hopefully, I’ll figure it out someday, too.