Jenna: So where were we when the menfolk walked in? Oh, yes, you asked whether there was any additional progress towards our goal. There is, or will be, one more thing, and it’s rather important. Although we still aren’t sure whether Poney’s going to commit to full nudity, the rest of us, at least, decided to make a formal declaration of independence from clothes – a pledge in front of witnesses – meaning we intend to be fully naked as much as possible. That’ll bolster our determination to stick with this plan.
Edda: When do you expect to do that?
Jenna: Next Saturday. In fact, yesterday we sent out invitations to a few carefully selected people for a barbecue dinner here that evening. It’ll be a celebration of officially becoming a naked family. We’ll also explain why we’re doing this, before pledging to go through with it. You and Roger should receive your invitation today!
Edda: Oh, my! I’m so sorry we can’t come, since we already have plans for next Saturday that we can’t change. I’m sure Roger will be as unhappy as I am about that.
Jenna: I’m sorry about that too, but don’t worry about it. I’ve already told you the main details. You and Roger must come for dinner soon after next Saturday. We can tell you then how things turn out, and as much more about the decision as you want to hear.
Edda: It’s too bad we can’t help celebrate next Saturday, but that’s how it goes. We have a dear friend in a nursing home whose health is deteriorating badly, and this may be our last opportunity to spend time with her.
Jenna: That’s very sad, but please don’t worry about being unable to join us on Saturday.
Edda: Unfortunately, I can’t stay here much longer this morning, since there’s a lot I need to do at home. But I do have one more thing I’m curious about.
Jenna: Go right ahead.
Edda: I just wonder what other issues you may need to deal with before you’ll be confident about your plans. Probably, some of the issues are related to Poney, but are there others? You don’t need to answer if I’m being too nosy.
Jenna: As I said before, feel free to ask whatever you want. I’m very excited about our plans and not at all embarrassed to talk about them. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. First, Troy and I need to discuss this with our own parents. They don’t live anywhere nearby, so we don’t see them very often, or even communicate as much as we should. They’ll probably be fairly shocked, but I think we can convince them we’re doing the right thing.
Edda: I’m sure you can. You and Tony are very persuasive about what you believe in. Is there anything else?
Jenna: Yes. Second, we need to have the same conversation with our other relatives, friends, and neighbors. A few friends and relatives already know a little about this, and they respect our right to do what we think is best, whatever their own opinions are. Rowan’s already discussed our plans with others more than Troy and I have. We don’t know the parents of his friends very well, but they’re aware of our plans, and serious problems haven’t resulted, even if they disapprove of the idea.
Edda: I feel honored that you’ve already been so open with me about this.
Jenna: Well, you and Roger are next-door neighbors as well as good friends for a long time! How could we not discuss this with you?
Edda: I very much appreciate that. Anything else?
Jenna: Yeah, a few things, but nothing I need to mention now. I don’t want to keep you any longer, since you have a lot to do at home.
Edda: Yes, there’s a lot to do. Roger and I have friends coming for dinner, and I still have many preparations to make. On top of that, we’ve been repainting one of our bedrooms and are only partially done. Roger was expecting to finish that, but the arthritis in his ankle has flared up, so he doesn’t feel able to continue. I was planning to put another coat of paint on by myself, since our daughter Ellen is coming for a visit tomorrow with her young family, and we need to have the room ready for them. So I must mostly finish the painting job myself today, along with everything else, and then get the room’s furniture back in place before tomorrow afternoon.
Jenna: Hey, you know what? I can ask Poney whether she’d go home with you and do whatever she can to help you get ready. She’s been getting bored due to not communicating with her friends and spending all of her time right here. She just might be willing to help out.
Edda: Oh, that would be wonderful! Would she’d want to put some clothes on? It would be fine with us if she stays naked.
Jenna: I think she’d be OK with that, because I’ve tried to tell her getting experience interacting with others completely naked would be very good. The experience should more quickly increase Poney’s comfort level and self-confidence being naked around others – while being helpful at the same time. She’ll be more persuaded how completely unnecessary clothes are. I doubt she’ll request wearing anything, since she knows my opinions about that. Anyhow, it won’t hurt to ask. I should be right back, hopefully with Poney.
Less than a minute later Poney returned with Jenna.
Poney: Hi, Mrs. Crawford. Mom tells me you need some help getting ready for guests this evening and tomorrow.
Edda: Hello, Poney. Yes, I could use some help, but we can discuss that more in a minute, because I want to say you look really great this morning. Getting quite a nice all-over tan, I see.
Poney: Thank you. I seem to tan easily.
Edda: I’m quite sincere about how good you look, not just saying it to be nice. I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I think nudity’s a very good look for you. But simply allowing people to appreciate your tan is reason enough to stay naked.
Poney: It’s OK to say that, and thanks for the compliments. I’m just starting to get used to being naked.
Edda: Good for you!
Poney: I’m becoming more resigned to the idea of living without clothes. That increasingly seems to be what’s in store for me.
Edda: Just keep at it, and don’t think of stopping now when you’re so close to accepting nudity. I’m sure you’ll begin to really enjoy it, what with the yoga, the camping trip, and the opportunity to make new friends who also enjoy nudity.
Poney: I hope so. It’s easier being naked in a group if I’m not the only one, but if nobody else is, I guess I can do it, even if I’m uncomfortable.
Edda: I’m very interested in your family’s plans to be naked as much as possible. Do you mind if I ask a question or two about your feelings on that?
Poney: No, it’s OK to ask. I’m mostly over any embarrassment talking about it.
Edda: Good. It’s apparent you’re still uncertain about not wearing any clothes unless necessary. But at least you haven’t ruled it out, and you’re gradually getting more open to the idea.
Poney: Yeah, I guess so. I haven’t worn anything since Wednesday evening at dinner. That’s a pretty big step for me.
Edda: You’re doing very well at not appearing to be uncomfortable or embarrassed about your nudity. I bet anyone would think you were quite used to being naked. Do you have some idea how you’ve managed to make the progress you have?
Poney: Well, I was panicked when I realized the rest of my family was very serious about complete nudity. I worried how my friends would react, even if I kept wearing clothes myself – let alone if I were always naked. It was even scarier to think that pretty soon wearing nothing might actually become normal for me. I had nightmares about that.
Edda: What sort of nightmares?
Poney: Oh, you know, like I was the only one naked at a party, and everyone kept staring at me, and some friend remarked that it was cute how terrified and embarrassed I looked, and I should never visit her again unless I was naked. Or perhaps I’d be naked with some friends, and they’d insist I go to the mall with them, just like that.
Edda: But you decided to try nudity seriously anyhow on Wednesday.
Poney: At that point, as I said, it was quite scary to think I might soon be naked most of the time – no matter how I felt about it. Then Mom suggested maybe my fear was actually about the unknown, rather than about nudity itself. So if I actually stayed naked for a while, it would no longer be a big unknown, and I’d grow less afraid of it.
Jenna: I reminded Poney that when she was younger and Rowan insisted on having a pet snake, she was extremely afraid the snake would get out of where Rowan was keeping it, get into her bed at night, and bite her. But after just a few days, she realized the snake was harmless, and actually sort of cute, and wasn’t going to bite her.
Poney: I figured Mom might be right that I feared the unknown more than the nudity, so I should at least try it. I thought to myself, “Poney, if there’s even a small chance you’ll wind up being usually naked, you’d better try it now. You know your family wants that, and Mom could be right that most of your fear is about the unknowns.” Besides, if I put off trying nudity now, having to start going naked later could be even harder.
Edda: That’s great, because the rest of your family’s so enthusiastic about nudity. For you to begin feeling the same way would mean a lot to them.
Poney: I know. That’s why I’m now trying hard to stay naked as long as I can. Maybe I can get fairly comfortable with nudity. My family’s been very understanding and not put any pressure on me. So a commitment to going naked will be solely my decision. After making the commitment, I can own it and start dealing with my new identity as a naked person. Just putting the indecision behind me will be a relief.
Edda: You have a great attitude, and I’m sure you’ll be able to make that transition. I won’t pester you with more questions, since I appreciate you’ve been so patient with my nosiness.
Poney: It’s OK. Getting used to answering such questions frequently may be the easy part. I just need practice doing it.
Edda: Yes, of course. Now about the help I need, I really could use lots of it – for the rest of today and Sunday too, if possible. Are you interested?
Poney: Yeah, sure. I’ve been getting sort of bored, and I’d be happy to help. Mom says you have some cleaning, cooking, and also painting to do. I could help with any of that.
Edda: I also told your mother I’ll need help tomorrow putting the room back together that’s just been painted, before my daughter comes for a visit. Can you help then, too?
Edda: Wonderful! Thank so much. Are you OK staying naked the whole time, both today and tomorrow?
Poney: Yeah, I suppose I should. I’m surprised that, so far, I’ve hardly felt tempted to wear anything. Perhaps that’s because every day it keeps seeming less likely I’ll wear clothes again unless I have to. So I need all the experience I can get being naked around others, even people I don’t know at all. I can’t pretend I don’t need that. I’ll stay naked to help you, since it’s the right thing to do.
Edda: Good for you! I”m sure you’ll be fine naked. In fact, I’d be honored if you’ll have dinner with our guests, still naked. I’d explain to them – and to Ellen’s family when they come – that you’re naked since your whole family’s so enthusiastic about nudity. I’m sure they’ll all understand and approve.
Poney: I’m not as confident as you are about my comfort level, but there’s only one way to know whether I can handle it. Even wearing some minimal clothing would be like training wheels on a bike. And at some point both of those should come off. I’m just at the stage of starting to do without the training wheels.
Edda: Great analogy.
Poney: Thanks, I just thought of it. To be honest, I suppose I’ll like showing off my all-over tan. I’m proud of it, even though it’s no big deal. Many girls get good all-over tans without being naked all the time. They just have less opportunity than I will to show it off.
Edda: Your self-awareness is admirable.
Poney: I promise to be naked the whole time, both days. I’m pretty sure I can do that.
Jenna: I’m very proud of you for your positive attitude, Poney. I don’t doubt you can handle your nudity very well. Don’t let people have any doubt that you’re comfortable being naked. I’m not kidding or trying to fool you when I say you look great without any clothes on. I honestly think naked is how you were always meant to be. I’ll bet you soon realize that full nudity is perfect for you.
Poney: OK, Mom. You’re starting to embarrass me. I’d prefer you didn’t make such a big deal about my nudity. What I really want, if I stop wearing clothes, is that everyone just accept that it’s normal for Poney to be naked, act like there’s nothing noteworthy about my nudity, and not make any fuss about it.
Jenna: Yes, that’s how people should regard anyone’s nudity. Unfortunately, it’s not the case in our society. So we need to be calmly forthright about our nudity to slowly persuade people to be unconcerned about it.
Poney: Nudity should be regarded as merely a different type of attire – zero clothes rather than something minimal, like only tattered Daisy Duke shorts and a bikini top, or only shorts on a guy. Those aren’t acceptable in many places, but at least you can work in your garden wearing nothing more.
Jenna: Most importantly, wearing only such things won’t get you arrested. And neither should wearing nothing but your skin. It’s up to people like us, who enjoy being naked, to keep sending that message.
Poney: I just wish I weren’t still nervous about doing that. I’d love to have no qualms about giving up clothes entirely and being a naked person. I shouldn’t feel any need to wear clothes simply to show I’m cool and fashionable.
Jenna: Clearly, you’re making good progress in not feeling embarrassed when naked. I know one thing that’s bothering you is fear of abandoning your current option to wear something even if nudity is possible but difficult for some reason. It’s natural for people to be reluctant to give up options. But sometimes trying to keep too many options is counterproductive.
Poney: I suppose it’s natural to fear making a bad choice when choosing. I’d much prefer to continue having alternatives. But making a choice means giving up alternatives, at least temporarily. I just need to admit I can’t put off much longer deciding whether to pledge to be fully naked and not look back.
Jenna: We’ll be disappointed if you don’t choose nudity along with the rest of us. But we’ll understand. However, it’s OK if it takes you longer to join us, if that lets you be more confident about the decision. Some choices are irreversible. But this isn’t one of them. If you don’t choose full nudity now, you can do it later. And you can still do lots of things naked either with us or on your own if you feel like it. I can see why you might prefer not pledging now to be naked, since that choice could be embarrassing to reverse.
Poney: I think we’ve discussed this enough for now. Mrs. Crawford needs help right away. I don’t have any problem staying naked to help her as much as she wants. Let’s just put the bigger issue aside for a while.
Jenna: Yes, absolutely.
Poney: Can I just nonchalantly walk outside to her house naked like this, in full view of the whole neighborhood?
Jenna: Realistically that’s probably not such a good idea. Have you forgotten there’s a gate in the backyard fence between our place and theirs? You can always go back and forth that way.
Edda: All set then?
Poney: Yep. Let’s go.
Poney’s time with Edda and Roger’s family lasted somewhat longer than she’d expected. On Sunday Edda’s daughter, Ellen, and her family arrived soon after Poney finished helping get the guest room back in order. Poney and Ellen already knew each other well, since Ellen had often babysat for Poney and Rowan, although the last time was eight years ago, just before Ellen left for college.
Ellen was now married, to Matt Price, whom she’d dated in high school. Their only child was Dusty, now three. Ellen was, naturally, surprised to find that Poney had stopped wearing clothes only a few days earlier – and the rest of her family had been going naked for longer than that. But when Poney explained the circumstances, Ellen agreed with Edda that a naked lifestyle seemed “just perfect” for Poney, because she thought Poney looked “really great” without any clothes on.
Approving of and intrigued by Poney’s seemingly unselfconscious nudity, Ellen invited her to accompany the Price family to visit Matt’s parents after a short stay with her own parents. Having peppered Poney extensively with questions about her nudity, Ellen suggested that Poney stay naked and not bother bringing any clothes with her. Poney, somewhat to her own surprise, assented, despite alarms from her amygdalae.
Matt didn’t object. His parents were spending the summer at a private lake, and they’d mentioned, although disapprovingly, that a few people there swam and sunbathed naked. Ellen, however, felt Matt’s parents would agree – perhaps after some effort – to tolerate the nudity. Knowing much about why Poney was naked, Ellen would insist Poney needed to quickly get experience being naked around people she’d never met.
When Ellen and Matt brought Poney home on Thursday, Jenna could hardly wait to find out how her daughter had handled the experience.
Jenna: How’d it go, Poney? You obviously weren’t very excited about it when you told us of Ellen’s invitation.
Poney: You’re right, Mom, I was pretty scared to do it. I mean, jeez, I’d only been completely naked for a few days then, and only with people I knew very well. But Ellen insisted it would be fine and that I needed to quickly start adjusting to being seen naked by many people. After all, that’s just what you, Dad, and Rowan have kept telling me. I was most worried about what would happen when Ellen introduced me to her parents. As I feared, they found my nudity unsettling. But Ellen strongly defended what I was doing, which was merely what the rest of my family wanted. Besides, what could Matt’s parents do anyway? There I was, naked, and had come without any clothes.
Jenna: But you did get more comfortable soon enough, didn’t you?
Poney: It took some time, but yeah, once I saw that Matt’s parents would tolerate my nudity, I managed to calm down. Still, I remained fairly nervous the whole time. Even though Ellen thought other people at the lake might sometimes be naked, I never saw others besides me. Nevertheless, I swam and sunbathed some, and various people chatted with me without ever acknowledging my nudity. Some invited me to share snacks or lunch with them. One family even suggested I play in the lake with their kids. That felt good.
Jenna: So you managed to keep most embarrassment or anxiety under control?
Poney: Yeah, I made a conscious effort to do that, and was usually successful. I kept telling myself, “Wake up, Poney! Chances are you’re going to be stark naked much of the time from now on. So, dammit, just get used to it!”
Jenna: That’s my girl!
Poney: I felt much better when I remembered that song you taught me about whistling a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m afraid.
Jenna: Yes, it’s from The King and I. The lesson is that eventually people become what they pretend to be. That’s not always a good thing, but in this case it certainly is. As I recall, the last stanza goes “Make believe you’re brave, and the trick will take you far. You may be as brave as you make believe you are.” That’s awfully good advice for anyone who’s going to stop wearing clothes.
Poney: I hope I remember that advice when there are any problems because I’m naked.
Jenna: Do you think you can be brave enough now to stay naked whenever possible, like the rest of us?
Poney: I’m not sure, but possibly I could be near that point now.
Jenna: We’ll be pledging to stay naked as much as possible on Saturday evening. We’d love to have you join us then. But if you don’t feel you’re ready, you may take as long as you need to decide one way of the other.
Poney: I understand, Mom. Thanks for being so patient with me.
Jenna: Stay strong, Poney. I know you can do it. Personally, I think joining us now will give you closure, so you can move on to other things. But if you can’t do that, I think it would be best to simply decide nudity isn’t right for you at this point. We’ll understand. I’m sorry we’ve put you in this position, but you’ll be faced with tough decisions at other times in your life. If you don’t choose to join us now, you can always change your mind later.
Poney: OK, Mom, I get that. Ellen told me about a short science fiction story she’d read recently that may be relevant. I think telling you about it would clarify where I’m at right now.
Jenna: Go ahead.
Poney: The story takes place roughly a thousand years in the future. The Solar System is governed by a legislature housed in an artificial satellite of Uranus. A young woman has just been elected the latest member of the legislature. But her elation over this is crushed when she learns she must commit suicide in order to join the legislature, because her brain must be scanned to upload into a vast computer that already contains the brain recordings of all previously elected legislature members. The choice, however, is up to her. After a short hesitation she overcomes “animal fear” to choose physical death, so she can begin a life that outlasts biological constraints.
Jenna: I sort of see the point, but why do you think Ellen considered the story relevant to your situation?
Poney: Ellen said maybe my fear of choosing nudity was simply “animal fear” of ending my life up to now where I’ve always worn clothes – in order to achieve a more satisfying life by liberating myself from any desire to wear clothes.
Jenna: Ellen seems extremely perceptive. That’s a very interesting way of thinking about this. It actually sounds, um, sort of Buddhist.
Poney: That’s it! I read a little about Buddhism this year. Perhaps gaining freedom from clothes is simply a less abstract sort of nirvana.
Jenna: Fear of making that transition may be a good way to understand the fears of what full-time nudity entails – the difficulties and anxiety involved in going against social norms, having to explain that choice to others, and all the disrupted relationships, inconveniences, unknowns, etc.
Poney: I’m also afraid of breaking the pledge I should make to stay naked.
Jenna: Of course. You know we all hope you decide for complete nudity, as we have. If you do, afterwards you still may not be free of any desire or temptation to wear clothes. But ideally you’ll become so before long. The feeling of freedom from clothes will be too addictive.
Poney: I really want that.
Jenna: On the other hand it’s possible you find total nudity just doesn’t work for you. And the truth is, you can change your mind in that case. Don’t let the fear of whatever embarrassment results stop you from going back to what works. The rest of us will understand, because we know that option remains available to us also.
Poney: I still have no idea what I’m going to decide, but at least I’m getting clearer about what the issues are.