At breakfast Saturday morning, Poney was the last to show up. This was the day the Collins family was to celebrate their declaration of independence from clothing – in the presence of guests as witnesses. Rowan could hardly wait for Poney to appear.
When his parents first told him about the idea to become a naked family they cautioned him to be careful how he discussed it with Poney. Rowan accepted the idea enthusiastically, so they were concerned he might press his sister too hard to join them. That would only increase her anxiety level and possibly cause her to decide against pledging to be as naked as possible.
But Poney now understood pretty clearly the choice she faced, and wasn’t likely to be distracted by anything Rowan might say. The choice was quite stark: Either pledging with her family to stay naked whenever feasible, whatever the possible consequences, whether foreseeable or not. Or else continuing as before, allowing herself to enjoy nudity with her family when that seemed “safe”, but otherwise leaving it obvious to everyone that she lacked the others’ courage.
She’d come right up to the verge of resigning herself to live completely naked whenever possible. She preferred focusing on positives of the idea instead of fighting it, to avoid feeling any need or temptation to wear clothes. But she realized her unresolved “animal fears” (of vulnerability, embarrassment, humiliation, or whatever) might still cause her to step back from the precipice.
Rowan, by contrast, had taken effortlessly to enjoying continual nudity, like a much younger child, oblivious to the complications. He wasn’t nearly mature enough to understand his sister’s quandary. Nevertheless, he couldn’t restrain his curiosity to know how she really felt about the plan.
Rowan: Hey, Sis, this is finally the big day. Think you’re ready for it?
Poney: Not entirely, but so what?
Rowan: You’re not sure? Even though you haven’t worn any clothes for over a week now? You’ve been stark naked – just like me, Mom, and Dad – and with many people you hardly know or have never met before.
Poney: Look, Rowan, for whatever reason going naked isn’t as simple for me as it’s been for you, Mom, and Dad.
Rowan: OK, I get that. I know it’s different for girls. Plus you have lots more friends than I do, and they’re all used to you wearing clothes. But, geez, we’ve had visits from a couple of my friends – and various neighbors who wanted to know why we’ve stopped wearing clothes. Many people have already seen you totally naked. There’s nothing left of your body to hide! Yet you’ve seemed to accept that.
Poney: Hold on there. I’ve tried hard to seem unembarrassed about being naked. Yeah, I could be more careful about how much of my body people can see. But I haven’t, since I want to appear very nonchalant about being naked. That’s obviously easy for you, but more of an effort for me.
Rowan: I was surprised you started shaving all your pubic hair.
Poney: From what I’ve seen on the Internet that seems to be what most female nudists do these days. Unless a girl sits with her legs close together or has thick pubic hair it’s hard for others not to see nearly all that’s there anyway. I simply need to get used to most of me being visible. That just goes with being naked. You obviously don’t worry about anyone seeing your penis. I’m hardly as comfortable as you being so exposed. I’m often just pretending to be carefree about my nakedness.
Rowan: But I’ve heard you say you’ve become pretty used to wearing nothing, in spite of your fears about it to begin with.
Poney: I say that because it’s true. I am becoming more accustomed to it. After a few days I realized that nakedness can feel good, even for long periods of time or in front of random people. At least I knew it wasn’t as unpleasant as I’d feared it would be. That doesn’t mean I’d be perfectly comfortable staying naked as much as possible.
Rowan: But you seemed OK even when a few neighbors made it clear in your presence that they didn’t really approve of our nudity, though they wouldn’t object as long as we respected their “sensibilities”. You appeared to remain as confident about being naked as the rest of us.
Poney: Yeah, but that takes effort for me. I don’t want people to think I have any doubts about going naked – even though I do. I don’t want my fears to be obvious, because people might think I was being forced to stay naked against my will. That could lead to all sorts of problems.
Rowan: You were obviously quite upset by the thought of having to stay naked continually when Mom and Dad first talked about it. Do you still have strong fears sometimes?
Poney: Yes, unfortunately, although increasingly less often. I’ve tried to convince myself I’ll be OK wearing nothing. But I still have short periods of panic, feeling that never wearing anything is an utterly crazy idea, and it seems unreal I’m seriously considering it. Yet I know I’ve been OK despite having worn nothing for days. It’s all just so confusing.
Rowan: But you still expect to be naked like the rest of us?
Poney: Yeah, I think I have to. Usually I get over the worst fears quickly, and they’re not as severe as they were initially. I’m close to accepting that full-time nudity will be my reality, and I could even manage to get used to it.
Rowan: I guess that’s progress. But there’s little time left to finally decide.
Poney: What can I say? I can’t deny still having doubts. I can’t claim I’d ever have considered on my own having a totally naked future.
Rowan: What, specifically, still bothers you about it?
Poney: Oh, for example, I depend a lot on my best friends, and I can’t stop worrying about how they might react. I’ve had several invitations during the week to visit with friends, but I’ve always begged off with some excuse or other, because I’d have to admit I’ve already stopped wearing clothes. I’d rather just not discuss the subject with them until I’ve finally decided.
Rowan: But wouldn’t discussing it with them help change either their minds or yours?
Poney: Probably not. I’m sure some of them’ll tell me the idea is obviously just plain crazy. I can’t imagine how to handle that reaction. I’m not sure Mom and Dad are right about being naked, but I know they’re not stupid. It’d be hard to disagree with friends who doubt the sanity of never wearing clothes, since I still have my own doubts. If I decide to stay naked I might just lose some good friends. I guess I’d just have to accept that, even though I’m unsure their thinking is wrong.
Rowan: Unless you’re sure you won’t stay naked, if you talk to some friends about it, you might find that not all think wearing nothing is a crazy idea. Two of my friends, and their parents, thought it was fine – for me. You might be reassured about choosing nudity in that case.
Poney: But if I discuss it and try to justify nudity, I could lose friends before I find supporters. So I think it’s best to hold off discussing the subject until either I definitely reject full-time nudity and don’t need to mention it, or else I definitely stop wearing any clothes.
Rowan: But there are just a few hours left to go one way or the other. The rest of us are declaring our independence from clothes tonight!
Poney: I know. Perhaps the decision to go along with the rest of you has already been made, simply because I’ve put off deciding beyond the point where there’s actually a choice.
Rowan: Know what, Poney? You’re probably right. I bet you really want to stay naked, although you’re afraid to admit it to yourself. So don’t worry so much about it. You’ll gonna love it when you decide to go completely naked and realize it’s the best thing you’ve ever done.
Poney was cheered that her brother was so encouraging. After breakfast she picked up a book and headed for the backyard to read, hoping to put all thoughts about nudity out of her mind, for a least a few hours. But before long her father showed up with a book of his own and sat down beside her to read. She guessed that wasn’t his actual intention.
Troy: Hey, Poney, how’re you doing?
Poney: Hi, Dad. I’m fine – just reading some adventure stories about girls my age who do amazing things, like climbing mountains in the Alps, or sailing – by themselves – around the Caribbean.
Troy: Sounds exciting. Maybe if you put your mind to it, you could do things like that yourself.
Poney: I suppose the next thing you’ll tell me is that it would be even better do stuff like that naked.
Troy: Well, climbing very high in the mountains might be a little tricky to do naked. Not everything is best done without any clothes. But sailing around someplace warm? That would without question best be done fully naked.
Poney: Yeah, no doubt.
Troy: So how are you feeling about our plans for this evening? I’ve been very impressed with how well you seem to have done wearing nothing at all for over a week.
Poney: You want me to be perfectly honest?
Troy: Of course.
Poney: OK, on one hand, I’ve become much more comfortable wearing nothing. I know I can do it for a while. But on the other hand, I’m still apprehensive about pledging to stop wearing clothes entirely.
Troy: You know you could change your mind after that.
Poney: Yes, I know. I could change my mind later, but that would be cheating. A pledge wouldn’t mean much if I could just break it because it becomes inconvenient or causes me problems that could be handled. People make pledges when getting married. But what are pledges worth if they’re broken without the pledger trying very hard to honor them?
Troy: Those are valid points. But I know you’re a very conscientious person. Once you’ve pledged to stay completely naked, I rather doubt you’d break the pledge before trying very seriously to keep it.
Poney: I can’t stop thinking about what my life will be like after pledging full-time nudity. The only sure thing is I won’t be wearing any clothes unless I have to. So many different things could happen, most of which I probably can’t even imagine. But for sure life will be very different if I’m always naked. I can imagine many good things happening – but plenty of not-so-good things too.
Troy: That’s a basic problem with how time works in this universe. We can imagine lots of things that might happen in the future – but most of them won’t. Even as a physicist, I don’t like that any more than most people do.
Poney: I go over and over again in my mind what’s led up to this point. I’ve hoped that just staying naked long enough would lead to less uncertainty about many things I hope for or worry about.
Troy: Such as?
Poney: Oh, for instance, I’ve hoped that total nudity would suddenly make perfect sense to me, that I’ll absolutely love it and never stop, that I’ll overcome all doubts about whether it’s right for me, that it’s unquestionably the best way for me to live, and that I’ll be able to handle all the downsides.
Troy: What downsides are you especially worried about?
Poney: Losing some of the relatively few friends I have, being vulnerable to people who try to take advantage of my nudity, getting pestered by boys who’re not interested in anything but sex or bragging to others they’re friends with a girl who’s always naked, or having people thinking I’m something I’m not, such as a slut without any morals, a scatterbrained chick without any common sense, or a narcissist who wants to be the center of everyone’s attention.
Troy: Those aren’t unrealistic fears. But specifically about how never wearing clothes might affect others’ opinions of you, remember that hardly anyone knows what you’re doing yet. You might be pleasantly surprised that people also think of you as brave, principled, someone who stands up for what she thinks as right. After all, lots of women have already used nudity or partial nudity to promote some cause or other, like PETA has done.
Poney: I know. A person shouldn’t take too seriously the false things that people who don’t know what they’re talking about might believe. But it’s still a problem. And I know what you mean about PETA and the use of nudity in social protests. I’ve read about the “World Naked Bike Rides” too.
Troy: Exactly. Remember that one of the aims we have by being a family that’s always naked when possible is to raise public awareness that nonsexual social nudity is a great thing, not any of the ridiculous negative misconceptions people have of it.
Poney: Why does everything have to be so complicated? It seems like whenever I really think about stuff, there are so many sides to every issue. That makes almost any important choice or decision very difficult. Sometimes I think what I really need to do is become a hermit. Then it won’t matter if I never wear clothes.
Troy: There probably aren’t many important choices or decisions that are very straightforward. That’s just not how life is. If any choices or decisions were really easy, they’d happen almost automatically.
Poney: I’ve pretty much reached that conclusion. So the nudity question’s still up in the air for me.
Troy: Take your time, honey. It’s not absolutely necessary to make the same commitment as the rest of us this evening. You could continue going naked the way you have, as long as you want to, without deciding to make that permanent. You could still do a lot of stuff with us naked, but only if you choose to.
Poney: Yeah, I could do that. But I’m getting very tired of being indecisive. I want to be able to make a clear decision that I can stick with for a long time. Right now, staying fully naked like the rest of you seems to be what I need to do. But whenever I feel that way I immediately also have the sense that I’m hurtling towards a future that would have been quite unimaginable to me less than a month ago.
Troy: I understand how you feel that way. Your mother and I are very sorry this has been difficult for you. Nevertheless, we think we’re doing the right thing for all of us – including you. And you’re actually doing it very well.
Poney: It’s OK, Dad. Intellectually, I agree with you about how good it is to live totally naked. I’m really, really looking forward to that camping trip where I’ll meet other kids around my age who also go naked much or most of the time.
Troy: Great! I was very happy that you and your mother learned about that naturist group and the campout. I’m very much looking forward myself to meeting other families and individuals who’re all seriously considering a naked lifestyle that’s right for them. Some are already naked full-time themselves. I’m sure we’ll learn a great deal from all these people, and some may even share many of our objectives. I understand others of them haven’t tried going naked yet, but at least they’re interested in learning more about the idea. I doubt you’ll see many at the campout who aren’t naked much of the time.
Poney: I’m looking forward to some of those things too. It’s a big reason I want to stay completely naked if I can. At this point my feelings about full-time nudity are very positive. Even so, it’s still scary to realize that wearing nothing seems likely to become my permanent reality. Always. Naked.
Troy: You’ll have to wear at least something to school, the mall, or whatever.
Poney: Of course. I wonder whether that’ll make me hate going to school. On the other hand, maybe I’ll like wearing clothes for a few hours for a change – and to enjoy stripping them all off as soon as possible afterwards. I’d try to wear only the skimpiest clothes allowed.
Troy: Having to wear clothes for a few hours occasionally isn’t the end of the world. I have to do it every day I teach at the college. You mother’s one of the lucky ones, since she works at home and can stay naked all the time.
Poney: She’s really lucked out, since she also enjoys her work.
Troy: Obviously I hope you’ll take the pledge this evening. At least you’ll be able to stop worrying about it for a while. However, despite making the pledge, the rest of us will understand if you decide you must go back to wearing clothes – whether usually or only occasionally – because after your best efforts you feel you just can’t cope with the downsides of full-time nudity. We’re sure for ourselves that total nudity will make our lives better, more interesting, and more exciting. But if anyone finds that to be untrue, they can take a different direction.
Poney: Thanks, Dad. That’s reassuring. However, I think that breaking a pledge would be pretty embarrassing, because it would imply I didn’t take the pledge seriously enough, wasn’t strong enough to stick with it, and just didn’t try hard enough.
Troy: I understand. But there are times when someone has to face reality and do what they need to do, despite any embarrassment.
Poney: Yeah, I guess so. Can you tell me more about the people who’re coming to help us “celebrate” the decision to stop wearing any clothes? Are they nudists too? Have I met any of them before?
Troy: There will be three couples. I know two of the couples, since one person in both of them teaches with me at the junior college. You probably haven’t met any of them before. The wife in the third couple is in Jenna’s reading club, so she’s been to our house before, and you’ve probably met her. I have no reason to think that any of these people are nudists. None of these folks are close family friends of ours. But we’ve invited them since we’re pretty sure they’re sympathetic to our plans.
Poney: What do you expect we’ll be doing with these people most of the evening, other than having dinner together?
Troy: Well, your mother and I will probably spend a lot of time explaining why we’ve decided to take the big step of totally rejecting clothes. You may find that to be somewhat boring, since it’s mostly stuff we’ve already told you and Rowan about.
Poney: That’s OK, Dad. I really appreciate your explaining to me and Rowan how and why you had this idea for us to be a totally naked family.
Troy: I realize that some of the rationale may have seemed fairly dry and abstract. I’m glad you and Rowan paid good attention to our explanations.
Poney: It was easy, Dad. I had no idea what sorts of things made you and Mom so upset with our society’s attitudes towards nudity. Understanding all that really helped me have an open mind about nudity and realize that I needed to start experimenting seriously with it. The issues you brought up seemed important enough that I might need to stop wearing clothes myself.
Troy: I’m certainly glad you were willing to consider that.
Poney: You and Mom explained the issues so clearly that I realized I should take nudity seriously. In fact, in order to do that I should try to stay totally naked for some time, to be able to find out whether I could actually handle it. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that being naked was actually pretty enjoyable. However, as you know, I still worry about how well being naked all the time will work for me.
Troy: Yes, Poney, and I know you’re very concerned about how your friends will react when you tell them you’re going to be naked as much as possible. I’m just so pleased you’ve come this far towards full nudity, and I’m confident you’ll be able to go all the way with it. You’re gonna be a great naked person.
Poney: A naked person – me?
Troy: Yes, you – someone who can live just fine without any clothes. You’ll see.