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The Time My Mom Was Naked

spencer_tunick_naked_photo_mexico_city

So, apparently nudity is not as common in other people’s houses as my own.

For many years, my mom seemed to have something against shirts as a concept. Bras were also not her cup of tea. I don’t mean that she did this outdoors or anything, but indoors, within the safe confines of our house, things were different. I was so used to it that I was never really fazed by seeing her topless. It was how she was most comfortable, though I was concerned when she’d try and cook that way. Let’s just say that breasts and hot grease don’t really get along. She bought a metal screen to place over the pan to minimize the super-heated spatter, but it’s almost impossible to avoid completely.

Growing up, my mom proudly showed our birthing albums to adult guests. These are a set of two nearly identical albums containing a veritable flipbook of the births of me and my sister. We were both born at home under the supervision of a midwife and doula, and the photos hold nothing back. There are breasts, a gaping vagina, and copious amounts of hair. Our tiny heads crown in a blaze of moist, bluish glory. The camera is up close and personal, revealing every piece of flotsam and jetsam stuck to our bodies. My toothless maw is sucked free of fluid using a rubber bulb, and my purple body turns an angry red as you continue to flip. Sweat pours down my exhausted mother’s face and body, the bloody sheets soaked with perspiration. I’m shown receiving my first bath, still attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord. The bath water is a pale pink from blood. My sister, almost five at the time, christens me with raisins from a box as I lie wailing in the tub. I speculate this is why I hate raisins to this very day.

All in all, these albums are a bit much for the average stranger. Polite dinner guests have sat in petrified embarrassment as my mom gleefully flipped each page, showing every detail of her heavily pregnant naked body. Appetites have been lost, and potential friendships have soured. I suppose you know you’ve found a keeper of a friend if they sit through the labor book on day one, but still, it seems a formidable gauntlet to run.

But I was young and carefree, and flipped through the books with grand curiosity, viewing over and over again how I first met this world. My mom’s naked body never bothered me since I was used to it, but I was weirded out by all the blood and other fluids associated with labor. During my sister’s birth, when my brother was eight years old, he ran screaming out into the street and passed out. Understandable, I think. No amount of talk really prepares you for the miracle of life.

My mom seems to have embraced clothing more in the past 15 years or so, but I will always remember when I realized that not everyone’s Mom was like this. I must have mentioned the fact that my mom was topless as a throw-away detail while telling a story to my friends, and they halted everything. “Wait, wait a minute,” they said. “I think we need to go back to your last comment.” I had barreled ahead with the story, and all they wanted to know about were my mom’s boobs? Weird. Nudity was evidently a big no-no in their houses, and I was made to feel weird about the whole thing. I naturally informed them that she never did this around other people—just family—but they were not reassured. My friends still came over to my house, but I’m not sure they ever looked at my mom in the same way again. Sorry, Mom 😦

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  1. June 25, 2012 at 9:55 am

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