I went to a fairly liberal institution of higher education. To demonstrate our liberalness some of my classmates liked to host what were called “naked parties,” parties where people were naked… pretty self-explanatory. As a young college student with very limited experience being nude (publicly or privately), I regarded these naked parties like a 12-year-old girl would: I giggled and exclaimed “oh my god, weird.” I had no problem with other people getting naked, but me? I’ll stay fully clothed in my dorm room watching glee and eating oreos dipped in peanut butter talking about how hard it is to meet people. Thanks for the invite, though, I said to no one because no one was inviting me to these parties.
But when I returned to campus for Junior Spring after studying abroad in the Fall, I was a new woman. Having acquired a more global worldview, substantial knowledge of feminist theory, and 20 pounds, I was bored with my reserved and predictable former self. I was sick of having body image issues because that seemed way too trivial. I was tired of being shy and quiet because I had way too much to say. And most of all, I was truly, sincerely, absolutely done with considering myself a boring person. And what better way to confront all of that than to attend a party where I would be required to let it all hang out?
My opportunity arose a few weeks into the semester when a few friends were talking about going to a naked party that night. I inserted myself into the conversation and garnered myself an invite.
We arrived at the door to the naked party and I was smacked with a wave of doubt. I’m not the kind of person who goes to naked parties, I thought. I should just head back to my dorm… and maybe get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s along the way, and maybe some peanut butter… But NO, I thought. This is my chance to do things differently. We opened the door and no one was there. At first we thought we were in the wrong place... until three naked humans suddenly emerged from the basement. Those naked humans started hunting down their clothes while my friends and I slowly took off ours: first shirt, then pants, then bra, then underwear. We were officially naked. We awkwardly crossed our arms to cover as much of our bodies as possible and headed for the basement.
Then came The Grand Entrance. Because we were heading down to the basement, we had to descend a rough-wood staircase while the rest of the party-goers looked up at our naked bodies.
I made it to ground level and was visually assaulted by all the wagging, bouncing penises. Welp here I am, I thought. A Naked Party. We made our way to the keg, because even naked parties have kegs, and we gathered our red solo cups just to have something to hold on to. We stood in a clump trying not to stare too hard and any single wagging penis for too long. One penis approached us. It was attached to a grad student named Brian. “Crazy party,” Brian said. It was comforting to know that opening lines were the same at naked parties as they were at frat parties. We all mumbled “yeah” and nodded. He put his arm around my friend Elizabeth and told us he was earning his Masters in Math. We all mumbled “cool” and Elizabeth took his arm off her and went to the other side of the room to say hi to a friend. Without missing a beat Brian put his arm around my friend Maddie, who promptly squirmed out of reach and left the group. So then Brian moved toward me, indicating that he considered me the third most attractive woman. He looked me up and down and said, “you look pretty uncomfortable.” This was not the positive, affirming experience I thought it would be.
Not wanting to be rude-- and more importantly, not wanting to walk across the room in all my nakedness looking for someone I knew while also being terrified that I’d run into someone I didn’t ever want to be naked with-- I continued to talk to Brian. He did not improve. He drunkenly talked about how he hadn’t been able to meet anyone. He asked me how this whole naked party thing worked if people wanted to “go home together,” as he put it. He told me he did like my boobs. And he did so in a way that indicated that he only liked them a little bit and he liked nothing else. Then, he pulled me in to dance and whispered in my ear, “it’s convenient that we’re already naked.”
Hell NO, I thought. Brian had crossed the line. I came to this party because I was sick of the obliging, reserved, scared-of-life version of myself that I had occupied ever since I became aware enough to have insecurities. I came to this party because I wanted to feel beautiful exactly as I was. I came to this party because I knew I was more of a badass than people acknowledged and I wanted actual, tangible proof that I was brave and daring and bold. I did not come to this party to have some drunk grad student tell me I would suffice for the night if no one else was available. And at that exact moment, as if the heavens were opening up, and God herself was reaching out to tell me, “you can do better than this,” Beyonce’s “Countdown” began to play.
In a fit of self-saving heroic passion, I pushed Brian aside, took command of the dance floor and began to bust a move. At least, that’s how I like to remember it. In reality, I probably said something polite to Brian, like “excuse me” and desperately searched the crowd for my friends to come dance with me. And sure enough, they appeared and we all jiggled vehemently to “Countdown,” while staunchly blocking Brian out of our dance circle. Maddie exclaimed, “we are so beautiful.” And we all woo’d in response. And with that woo, I finally got that we-are-beautiful-just-as-we-are-and-right-now-we-are-naked kind of moment that I had hoped for.