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2003-11-24 - 8:17 a.m.

This entry, I think, would have gone a lot more smoothly without Michael "No!Wire!Hangers!" Jackson getting arrested last week. I've heard a lot of needless, tasteless jokes about him, as well as a few that actually were funny (the No!Wire!Hangers! bit I stole from, which is a really funny website). I don't want to linger too long on him, because I worry that, as with the case of so many other scandals in our recent history, we're focusing on the sensational and the salacious and forgetting about the tragedy. I could do a big long entry about that, but I don't want to. You can read something cool about it at, though. You might have to go back a couple of entries.

However, I did need to move him forward so I could move him out of the way, because this entry is going to be about how I love kids, and it's also going to be about a naked baby. These things together beg a Michael Jackson reference, so I wanted to make it as unfunny as possible, and I think I've done that, so moving on.

I go nuts around babies (still there, with the Michael Jackson thoughts, but we will keep going forward). I could be having a very involved conversation with a good friend in a posh restaurant about the problem of revolutionary politics vs bureaucracy (you kinda need both, but that's yet another entry), but if I see a baby looking at me it's peekaboo, and I see you, and whatyoulookinatthen, aw, sweetie itty bitty crazy face! Yes you are! Yeeeeeees you are! Then my friend walks up and leaves, and I don't even notice, because I am on a mission to get that baby to smile at me, come Hell or wet diapers.

I love playing pretend games with my cousins' kids, running around the house pretending to be animals or in outer space, throwing them up in the air and spinning them around until they throw up with delight. I like the fact that just standing upside down makes them absolutely euphoric. There have been a few dinner parties in my time where I get very bored by the grown-ups discussing their latest investments or their next condo purchase or zzzzz and so I volunteer to take care of the kids who are currently running around and spilling cheese dip everywhere. At least that way I can talk about my favorite Disney movies. You want to keep a hyperactive kid occupied during dinner? Challenge him to a quoting contest for The Emperor's New Groove. I know this from experience.

However, on Saturday night there was a child I could not deal with, even though she was sweet and imaginative and not rambunctious in the least. I couldn't handle her because she was also not clothed in the least.

Having seen that mid-90s Dana Carvey HBO comedy hour, I know that kids love their naked time, and fair enough. I certainly remember that when I was very small, I had an aversion to pants. I understand that parents would want to raise their children to be unashamed of their bodies, and I totally respect that. In fact, the mother of this little girl showed me this picture of her when she was pregnant. The father of her two girls was behind her, her older daughter was in front of her with her hands on her pregnant tummy, and all three of them were nude. It was a beautiful picture, and I thought "How great that this family is comfortable enough to be unashamed of their bodies, and to capture this beautiful moment. How awful that people would see this and think of it as being pornographic, just because they're naked." I told her the picture was absolutely lovely, and needed to be blown up and put in a good frame. Heck, it could even be sold to a gallery.

Then the daughter who was still in the womb at the time the picture was taken came into the room. Very, very naked.

I was, of course, a bit nonplussed. Then the mama in question said "It's time for your bath, sweetie" and I felt a lot better. Of course! It's time for her bath! Kids can be naked in real life if they're going to have a bath!

So I went back outside to hang out with the other housemates. I heard the water running and then the splashing and the giggles. I remembered having to help a friend of mine give his baby brother and sister a bath, and how they insisted on taking their ice cream pops in the bath with them, which made the whole exercise EXTREMELY counterproductive.

Then she came out a while later, still naked. But, well, she's just had her bath! She hasn't had time to put on clothes yet! She got away from her mama, of course! But then mama asked me if I wanted to go get a drink with her or stay with some other people at the house. I said I would stay. So I stayed there with a couple of guys and a little naked baby.

Who stayed naked.

She never put clothes on.

Neither her father nor her baby-sitting house mate felt the need to put clothes on her.

Okay, that's . . . okay. You know, she was still a toddler. I know this because she toddled rather than walked. She was potty-trained, so there was no need for a diaper. The human body is beautiful! She's a wholly innocent child! How great that her parents are NO! NO!! NO!!! PUT CLOTHES ON THAT BABY! NOW! PUT CLOTHES ON HER NOW! I DON'T LIKE SEEING NAKED GROWN-UPS OUTSIDE OF VERY SPECIFIC CONTEXTS AND I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO SEE A NAKED LITTLE GIRL SO JUST PUT! SOME! CLOTHES! ON! HER!!!


I think the worst part was when she fell over in front of me. She really enjoyed falling and made a very gymnastic production of it. I barely turned away in time.

As the evening went on, I gradually got over the nudity, for the most part. I even managed to join her in a game of "Free the Animals from the Zoo" with her, her babysitter, and a few of her closest friends (Winnie the Pooh, Scooby Doo, Rainbow Mousie, and a gorilla that I named Ookie). It was fun. I got to work on my Scooby impression, and eat some pretend Scooby-Snacks, and what more can you ask for? I mean, aside for clothes.

Now, I know this was mostly my problem, and one I'll certainly need to get over when I have children. I have nudity hang-ups. I can't even really handle it when people I'm sleeping with go to the bathroom naked. People who are standing up need to be clothed, in my mind. And children certainly need to be clothed unless in bathtime situations. Family can see a kid naked, but relative strangers do not need to see kids naked (and by the way, this kid was running around naked on a well-lit front porch as well), partially because some of us don't like naked, period, but mostly because you never know who might be lurking in the shadows. Maybe I'm being too Victorian, but in the post-Michael Jackson era, I think it's better to err on the side of caution. I've heard too many horror stories from good friends recalling terrifying memories to not feel like letting children play naked in full view of a neighborhood is tempting fate.

At the same time, I think this girl will probably grow up with fewer hang-ups than I did. She's going to be totally comfortable with her own body, and other people's bodies. I envy her the freedom that she will have, and wonder if I might have been better off if I had been allowed to have more time running around with my pants off. I'm even reminded of the Dar Williams line about keeping her shirt off when she was a kid, because it would be the last time she wouldn't be breaking the law to do so. Maybe this little girl will grow up to teach me a thing or two about how I want to raise my kids.

Until then, however, I am going to hope that she has clothes on the next time I see her. If I have to wait until she's seven or eight or thirty for that to happen, I'm okay with that.

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