Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Naked Pudge

with 4 comments

One of the things that happens to me sometimes is that I get so tired, I can’t get myself to move even though moving would definitely do me good.

That happened to me a couple of nights ago, on the same day I had the terrible headache, and it resulted in what it usually does:  after dinner, being completely exhausted, I sat down on the love seat and flipped channels.


Looking for God only knows what, or nothing.  Nothing is probably closer to the truth.

What usually happens to me in cases like that is that I flip until I’m staring at the walls, and then I go to bed.

Every once in a while, though, I stumble onto something that attracts my attention, and the day before yesterday, or whenever it was, was one of those.

What I stumbled on was an episode of a new reality show airing on VH1, the rock and rap music station rival to MTV. 

This show is called Dating Naked, and it’s about sending newly introduced couples on dates–you guessed it–naked.

Now, there is a lot that could be said here about this particular phenomenon, at least once I got my jaw up off the floor.

There is a very deep seated part of me that is astonished anybody exists out there with so little sense of self that they could expose themselves in that way.  I felt the same after reports that Paris Hilton was flashing her vagina to photographers and she walked down the red carpet.

But for the moment I want to get to something else.

Once I’d watched about five minutes of this thing, I posted about it on FB, and also noted that the people in the show were…how to say this?…not very attractive.

This is largely the truth about the people who appear in reality shows of the more embarrassing kind.  The casts of Jersey Shore, Party Down South and that kind of thing tend to be personally obnoxious, bone deep stupid, and physically–sort of lumpish.

Either that, or the kind of skinny usually associated with Depression-era photojournalism.

What interested me is that somebody commented by saying that nudism generally was supposed to be “about body acceptance,” and that stopped me dead.

Let me start with a disclaimer.

I understand that there are people out there in the world who have problems with what is fashionably called “body image.” They obsess about their weight.  They starve themselves down to 40 pounds and a heart attack.  They get multiple plastic surgeries. 

People like that are doing themselves harm, and they do indeed need to “accept” themselves more. 

And even people without these obsessions ought to at least be onto themselves–to know what they are, and to be able to live with it.

But all this concentration on the neurotics of body image has resulted in a society-wide drive to convince people that they ought to love themselves “just the way they are,” as if feeling satisfied with yourself and in no way compelled to live up to any standard were the highest possible achievement, next to which nothing is necessary.

Let’s acknowledge something true.

Almost nobody looks good naked.

That, far more than warmth or protection from the elements, is why we have clothes.

It is a testament to the power of sex that it can overwhelm any aesthetic sense anybody has ever had, but we are still left with the reality that most men and women lure each other into bed with make up and costume.

The aesthetics of the human body, however, are like all aesthetics everywhere:  they’re a counsel of perfection.  They are about what we ought to strive to be, not what we necessarily can be, and certainly not what we are.

Even fashion models and actors, people professionally concerned with embodying the ideal, rarely actually embody it. 

And when they do embody it at the beginning of their careers, they rarely do by the end.

What’s more important is that they never embody it unless they work at it very hard. 

It was the luck of the draw that made it possible for Chris Hemsworth to look like Chris Hemsworth, but he only actually looks like Chris Hemsworth by making a lot of trips to the gym and being very careful about what goes down his throat.

For me, one of the hallmarks of a civilization–of all civilizations–one of the ways we know that what we are looking at IS a civilization, and not just a culture in the anthropological sense, is this business of defining ideals above and beyond what just “comes naturally,” and of insisting that men and women live up to those ideals as far as they can.

Civilization is not about comfort and acceptance, but about discomfort and frustration–about knowing that we fall short of what we should be.

And that until we do as much as we can to be what we ought to be, we are not really living a human life.

The people on Dating Naked seem to me to have abandoned their humanity in any meaningful sense. 

They bring nothing to the project of being human.

To the extent that they capture our attention at all, it is as that “human animal” so beloved of the New Atheists–no better than any other species on the planet, nothing special, nothing to see here that couldn’t be seen in an ant colony or a lion pride.

Except that there is something that can be seen, if people choose to create it–and it is a choice.

There’s “The Kreutzer Sonata (Beethoven)” and Michelangelo’s David, the poetry of John Donne and the plays of Shakespeare, the moon landing and vaccines for polio and antibiotics and the Empire State Building and the Taj Mahal.

Yes, we should treat our animals better, but they’ll only survive cancer or the next ice age if we step in to help them. 

There is something that is just so damned small about the vision of life and humanness offered up in Dating Naked, never mind the sheer ugliness of the physical aspects of people who firmly believe that being human requires no effort on their part at all.

Or maybe a little–the amount it takes to put in a few piercings and tattoos, most of which start to sag when the skin does, which looks…

Never mind.

If the purpose of things like this is to get us to accept ourselves as we are, I think I’m against them.

As far as I can tell, all the good in the world has come from the people who refuse to accept themselves that way, and insist on doing better, and doing more.

Written by janeh

July 20th, 2014 at 7:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Naked Pudge'

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  1. I have myself heard the siren call of nothing. The consciousness is still switched on, but the mind has gone bye-bye. I could proffer advise, but it would be pointless. When you get to that stage, the last thing you’re going to do is think about what to do about it. The one thing I can say is that it’s generally exhaustion or stress which gets me to that point. Watch yourself.


    20 Jul 14 at 9:28 am

  2. Ah. I thought the post was a little short earlier. Yes, I know about the people who aren’t content with what they are–the skinny kid who takes up bodybuilding, the stutterer who practices talking with pebbles in his mouth, and the little fellow determined to be a general someday. Even more annoying are the fellow with no life because he spends all his time in the lab, or who puts in a full day’s work, then goes home to try to write a novel. These are what Mark Twain called “the irritation of a good example,” and we’ve pretty well banished them from popular culture along with that selfish ant who wouldn’t share with the needy grasshopper.
    But they’re still out there. They fill my volumes of military history and my fiction shelves as well–the detectives of my fair play mysteries, the researchers and explorers of my science fiction, my adventurers–and the soldiers of my military SF: “you train them to the absolute limit of their endurance, and tell them that’s just barely acceptable. And then some day give you more than you or they thought they had in them.” (Colonel John Christian Falkenberg, quoted from memory.)

    They’ll be back, too. If we refuse to grow our own people who do not accept their limits, we will be ruled by those who do.

    I suppose the good news is that television would improve.


    20 Jul 14 at 10:58 am

  3. Well, there’s striving and then there’s striving. Much of body acceptance deals with learning what you can change, and what you can’t, and determining where society’s demands are reasonable, and where they aren’t.

    For example…no matter how much I exercise and eat well, I will never be taller. Society says that I should be sexually desirable, or I’m not worth anything. But the popular definition of sexually desirable includes elements I will never be able to achieve.

    So…should I just give up all sense of self-worth, or should I spend time, energy and money striving for some ideal of sexual desirability I can never attain? A physically or practically unattainable ideal isn’t something that’s good for a person.

    Or should I accept that there is far more to sexual attractiveness than physical appearance? Should I nurture a sense of self-worth based on the parts of me that *are* things I can improve upon?

    There’s striving to become a better person, or a better contributor to society, or a better businessperson, or a better artist, or a better parent. Within the parameters of who I am, all of those things may or may not be attainable, but it’s possible for me to achieve partial success, or at least make an effort that makes a difference to those around me. And the striving will probably be beneficial, in and of itself, or at least not harmful to me.

    But trying to match the airbrushed perfection of stars and models is actively destructive to both men and women. Yeah, most people aren’t stunning when they’re naked. So? Does that mean that no one should ever get nekkid? or should they beat themselves up over it endlessly?

    As for having given up on being “more human,” those people who appear on shows on E! or VH1 probably don’t even comprehend the concept in the same way you do. They are demonstrably not all that intelligent or educated. It’s just that in an age with infinite hours of cable TV to fill, there is room in the schedule for terrible ideas, terrible people, horrible acts. To them, this IS the extent and scope of humanity. In fact, I bet that if you talk to most of them, they’d have the idea that they’re demonstrating something profound by taking part in that show.

    Like a car crash, you have to force yourself to stop watching, and go wash out your mind with Mozart or something.


    20 Jul 14 at 12:21 pm

  4. I’d thought that nudity was supposed to be good for your physical health – well, outdoor nudity, all that fresh air and sunshine vitamin – and possibly makes a political statement of radical equality – no expensive clothing or other signs of status. Although the Doukhobors, among others, used nudity for other political ends.

    I hadn’t heard that nudity was part of the body acceptance movement, although googling reveals that it is. I can’t exactly see how it’s supposed to work in a largely clothed world, but then again, I can’t see how nudity is supposed to advance many of the causes it has been associated with.

    As for the more idiotic of the ‘reality’ TV shows – well, I suppose there’s no particular rule against people making fools of themselves in public. Nor should there be. I do prefer the shows in which things are better in the end, though. I like it when, instead of people being put in embarrassing or nasty positions, they accomplish something. They build or repair a house, or even buy and re-sell abandoned junk.


    21 Jul 14 at 6:14 am

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