What’s the true sign that spring has sprung? No, it’s not the crocuses, the bunnies, or the pussy willows.
I know spring is here, because I just shaved my knees.
You might be thinking, “Well, that’s an inappropriate way to start a column.” Stick with me - you’ll soon realize that news of my recent knee-shaving is actually the perfect launching point for a deeply philosophical discussion.
You see, knee-shaving is not a regular occurrence in my life. In fact, from October through February, the prickly hairs on my knees remain completely undisturbed. As long as we’re being brutally honest, I’ll admit that during mid-winter, I don’t even shave my legs. Only armpits and ankles, until daylight saving time, when the razor creeps up to my knees.
“Thanks for sharing,” you’re probably saying, “but what’s so philosophical about your personal hygiene habits?”
Listen folks, this isn’t about hairy knees. It’s about societal norms, bodily exposure, natural inhibitions, the ever-changing definition of modesty, and the pressure to conform to modern trends.
Ever since the founding of this great nation, America has valued freedom above all else. More than any other country on Earth, we protect individual liberties that we feel are our inalienable rights as human beings.
But in today’s modern culture, the need to escape confining norms, no matter how practical or reasonable, has reached new extremes. The most obvious expression of our human drive to break free from conventions is our clothing.
Or the lack of it, to be more precise.
Ever since 1920s flappers shocked their Victorian mothers by wearing hemlines above their ankles, exposure has been trendy. As the decades passed, that itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini got smaller and smaller. Today, a perfectly acceptable bathing suit consists of about six square inches of Spandex and a few strings.
Modesty, which used to be a widely-recognized virtue, is now seen as puritanical, frumpy, and frankly, uncool, while nudity is very on-trend.
Pop culture reflected this shift a few years ago, when nudity-themed shows such as “Dating Naked,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Naked Castaways,” and “Buying Naked,” appeared on television. More recently, premium channel shows like “Westworld,” “Shameless” and “Game of Thrones” are ranked from “least naked” to “most naked” for your viewing pleasure. How convenient!
We’re all born naked, you might be thinking, so what’s the big deal? Certainly, shedding one’s clothing should not be seen as the scourge of humankind. Anyone who has ever seen a toddler rip their own diaper off and run buck naked through the house giggling knows that, on some level, nudity is a liberating natural inclination.
I’ll never forget the day that my mother and I were painting my daughters’ room. We let my youngest, Lilly, play with dolls nearby while we rolled Sherwin Williams “Demur Rose” onto the white walls. While tackling the intricacies of the trim, we failed to notice that Lilly had toddled downstairs and out into the backyard. We panicked for a few moments before we saw her out the bedroom window, completely naked, petting the neighbor’s cat.
After returning from her naked safari, Lilly reported, “Kitty-cat no like my nakee stuff.”
Unlike Lilly, I’ve always been unusually modest, even during my swim team years, when I had to shower with twenty other females on a daily basis. I kept myself covered whenever possible, but my teammates’ attitudes ran the gamut, including one swimmer who we lovingly nicknamed “Flesh” because her last name was Gordon and she would strip down to her birthday suit as soon as we set foot in the locker room.
So what am I saying?
In all my old-fashioned modesty, I have ironically become the ultimate non-conformist in today’s bare-it-all society. I shave and bare my knees each spring, but you won’t see me wearing a crop top and Daisy Dukes just because the bees are buzzing. The sun can shine all it wants, but I don’t wear spaghetti straps, plunging necklines or a mini skirts. And no matter how hot it gets, I won’t squeeze my 53-year-old-mother-of-three frame into a string bikini.
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