Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Have Naked Issues, Dammit!

There’s this annual event called the World Naked Bike Ride. Thousands of people all over the world ride their bikes en masse and in public, naked. It’s meant to be a political statement in rejection of pollution caused by vehicles and also of body shame.

Every year I think about joining my local ride. I think it could be therapeutic for me to merge into the pack riding along naked in my motorized wheelchair. I wish I could be free and easy with my naked body like that, but I can’t. I have naked issues, dammit!

But who could blame me? Remember, I’m a graduate of a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). It’s pretty near impossible to escape a place like that without having naked issues.

I’m real particular about who gets to see me naked. I can be a real Nazi about it sometimes. It’s not a shame thing. I’m not ashamed of my body. Why should I be? My body hasn’t done anything wrong. It hasn’t committed any heinous crimes, unless I made it do so.

My naked issues are more of a political thing. As inmates at SHIT, anybody might see us naked at any time. Like one of the houseparents, which is what they called the aides, might be getting you dressed or undressed in your room and God knows who might prance on in. No knock no nothing. Maybe another houseparent or a nurse or a janitor emptying the trash can. Or sometimes they’d line us up naked in the bathtub room, waiting for our turn to be put in the tub.

And then there were the “clinical sessions” at SHIT. We didn’t have to get naked for those but I sure felt like I was naked, psychologically. We’d wait in the hall outside the physical therapy gym wearing only underwear and a robe. And then they’d call us into the gym one-by-one and have us do something like walk in the parallel bars while a bunch of observers looked on and took notes. The observers were doctors and therapists and nurses and houseparents and social workers and teachers and I swear I saw some food service people in there observing once. Probably not really, but that’s what it felt like.

I didn’t gain full control over who sees me naked until I got to college. (Ironically, during my college days, I soon discovered that not too many people wanted to see me naked anyway, but that’s another story.) To this day somebody on my pit crew sees me naked every day, either when they help me go to bed or help me get up. But at least I determine who those people are. Before someone gets to see me naked, they must go through a process (spoken or unspoken) which goes something like:

PERSON: Request permission to see you naked, sir!

ME: Permission granted.

Once permission is obtained it is blanket unless rescinded.

If I ever get up the balls to join the bike ride I won’t do it alone. Because bikes are much faster than motorized wheelchairs and after about a half a block I’d be left in the dust and there I’d be in the middle of the public plaza, alone and naked in my wheelchair. And that would surely whip up a whole new grizzly batch of naked issues for me.

What I need to do first is organize a simultaneous World Naked Wheelchair Ride in solidarity. That ought to turn some heads.

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