Yesterday morning I woke up from being naked in a dream.
Here’s the scene: enrolled in a college English class, I’m back in school as an adult. I’ve got both the intellectual confidence and the wedgie-up-the-ass insecurity that comes from being twenty years older than everyone else in the room.
Instead of going to class I spend most of my time seeking out the personal tutelage of an assistant English professor. His office walls, cramped but functional stand bare and so do I. Topless actually.
Neither of us flinches at my bare breasts. In fact, being naked draws me out. I love the tutoring sessions so I keep skipping class in favor of discussing writing technique in the small office. My nudity is not so much intriguing as it is fact, like spouses passing naked in the bathroom.
Then, my subconscious flips a switch:
In the dream the once private, small sanctuary of an office becomes a turn-style for many of the students back in the English class I had deserted. And the assistant professor morphs, as people do in dreams, into a woman my age. She is hell bent on assigning an impossible academic workload.
Instantly, the hours once spent being naked and communing over perfect syntax and the art of the semicolon fade to grey and I mechanically turn in assignments and wait for grades.
My breasts gradually became sources of shame as the new professor evaluates my writing. She gives me a "D" on an assignment (interestingly my cup size). I’m viscerally aware of my nudity. Outraged, I challenge the grade, only to be rebuffed and shown my inadequacies. This exchange awakens me to the difference between being naked and feeling naked.
No one wants to be caught off guard, left feeling naked; it's shocking. And painful. But being naked, as I was at the start of my dream, evokes wholeness. And wholeness invites sincerity between those who have nothing to hide.
In waking life, there are laws against public nudity in America. If a student shows up to class in a skin suit, he’s escorted out. Mothers who breastfeed in public have long been the recipients of scorn and verbal disapproval. I'm not sure what happens in men's locker rooms, but where I workout women who don't hide themselves while they change are glanced at sideways. Lovers often turn the lights off when naked with each other. We cling to the safety of our clothes and our stories.
My subconscious must have an agenda because this morning I wake up from another dream about nakedness. This time I am naked at a happy hour. I walk, nude, up to small groups of fully-clothed people and begin conversations. We talk about fresh and fun things and no one eludes to my lack of proper attire. This feels amazing but also confounds me. So I begin asking people, "Am I naked?” With every confirmation, my stomach sinks, my face flushes, and I begin to feel naked. My anxiety balloons and desperate to hide, I quickly order an Uber ride to get me out of there.
My dreams show me that being naked, the kind of naked that happens from within, forges connection. Feeling naked just sucks.
Have you ever watched an explicitly sexual movie scene with your parent? or your child? Can you recall that feeling of Jesus, I’d like to be anywhere but here right now accompanied by the desire to become invisible? that’s feeling naked. The irony is, privately many of us would like to trade places with the characters in a sex scene. Sex reflects our desire to be naked and liberated. But when reality finds you sitting on a couch, with the tube on, watching eroticism unfold with people whom you share DNA. No thanks.
When we’re feeling naked we want to hide. When we’re being naked it’s an honor to be seen.
Being naked seems like the embodiment of vulnerability and transparency. It's both experienced and witnessed.
If you're inclined to, practice being naked next time you’re talking with someone. Refrain from apologizing for yourself…for anything. Make eye contact. Trust your intuition. Speak out loud whatever arises in your conscious mind. Embrace your gender and your sexuality without disclaimer. Reveal how you feel. Love yourself.