Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Thoughts on Toplessness
Years ago, the show Seinfeld introduced the concepts of good and bad naked. Hair brushing, according to Jerry, was good naked; coughing, though, was bad naked.
It was a hilarious episode, of course, but, admittedly, I never really identified with it personally. You see, as a chronically thin Catholic from the American Midwest, I have rarely been confronted with nudity, be it good, bad or otherwise. And when I am, it’s usually dark, and I feel too guilty to enjoy it anyway.
This past month, however, my wife and I have spent some time on the beaches of continental Europe. In the summertime, in places like Greece or Spain or Croatia, women unite in one powerful voice against the oppressions of bikini tops, and so I’ve found myself literally surrounded by breasts for much of the last 30 days.
My feelings on this --Breasts-a-Palooza 2009-- represents a slow, steady evolution. At first, my reaction was too giggle uncontrollably. “Look,” I stage-whispered to my wife. “That girl over there isn’t wearing a top! Do you think the police are going to come get her?”
“They don’t have to wear tops here, Matt,” she said over the top of her book. For ten unbroken minutes I stared at her with my mouth open. How could she be so casual about something like this?
At a certain point, I learned to control the giggling, but my attitude toward the breasts became something bordering on unhealthy. I would try to read, I’d brought a whole stack of books with me, but reading is virtually impossible when breasts are being flung about so liberally. “OK,” I would say to myself. “I’ll read this paragraph, and then I’ll sneak a glimpse at the breasts, and then I’ll read another paragraph. OK . . . go.”
A few weeks ago, in Barcelona, I noticed a guy about my age, Spanish-looking, sitting on the beach. He was happily reading a soccer magazine, and he seemed not to be distracted at all by what was around us. He caught my glance, and with my eyes, I said to him, “Dude, what’s your secret? Do you not see what’s going on here?” With his eyes he said to me, “Umm, you’re American, aren’t you?”
Now, as our trip is almost over, I’m no longer obsessed. I’ve moved on. I’ve grown up. In fact, I find myself more than a little annoyed with the breasts. It’s like, “Listen up breasts, I see what you’re doing over there, and frankly I find it boring. Now go away so I can finish this New Yorker article in peace.”
The fact is, I’ve realized what Jerry Seinfeld was trying to say some 15 years ago. There really can be too much nudity. Some nudity even goes so far as to systematically undermine the special place that nudity holds in each of our hearts. For example, a topless girl applying sunscreen is a lovely thing that could eventually be harnessed to end wars and create world peace. But, two topless girls playing Uno? A topless girl eating a turkey sandwich and doing soduko puzzles? Come on now ladies, you’re better than that. The world is counting on you.
I’m Matt Norman, and I approve this message.