Readings — From the March 2014 issue

On Nudity

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By Norman Rush, from Granta 126, published earlier this year. Rush is the author of several works of fiction, including, most recently, Subtle Bodies.

From an early age, I was very interested in nudity. My father was a nudist manqué. He made many attempts, to which I was witness, to cajole my mother into going with him to a genuine nudist colony in Mendocino County. There was considerable casual nudity exhibited by both my parents in the normal processes of dressing and bathing and sunbathing au naturel on the veranda of our summer place near Monte Rio, where there was sufficient privacy, in their opinion. Whether my younger brother and I were to be included in the proposed nudist-colony expeditions was never made clear. My mother didn’t go for it and, I suspect, didn’t discuss Dad’s importunings with anyone, even her sisters. My father subscribed to Sunshine and Health, the premier nudist magazine, which my brother and I also read faithfully. Our home in postwar, middle-class East Oakland was a fortlike, solid, voluminous house built by a general contractor for his own family. It was across the street from a semi-castle owned by Frank Epperson, the inventor of the Popsicle. Mrs. Epperson told my mother, who told everyone, that in her view, sex was sinful even in marriage except when necessary for procreation. To endure the conception of their four children, Mrs. Epperson had, she revealed (recommending it to my mother), prepared for each obligatory act by consuming large quantities of aspirin. The medieval sexual narrowness of Mrs. Epperson was a subject of scornful dinner-table discussion. Nudity was on my mind rather a lot. I was about nine at this time. The nudity of my parents did not assuage my ripening interest but rather inflamed it. I wanted to see other naked female humans, and I wanted my father to keep his bathrobe on.

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