“The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body”  George Sheehan

I happened to glance over at the line next to us, just in time to see an elderly lady’s jaw drop and then she covered her mouth.   I realized she was looking over in the boys’ direction and then I heard it – “Elf, Elf, Baby.”

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always felt that society puts way too much emphasis on the naked body.  A naked body is just that, a naked body.  I’ve never been one to be self-conscious of my body, in fact I’ve always been fairly comfortable.  I drove my mother mad because she was a cover-upper.  My mother was uncomfortable with her body  and I can remember when I was a child walking into her room while she was changing; she would quickly grab something to cover up.  I was the opposite, I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t play outside naked.  I use to slip outdoor without a shirt on and my mother would always fly out of the house chasing me with a shirt, giving me a “talking too” for going outside naked.  Added to my confusion because I was wearing shorts, as far as I was concerned I was dressed!  Interesting how my mother was so shy and modest with her body and her daughter didn’t give nakedness a second thought.  When I think back I took after my father because I can still  hear my mother telling him to close the door while he showered, not to walk around the house in his underwear  “for God’s sake,  the curtains are open.”   He wore boxer style underwear and he looked dressed to me.   As time moves on history repeats itself because my husband is far more reserved than I am, always telling me to close doors and window blinds.  After my children were born I was determined to teach them to be comfortable with their bodies.  I never made a big deal out of nakedness and I never used fake words like wiener to describe their penis; identifying their body parts by proper names.

Once while visiting a friend with the boys, a naked lady suddenly appeared  on the tv.  The scene wasn’t sexual, just a naked woman walking through a room.  The boys were toddlers and my friend grabbed the remote and changed the channel, apologizing over and over that the boys saw a naked woman.  I told him it wasn’t a big deal as I was more comfortable with the boys seeing a naked woman than watching a show full of violence.  A girlfriend introduced me to a computer game called “Elf Bowling.”   The premise of the  game  was that the elves were  the bowling pins and Santa was taking revenge on the elves by bowling against them.  When Santa messed up, the elves would turn around and pull their pants down, moon Santa and yell “elf, elf, baby”.  The boys were about four and six at the time and they both thought it was so funny.  My husband warned me, “you might not want the boys to play this.”  “oh come on, it’s just bums” I said to him.

Never really thinking much of what I said until one day I took the boys to a grocery store to pick up a few things.  The boys were particularly rambunctious that day and when we got to the cash it was lined up.  As we were waiting in the line-up the boys were being fairly loud and driving me crazy.    To distract myself  I scanned the headlines of the gossip magazines, located by the cashier, to keep my sanity.   I happened to glance over at the line next to us, just in time to see an elderly lady’s jaw drop and then she covered her mouth.  I realized she was looking over in the boys’ direction and then I heard it – “Elf, Elf, Baby.”  I looked in the direction of the boys and they were bent over with their pants around their ankles mooning their bare asses toward the lineup behind me.  As they chanted “Elf, Elf, Baby” my oldest took his hand and slapped his butt while moving in a dance motion.  I was stunned and it was a rare moment where I considered walking out of the store and pretending I didn’t know them.  I looked back at the lady in the neighbouring lineup and she still had her hand over her mouth. Instead of making a big deal out of the situation I casually said to the boys, “hey guys pull your pants up, nobody needs to see that.”  Giggling like madmen, they pulled up their pants but continued to chant “Elf, Elf, Baby at the top of their lungs.

Wanting to crawl under the nearest rock, I acted cool as a cucumber taking on the “don’t let them see you sweat” motto.    Finally I made it to the cashier, paid for my goods and walked out of the store with my head held high.    The woman in the next lineup was still staring at me in disbelief, so I flashed her  a huge smile.  I was met with a judgmental look and then she shook her head from side to side.  She didn’t say it but her body language was saying “tsk-tsk shame on you mom.”  After I got the car packed and the boys buckled in I told them that we needed to have  a little talk.  I said ” you can’t go around showing your bums in public places,”  My oldest pops up laughing and says “why not mommy, it’s just bums.”  He said it, the exact same thing I said to his father.   Wouldn’t be the first time something I said came back to nip me in the butt.

Ironically, as time goes on I have one child who is very comfortable with his body  and the other one is a cover-upper!  Both brought up the same and both have different attitudes toward their bodies.  A couple of years ago we were all heading to the beach and I came out of my room ready to go wearing my bathing suit.  I was wearing boxer style bottoms with a halter style top.  The halter top had risen a little and I was showing a bit of skin.  My oldest son didn’t even notice what I was wearing.  My youngest stops in his tracks and says “is that what you’re wearing mom?”  “Yeah, why?”  He walks over and pulls my top down covering my midriff and says “you might want to start wearing a one-piece bathing suit.”  For the very first time in my life, I felt self-conscious of my body!