How soon after meeting someone should one get naked in front of them? Well, isn’t that the age-old question. I don’t actually have an answer but in my opinion, the
standard appropriate time to do so would be at least when you have spent enough time with the person in your clothes, such that you can trust that you know the person enough. Who knows how much time that is? Surely I don’t.
Nakedness is basically an uncomfortable position for the global majority because of the pressures that are put on us, both men and women, to look a certain way the moment we hit puberty. So many things become unattractive at that stage of life along with the world wind of other things to consider at this point. As a result of this newfound sense of awareness, many of us come up with ingenious ways of hiding the things that we hate about our bodies, even from the sister or brother that you’ve been sharing a room with to this point. Imagine how crafty one has to be to hide their body in such circumstances but we manage.
I have issues with my body, but I wouldn’t exactly call them struggles since when I compare my issues with those of other people, it’s pretty minor. I simply just don’t want to be fat and though I am quite insensitive sometimes to the plight of people who eat themselves to oblivion or those who won’t eat for whatever reason, I also have made pointed effort to appreciate these struggles. To understand that we take a lot out on our bodies, our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our love, and hatred. It’s all manifested in the different bodies that we see covered in various layers or not covered at all. These layers all bodies tell stories about the journeys of those bodies and of those who carry them around.
When I found out I was successful in gaining a spot on the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, I began researching about the city that I was placed in. What I found out was that going to the onsen or public bath was an age-old Japanese tradition but the difference with this style of hot water bathing and what I am used to in Jamaica, is that there is just an open concept and men bathe together with other men and women bathe together with other women. So in essence, all your flaws are open to being seen and speculated about by many people. Forget privacy. Even though I was scared by the thought of choosing to give up my privacy, I was also intrigued by this idea and it became one of the things I looked forward to doing once I got to Japan.
Having experienced the onsen in Japan, it allows one to have a greater appreciation of the human body, especially that of the female. Our bodies are quite diverse and go through a myriad of changes throughout our lifetime, all of which can be observed from a single day visit to a Japanese onsen. You’ll see grandmothers, mothers, teenager daughters, little girls and babies all bathing together. I must admit, I don’t speak or understand Japanese so I can’t speak on whether or not my body has been judged by anyone in the manner that I have judged my own body over the years, but I must say that after fighting my fears and dipping in the onsen tradition, I have grown to love myself even more.
There is just something uplifting about seeing women being confident in their bodies and not hiding away in fear or shame.
I still don’t know what’s the appropriate time to get naked in front of people you have just met but for me, the record was one day at an onsen, with my co-workers. It was a little awkward, but enjoyable and helped with bonding us even though we already shared the unique experience of being a JET.
If you are ever in Japan, please visit and onsen, it might change your life.