Friday, 30 August 2013

Perceptions of nudity

Different cultures have different views of what is and isn’t acceptable regarding dress code. Most of the time I understand and accept these views but this week I’ve been troubled by a nude finger. In fact, I’ve been troubled by the fact that I’ve been troubled by a nude finger, but more of that later.

I’ve just started reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. The fiery Baptist Minister and his young family have been dropped into a tiny isolated village in Central Africa. The locals want to welcome them but the Minister is outraged by their nudity, picking out an unfortunate lady to preach his views at. In the words of his daughter, “…Her big long breasts lay flat on her chest like they’d been pressed down with an iron, but she did seem heedless of it…” The villagers didn’t speak a word of English yet that Minister left them in no doubt of his feelings regarding “…nakedness and the darkness of the soul…”

It’s all about perceptions. The story goes on to mention that the women of this tribe would never leave their homes without first covering their legs down to their ankles and yet their breasts remained uncovered and unnoticed… by the locals at least.

Here in the UK in the 21st century we’re used to religious dress codes. I certainly would never go to my Synagogue without wearing a skirt that was below-knee length and a top that covered my arms and front. It’s called ‘modest’ clothing and it can be easily explained and understood.

Not so easily explained are concerns over wearing night clothes outside the house. I still can’t watch Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy without squirming at Arthur Dent in his dressing gown. I don’t know why. He’s not showing anything untoward, but then my dressing gown is also perfectly decent, covering me from neck to ankle but I’d hate to be seen in public wearing it.

So now I’ve admitted that I have ‘dress-code’ issues but this week’s ‘nude finger episode’ came as a surprise even to me. Last weekend I had an arthritis flare-up. My fingers ballooned embedding my wedding ring firmly below the knuckle. I tried all the usual methods of freeing metal from finger but in the end decided to ‘sit it out’. On Tuesday morning I managed to ease the ring off but I now had a naked finger. Had it been winter I might have grabbed my woolly gloves. Instead I slipped surreptitiously into a local jewellery shop and bought the cheapest silver ring they had. The difference I felt as I emerged from that shop, ring on finger, is quite inexplicable.


Do you have any unusual dress-code issues?

20 comments:

  1. I recognise that naked feeling when a customary ring is missing ... just as it felt very odd wearing that ring for the first few days. We are creatures of habit, and maybe breaking the habits occasionally gives us a refreshingly slightly different view of life and of ourselves. You always have interesting topics that strike a chord, Ros!

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    1. Thank you, Pippa, and yes, had I not had the ring incident then I would never have stopped to ponder this issue.

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  2. You'll love the Poisonwood Bible - it's an extraordinary book. (In fact, if you go quiet, we'll know exactly what you're doing!)

    I have an issue with tourists who fail to notice cultural dress codes. In India, local people go in the sea with their clothes on - so the couple wearing see-through thongs and nothing else had me spitting feathers!

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    1. I'm spitting along with you. It's totally unacceptable for people to not realise that sort of thing these days.

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  3. I feel that all cultures dress habits should be respected. Mine change as I get older. I need long sleeves now to hide the flab and wrinkly arms. Ha

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    1. Me too. I have batwings. Where did they come from? And I have a tummy that never used to be there which needs loose tops to disguise it and wrinkles on my neck that only look good when totally concealed under a scarf!

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  4. I know the ring feeling well. When I have a manicure, the beautician takes my wedding ring off. It feels very strange, and yet it's only for a short time. I never wear my engagement ring very much though - I never miss that.

    I read something about the Poisonwood Bible a couple of days ago. How strange that it should appear again. It does sound interesting though.

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    1. No, I never miss my engagement ring and when I do wear dress rings they always catch on towels and get in the way. How does Jacqueline Wilson do the housework. That's what I'd like to know.

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  5. Know how you feel, my Mother had to remove her wedding ring, could not put it back, and was very upset.

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    1. The hospital had to remove my Mother's with a hacksaw. They weren't very sympathetic about it either but that's another story!

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  6. I won't wear sweatpants out in public. They are fine for lounging at home, but too sloppy for public viewing. Same with flip flops unless I'm at a beach.
    Keen post and Barbara Kingsolver is a joy to read - Poisonwood Bible is her best, I think.

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    1. I wear tracksuit trousers round the house but get changed even if I'm popping round to a neighbour. Silly really.

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  7. I don't know the book, Ros, but it sounds like a good one judging by all these comments here. I have a thing about not wearing earrings. I really feel naked without them. So strange isn't it? I don't wear rings, but if it's the same feeling as my empty ears, I know just how you feel. My only other dress 'issue' is that I cannot bring myself to wear jeans to work. Nearly everyone I know does, and I wear them at home all the time, but I would feel so unprofessional and so 'unworklike' if I did it. Very odd of me, I know.

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    1. I recently went to a friend's birthday party but forgot to put earrings on. I was mortified and I'm convinced it changed my whole ability to relax and enjoy the party.

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  8. I guess my situation is similar to the Poisonwood Bible, seeing as how I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. I always take care to cover my shoulders and knees, even when it's hot enough I just want to wear my tank. I do get some passes since I'm a foreigner - like it's more acceptable for me to wear pants and not cover my head with a scarf. But I have also no problem with lounging around the house in my PJs, but I do make an effort to change out of them if I'm heading out. I'm okay (in the States) getting the mail in my bathrobe, but I wouldn't go shopping in it.

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    1. I suspect that when you arrived there you were already well aware of local customs, unlike the character from the book. As for PJs. I won't get into them until after 9 pm. Any earlier and I'd feel slovenly.

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  9. I don't know whether it's unusual or not, but there are certain clothes I wear in Tenerife that I wouldn't pack for a visit to the UK. Not because of the difference in temperature but because they seem inappropriate wear for a 69 year old over there! As for your ring issue - I have two gold rings - one for when my hand swells in the heat. I claim that the white band when I remove my ring makes it look as if I'm 'on the pull'!

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    1. I feel better knowing that you have two rings for puffy and non-puffy days but do you really think that we can get away with being 'on the pull' at our age!?!

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  10. Hope your arthritis stopped flaring up. That must have been a horrible feeling. I'd rather see that woman's ankles than her chest, but maybe it's just me.

    Julie

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    1. Thanks, Julie, and yes, so would I.

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