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?