Aviva Rubin expected some people might think her family's habit of walking around naked in front of each other was weird. But the mother of two didn't anticipate the outrage and disgust she provoked when she wrote about it for The New York Times.
In an essay titled Naked, With Children, posted on the Times's Motherlode blog, the Toronto writer and blogger of NothinginModeration.ca discussed how she and her partner don't bother covering up when walking from bathroom to bedroom, nor do they close the door when changing. The family doesn't let it all hang out gratuitously, she said, just often. Her two sons, ages 8 and 12, don't mind.
But apparently, many readers do. Some have gone as far as to say the practice should be illegal. Others said it was creepy.
As Ms. Rubin explained to The Globe and Mail, her children will set the agenda if, and when, they want the family to start covering up and closing the bathroom doors.
What prompted you to write the essay?
I was standing in the bathroom doorway, waiting to get into the shower, naked, calling out to my kid to get back into the basement and clean it up. And he was only fazed by the request that I was asking him to clean something, as opposed to the fact I was standing there with no clothes on. It struck me in that moment, like, "Wow. What happens in other people's houses, particularly with kids around his age on the cusp of becoming teenagers?"
You mention you're not sure where the inclination to walk around naked came from. Was it part of your upbringing?
No. There was nothing on display in my parents' home. For most people I talk to, it was a similar thing, growing up in the '60s and '70s. And you know, I've always had my own issues with my own body, so there's something kind of nice about not feeling that discomfort or judgment about how your body is or looks.
One commenter posted about how she thought it was important for her sons to know what a normal woman's body looks like, not like what you see on television or in fashion magazines.
We are one tiny step from having nudity everywhere, in terms of advertisements and public displays, and often it's associated with sex. And here, it's just your basic family situation, and people are uptight about it – almost, I'd argue, as they were decades ago.
What is it about being okay with walking around naked that strengthens your family bond?
I think that it would be unfair to say [it makes the bond stronger than other people's] What I would say is there's something about that comfort level and ease. It is quite purely familial. It's the familiarity, that feeling of – I hate to use the word "intimacy" because I know that would get conflated with sexuality – but how much you know each other and that innocent comfort and that lack of self-consciousness.
You said your son seems to be more embarrassed about the topic of nudity than the nudity itself. Can you explain?
Discussing it and drawing attention is kind of embarrassing and yet, he's not embarrassed by his own body. I mean, there have been moments where he's been like, "Mom!" Or he's shut the door. But more so, he just doesn't seem to care that much. He'll get out of the bath and do a little dance to music or whatever. But when you draw attention to something, it becomes awkward. If I said to him in those moments, "Oh, you're naked," he'd get embarrassed.
At what point do you think that will change?
I really don't have any intention of walking around the house naked with two full-grown men, as my sons will be. It's the idea of all these naked adults, and that's I guess, my own awkwardness. And maybe it will happen all so naturally that it won't be an issue. But at the moment, I feel at some point it will.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Readers: When should parents stop being naked around their children?