Not quite dux

by | Memoir, Non-fiction

 

I spent a lot of time naked when I was young. Young is an imprecise word. I’m not talking about my infancy in the 1950s when placing a babe on a blanket (sans nappy) for ‘sun kicks’ was an essential part of the daily routine; nor the toddler years when my tentative early staggers (again without much clothing) across the lawn on a hot summer day were captured for posterity in a B&W snapshot that features a few pages after the babe-on-blanket pic in the family album. I’m talking about being young as I remember it, the way it was for me in the 1970s, when I was a young 20-something.

Despite growing up in a conventional, sporadically mass-attending, Catholic family, I could see nothing wrong with nudity per se and so had no qualms about joining my friends and discarding our clothing, yes, at the drop of a hat. In those post-Woodstock years we delighted in taking off our clothes when we got together to party, like naughty children, and there was never any behaviour remotely sordid or sexual. We played strip poker (of course) and skinny dipped in pool and ocean. Any party game it seemed was enhanced by nakedness, even ‘murder in the dark’.

It’s decades since I last pranced naked at a party but I still can’t see that there’s anything inherently wrong in nakedness. Recent events have made me question whether my attitude is out of kilter with the prevailing norms of the 21st century.

 

My eldest son chose to commemorate the end of his formal schooling by streaking with three mates through the school quadrangle during an end-of-year fundraiser – a ‘slave auction’. (In my view slavery is more abhorrent than nudity but that is not the subject of this piece.)

Possessing enough intelligence to foresee consequences, the boys wore masks and carried their clothes with them so they could get dressed again at the end of the sprint – the bundled clothes held before them effectively, if unintentionally, censoring their ‘dangly bits’.

The principal was outraged – never mind that most of the staff and student body thought it was an hysterically funny interlude in an otherwise tedious affair. Unfortunately the culprits were identified (not by any tell-tale physical characteristics!) through discovery of their school bags awaiting collection under some bushes but not well enough hidden, and when challenged the boys admitted their guilt. They were immediately banished from the school – suspended – not permitted to enter its precincts again – no, not even for the HSC exams.

The prospect of having to sit their final exams at some unknown location was deeply upsetting and seemed to me to be an excessive punishment for their behaviour. Detailed instructions about ‘things which will not be tolerated’ on muck-up day had been sent home from the school – with threats that severe consequences would ensue if these were contravened: no missiles, no damage to school property, no damage to teachers property, or the school property. I believe the boys complied with these edicts. And I fail, still, to see the problem. In the early years of the 21st century what secondary school student on Sydney’s lower north shore has never seen a bare male bottom?

I attended the end-of-year ceremony at my son’s school as a secretly proud parent. I watched his classmates ascend the stage to receive their awards. I heard my son’s name read out three times – he came first in three subjects – but he could not accept his awards in person.

 

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