Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Invitation

I just got invited to attend a nude party. By a group of lesbians. Why are they inviting me? It's not like I'm hot. And even if I were, I've got the wrong, um, equipment. These are the thoughts rushing through my head as I try and maintain a polite smile because I'm still talking to them. I'm in the waiting room of my doctor's office. I just came in for a lousy allergy shot, but I came on the wrong day and the allergy nurse isn't here, so I have to wait until there's a nurse available to stick me. Which could be a while. As I waited, I noticed the three women seated across from me. Stocky, mannish women in their mid-forties with short spiky hair, each wearing t-shirts—one of which read "You Say DYKE Like It's a Bad Thing"—and cargo shorts with sandals. They had been quietly talking amongst themselves about throwing a party for the friend who was seeing the doctor while they waited. Who knew lesbians went to the doctor in packs? Let me clear the air, lest you think I have a problem with homosexuals. I don't. Like smoking or bicycling, homosexuality doesn't work for me personally, but that doesn't keep me from befriending them.

"Excuse me, can we ask you a question?" one of them asked.

"Um, sure," I said.

"Hi, I'm Denise. This is Carla and Deb."

"I'm Alan," I said.

She leaned forward in her seat and said, "We're planning a little get-together next week for our friend. There may be a few guys there, and we're trying to make sure we've got enough 'guy food'." Carla and Deb, seated on either side of her, smiled pained expressions, as if this whole let's-ask-the-big-straight-guy-what-he-likes-to-eat idea had been thrust upon them with no prior notice.

"Well, is it going to be like finger food or a dinner?" I asked.

"It's just finger food and snacks," said Denise.

So I told them the kind of snacks and foods I liked, the kind that most guys probably like. We chatted about the party a little, then food in general, eventually moving into deeper conversational waters with topics like weight loss and self-image. They were completely honest and open with me even though I was a complete stranger. And I found myself surprised at how comfortable I was talking about sensitive subjects with three women I had just met. They invited me to their party, a really nice gesture. But that's when it happened. That's when they informed me that the party was, in fact, a celebration of freedom and individuality. Oh, and that guests would attend in the nude. Naked. Without clothes. I tried to react casually, as if she had just told me that she was thinking about adding lil' smokies to the menu, but I could already feel the blood filling my face as I forced out an, "Uh-huh."

"We're not ashamed of our bodies," Denise said. "We believe that they're truly beautiful, no matter what society may think, and we celebrate our individuality with nudity."

When she originally mentioned freedom, I had envisioned a Fourth-of-July-style event with sparklers and lawn chairs. But that concept was now shot. Because sparklers and nudity? Do not mix. I struggled to come up with a lucid response that would make me appear hip and open- minded with regard to partying in the nude. But I just kept muttering, "Uh-huh... mm-hmm," all the while praying that their friend would return and they would leave or that the nurse would call my name and rescue me. The conversation had been going so well and I was really enjoying talking with them. Until, that is, they brought up the whole nude party thing. Now, instead of smiling and chatting, I was bargaining with God to get me out of this conversation. I promised to work with orphans in Malawi, widows in Haiti—and a lot of other people in places I can't even spell—if we could just change the subject. No such luck. As Denise went on about the beauty of the human body, I couldn't help but think about logistical issues like whether their furniture was fabric, how high the serving table would be, and if snapshots would be taken. Do you wear clothes to the party and then take them off, or do you just go in an overcoat like a flasher? Do you wear shoes? What if you're in an accident on the way? What is proper "nude etiquette" in situations involving hugging, spilling food or drink in your lap, or interacting with your host's crotch-sniffing dog?

"Alan Simmons?" the nurse called from the door.

Thank you, God. Oh, wait ... crap. I wonder what it's like in Malawi...