Where everybody knows (more than) your name

Naked came the student

A Yale party proves revealing in more ways than one

By Grace Hammerstein

So I stood there stark naked, with nothing to protect me but the confidence I had to pretend I had and the general cloud of ridiculousness I imagined hovering over the situation.

I was visiting my friend at Yale, where we attended one of the university’s parties. Like many college gatherings, there were loud conversations trying to top the high-decibel music, the distribution of red Solo Cups and the overall youth-ridden spirit of a bunch of weekend-thirsty students rewarding themselves for their weeklong efforts. The only difference was that once you walked through the door, you were expected to remove every article of clothing that was formerly shielding you from the cold night. It was a naked party.

Using the Band-Aid ripping strategy, I figured the faster I got my clothes off, the sooner I got it over with. So I was the first of my new friends to be entirely naked. Suddenly, the people I had just met knew a lot more about me.

What came as a surprise to me was not how public nudity felt but how comfortable I was being a participant in it. Maybe it helped that I’d most likely never see these people again, because I was just an innocent – well, a somewhat less innocent – visitor. More likely it was that being naked around other naked people creates a room so full of vulnerabilities and insecurities that all of these feelings seem to cancel each other out. If I was worried that someone was going to judge me, I had to remember that that person was probably worrying about the same thing.

Not to mention an environment like this forces you to make more eye contact than ever before. When I was meeting people for the first time, I had no choice but to look them directly in the eye and ignore everything from the neck down, because that would simply be a party foul. Peripheral vision is an option, of course, but come on: You’re trying to make a first impression.

And first impressions are particularly important in a world where sex sells, where a man or woman is as beautiful as his or her gym workout, where, sadly, you can only love yourself as much as you feel others love you. First impressions in a 20-something world are strictly aesthetic until that person makes you laugh or rubs you the right way. I am no exception to the imperfections, flaws and muffin tops of womanhood. What I had to offer at that party was in no way a perfected image, but it was real and it was all I had to give. Being able to walk through a sea of bodies, all representing different colors, shapes and sizes, was liberating. I felt like I was doing my part.

Parties like this, where you shed the labels that make up your façade, made me realize that we’re all the same, and though we may be self-conscious of different nooks and crannies, we are all self-conscious to begin with. With everyone’s insecurities displayed within the same walls, we were in it together.

It was this moment among many others in the past year that made me love my body. Twenty-one years of striving for perfection and punishing myself when it couldn’t be found fell to the waist side (pun intended) when I realized that my petty imperfections could be found everywhere. This is not to say I appreciate my dimpled butt, applaud my arm-jiggle or praise my expanded belly after late-night pizza when I could have easily fallen asleep before the delivery actually arrived. Like all women, I second-guess my fourth Oreo or do an occasional leg lift during episodes of “Sex In The City,” but like I said earlier, we’re only human.

This is where it gets tricky. The world we live in is for some reason not accepting of “only human,” especially when it comes to women. From elementary school, girls are looking up to women with big boobs and big hair, women whose legs don’t touch and whose chins don’t double. These women in movies and magazines are the women who are successful. They are the women who have it all, so why wouldn’t we want the same? The expectation to look a certain way follows us through our youth and oftentimes stays with us through womanhood, the word “weight” taking on a bigger roll in our life than its relationship to good health.

We all have days where we wish we didn’t have to unbutton our pants to sit comfortably or we feel our bras are too tight. But let’s not forget about the impossibly high standards we are up against. And the next time you are feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious about the way you look, just imagine you’re at a naked party, where everyone feels the same way.


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1 Comment

  1. says: Penny Lane

    Honest. Personal. Relatable.
    Simple words put to the thoughts many of us girls think, feel and get bogged down with everyday. Every step is a step and this is a great first step towards putting words to the beliefs engrained in the fibers of your being.
    I love you more with each and every word you write “Grace Hammerstein”. I hope to meet you and tell you in person one day. Proud of you and inspired by you, what more could you ask for?

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