I was giving my 5-year-old a bath in our tiny tub littered with toys when she started giving me an impromptu breast exam. “That nipple is longer,” she said, pointing at my breasts. I looked down to verify this new bit of information. I counted my nipple hairs: one, two, three, four. I lifted my skin to examine the underside of my boobs, noting the recent crop of tiny, black hairs. “Interesting,” I said, and looked around for the tweezers.
This is a pretty typical conversation for my daughter and myself. We share a bathroom, and we go potty with the door open and take baths together. “Naked hug time!” she'll coo, and I wrap her fat-bellied body against my chest and kiss her wet neck, trying to remind myself that we won’t be able to do this when she’s older.
I try to be naked in front of my daughter as often as possible, because although I’m a conventionally attractive 30-year-old woman, I also have cellulite, a cesarean scar, and hairy nipples. I want her to see my muscles when I flex. I want her to see my cellulite when I bend over. I want my daughter to see me naked, because I want her to know that my body is totally normal.
I have a good relationship with my body, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wild about all of its parts. Do I fight with my sparse eyebrows? Hell yeah, I micro-bladed those little guys. Do I dislike my tiny little toes? Yes, I hate my feet but cosmetic foot surgery is not yet an option, so I save money by not buying sandals.
I’ve often mentally edited my body parts, as if I could cut-and-paste them to suit my wishes. Sometimes I stare at my toes in the tub and think about how square they are, and how the little toes don’t touch the ground, so I’ll never be a model for pedicures. My relationship with my body is similar to my relationships with my closest friends: I love them, but I also get mad at them sometimes, and I think that's totally normal and healthy.
I want my daughter to see me naked because I want my daughter to witness me loving my body by taking care of it, grooming it, and being free to alter it as I choose.
I want my daughter to see me naked so she can feel comfortable asking me questions about her own body. She is 5 years old now, and in only a few short years, she will start to grow breasts. I want her to ask me questions about her body and mine, the way she did last year, when she saw me change a tampon and asked me what I was doing. I was unsure of what to say, because the normalcy of inserting a cotton cylinder in your vagina only seems normal when you’ve been doing it for fifteen years. So I told her the truth: “I’m putting a tampon in my vagina to soak up the blood that comes out once a month. Most adult women have blood once a month, it means they can still make babies,” I said. This information seemed to suit her, and now, when she sees me squatting near the trashcan, she doesn't seem fazed.
I want my daughter to see me naked, but I don’t want to vocalize any negative feelings I have about my body in front of her. Growing up, I often heard my mom complaining about her “saggy” breasts and her “flabby” arms. “You guys sucked the life out of me!”, was a phrase we heard more than a few times, referring to her breastfeeding us. I didn’t like feeling guilty for her choice to do what she wanted with her own body. In fact, I recently told her as much, and she admitted that she probably shouldn’t have made that joke.
I want my daughter to see me naked because I want my daughter to witness me loving my body by taking care of it, grooming it, and being free to alter it as I choose. Someday, my daughter will notice that most American women don’t have armpit hair or a tattooed scalp, even though her mommy has both. No man or woman dictates how I choose to embellish my body, and I wish the same for her.
I tell her that we keep our clothes on in public because we don’t want to make other people uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proud of our own bodies.
I want my daughter to see me naked so she can learn that different people have different ideas of what is acceptable. Nature shows are a staple in my home, so she’s seen people from other parts of the world with free-swinging breasts and genitals. I want to teach her that every culture has different rules for what is normal and acceptable. She knows that “in our society, people wear clothes when they go outside,” because that is what I told her when she tried to tear her shirt off in the middle of the produce section of the grocery store, but she also knows that nudity is nothing to be ashamed of. I tell her that we keep our clothes on in public because we don’t want to make other people uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proud of our own bodies.
My body is my only true lifelong friend, and we will grow old together. We were born together, and we will die together.
I want my daughter to see me naked so that she sees what women look like before Photoshop. I want my daughter to see me naked so that she has a realistic presentation of a female body. I want my daughter to see me naked so that she can see me age, and be reminded that nothing lasts forever, especially not youth. And I want her to see me naked so she can learn it’s possible to love your body, even if you think it has “flaws”.