Saturday, April 13, 2024

Naked And A Little Bit Afraid: Columnist Robert Hawke Ponders The Man In The Mirror

I got out of the shower recently, grabbed a towel and started to wipe myself down when suddenly something terrible happened. I made eye contact with the naked guy in the mirror. What’s really weird is I didn’t recognize him. Oh sure, his face looked pretty much the same as it had for a long time, but somehow naked guy’s body had been replaced by a much older version of itself. I had been avoiding looking at the naked guy in the mirror. And frankly, I was shocked.

Sometimes, a shower can inspire deep thoughts on aging and body image. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Kit.

You see “Naked Guy” and I used to have a deal. I wouldn’t look at him and he wouldn’t scare the crap out of me and then make me depressed for a week. I actually dropped my showering frequency because recently I became alarmed by my own reflection. What gives? What happened? Time happened.

It used to be that “Naked Guy” was my friend. We’d hang out together in the bathroom and he’d nod as I told him stories about how things were going. Occasionally, I’d look at him and think: “Everything seems to be OK. I’m not the statue of David, unless David is a guy who forgot to exercise… for two months.” I wasn’t winning any awards, but my body wasn’t likely to be used in a “before” picture in a weight loss ad.

Oh, how things have changed. I’m sure you’ve heard of the book, The Tipping Point. Well, things have tipped, and not for the better. In fact, things haven’t just tipped, they’ve slid. I’m not saying I’m hideous, but I’m definitely not confident enough to go to Burning Man and dance naked in a circle with a bunch of postmodern hippies. What I am doing is covering my body up as much as possible and doing a lot of layering, even in July.

Skinny dipping might be off the table, according to Naked Guy. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Pictoscribe.

I remember back in the dark ages doing a musical at the Muskoka Festival. There was a cast of about 30 of us. Everyone was young and attractive. After a show, we’d all be pumped up on adrenaline and that sweet drug called youth. Some of us would venture off and go skinny dipping in the dark. It was fun, it was innocent, and we all felt OK. The odds of me skinny dipping now have dropped dramatically. In fact, the only way that would happen is if my wife and I were the last people on Earth and she was having a nap while I took a quick dip.

It seems we come to a point in our lives where our bodies shift. Instead of working out to look great, or to trying to “maximize my physical potential,” my reasons are more along the lines of what I like to call “trying to avoid death.” We have been told our entire lives that nothing stays the same. Now that we’ve been alive for a while, this truth seems self-evident to a lot of us and, when this is demonstrated in our own bodies, it can really hit home. It takes a lot to adapt to aging and as Katherine Hepburn once said, “Growing old is not for sissies.”

I’d like to think this isn’t just vanity. The changes in Naked Guy (especially recent ones) are reminding me that time is passing – and more quickly than I’d like to think. On bad days, this can throw us into a bit of a panic about the loss of youth. On good days, it can remind us to stay in the moment, to appreciate what we have and enjoy this crazy ride we are all on. I’m sure if Naked Guy was here, he’d look at me and give me a thumbs and I’d tell him to put some clothes on.

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