Ever since I got a hot tub, my friends have wrongly assumed that I want to see them naked. When I have a party, they immediately flock to the deck and begin disrobing.
“Stop this at once!” I cry, watching in desperation as a stew of middle-age flesh bobs in the water like a tub full of peeled potatoes. “Don’t you people own bathing suits?”
They respond in one of two ways: Some hoist their breasts like pistols and pretend to shoot me with them. (Me! Their hostess, who has spent all afternoon preparing a baked ham and scalloped potatoes.) Or they coolly remind me that being naked in public is perfectly acceptable behavior “in Europe.”
“Well, this is the American Middle West,” I remind them. “Not some Swedish public sex pond.”
I really love my hot tub. I love it more than I love most of my friends. I love it so much that I built a large room around it with floor to ceiling windows so I can use the tub year ‘round. When I come home from work, I slip into it with a glass of wine and gaze into my yard at the birds flocking around the feeders and my dogs romping after squirrels. It’s so bucolic, pure and peaceful.
But then other people enter the picture and it turns into a scene from a 1970’s swingers party. All that’s missing is a Mantovani record on the turntable and a bottle of Cold Duck chilling in the foreground.
“Join us, you prude!” they taunt from the water, wiggling their pruney fingers in ghastly invitation. “We won’t touch you. Promise.”
Thankfully, at this point, they are mostly submerged to their necks. Their flesh is backlit by the tub’s underwater green light, making it appear somewhat supernatural. I can imagine that they are merely disembodied heads propped up by alien protoplasm.
But as the wine bottles are drained and someone uses the word “slippery” to explain why she no longer has control of some body part, I know the mood is about to turn kittenish.
Women whose breasts have lived a nunnish existence of modesty and constraint are now being carelessly flung about like socks filled with Jello. Inevitably, someone smacks someone else in the face with a breast. After that, things devolve along a predictably disturbing path.
I retreat to the kitchen to busy myself with an incredibly intricate dessert recipe that will remove me from the horror show playing out on my back deck. I think of my former handyman, who lived in a nudist community with his wife. He preached the benefits of a clothesless life so enthusiastically that I decided to give it a try. I lived naked for one day. I did my housework, watched TV, cooked, and even ventured into my fenced yard to feed the birds. And, I must admit, the summer breeze gave me a naughty thrill as it slid across my flesh. But, mostly, living naked didn’t make me feel free. It made me feel cold and slightly stupid. And it seemed to depress my dogs.
I keep the hot tub at its warmest setting. I do this because a.) I like hot water and b.) it tends to overheat people quickly, especially when they’re vigorously tossing around their breasts. It’s not long before my friends climb out of the tub and back into their clothes.
They join me in the kitchen, chatting happily about recipes and work problems. The conversation is so mundane it’s hard to believe they’ve ever seen each other naked. The only evidence to the contrary are the damp spots on their clothes and the steam fogging over the deck’s windows.