DareMe: Takin’ It All Off

katieAnyone I meet immediately notices my provocative dresses and tall shoes, and assume they are a sign of pride and confidence. My dare this month was to prove that my clothes don’t make the woman by taking the Bare as you Dare clothing-optional workshop at this year’s Fetish Faire Flea.

I figured it would be easy. Get naked and socialize? Piece of cake! But when I entered the workshop, my feelings changed entirely. People of all shapes, sizes and ages entered the room, and clothes started to hit the floor. I wondered, are ALL these people gonna get naked? Is it gonna start to smell in here? What is nudist etiquette? Do we shake hands? Do we hug?

The presenter’s appearance quieted my mind, and he stripped down to his glasses, which made me realize how little self control I have when it came to staring. After giving a presentation on being a nudist, the presenter asked for a volunteer to come up and give a speech on their body image. My hand shot in the air.

I walked to the front of the room in my mesh dress, face burning and knees trembling. People judge my body like a book cover, convinced that my curves and character are in cahoots, and I was about to have 50 sets of open ears ready to listen to my feelings on the matter. I introduced myself and the words poured out as I divulged every detail of my body. I explained how ongoing childhood abuse shaped me into the confused sex symbol wannabe they saw. My body was sexualized without my consent as far back as I can remember, and as an adult, I have no idea how to treat myself any differently.

I’ve come to believe that my body and lack of confidence screams, “Go for it!” to all the abusers of the world. Strangers grab my breasts in public as if there is a sign on my chest declaring it’s a free-for-all, and my mind goes blank. I feel like a child — scared to take charge of what’s mine. The only way I know how to feel confident is by showcasing what seems to be the only thing people ever want from me: my body. My outfits have embarrassed many a friend and family member and earned me a nasty reputation, but the sexual abuse taught me that it was okay to disrespect myself. I don’t dress provocatively because I’m confident. I do it because I’m not.

Psychological scars out of the way, I began to speak of my physical scars and how much people’s assumptions about them bother me. There is a scar on my upper lip from a BB gun that I smear with ruby lipstick so people will stop asking if it’s herpes. The two scars on my breast that I acquired through a car accident receive teasing remarks from strangers who think they were left by a romantic tumble. It amuses me how complete strangers will make up stories based on their assumptions about me.

As each word dropped from my lips, my voice began to crack in realization of how uncomfortable I am with my body. The only time I’m naked is in the shower. I avoid the mirrors in my house, and when I catch a glimpse of my belly, I shake my head in disappointment. When my boyfriend spoons me I move his hand to my hip or my ribs where my bones protrude because I’m afraid to let him feel the soft tissue occupying my midsection. And the first time I truly acknowledged this, I was standing in front of a room full of strangers.

I looked out at the audience and saw teary eyes relating to my experience. The presenter stared through his spectacles in disbelief that I just spilled my guts for everyone to see. Finally, the crowd began clapping and yelling compliments. There was only one thing left to do.

“This is happening!” I said, and slid the straps of my dress off my shoulders and wriggled it off my body to the floor revealing my scars, my fat and my beauty. There was nothing left to be scared of.

My body that was shamed and my story that was a secret helped people that day, and even got a standing ovation. As the day went on people approached me and thanked me. I inspired people to share their stories, face their fears and embrace themselves. There really is nothing to be scared of.

Am I about to become a nudist? Probably not. However, I learned a lot while standing in front of all those lovely people. I learned that there are people who will accept and love you even when you can’t find a reason to love yourself. And I learned that I’m only willing to take my clothes off for people who invest a little time in getting to know me.

So are you feeling the need to reveal? Go for it. Let yourself fall into vulnerability — there will be someone to catch you.   

16 responses to “DareMe: Takin’ It All Off”

  1. Bob Hollis says:

    Awesome article Katie. So happy for you and proud of you!

  2. Laura Ann says:

    I've been a nudist for most of my adult life, (excepting recently due to issues with severe disphoria) ,,, and I just wanted to say congratulations on taking he first step. It was an amazing feeling when I did that for the first time. Once everyone in a space is unclothed, all outward appearance of social status disappears. When we allow ourselves to be starkly exposed, we gain the freedom of just Being. We are all just People, titles and wealth are no longer separating us from each other. Ps: Nudist rule #1: Don't forget to bring a towel! (Nudist etiquette hint ;))

  3. David Wraith says:

    Thank you for writing this!

  4. Great Job Katie…so many of us have problems with body image…I praise you for what you did because I know I would never have the strength to do that♡

  5. Ashley Lyn says:

    I was there, and you were brave, inspiring, and beautiful!

  6. Erin Carolan says:

    Amazingly brave and beautiful Katie, that about sums you up in my book!

  7. Brett Nelson says:

    Wow Katie to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. You are an amazing woman and beautiful I really would like to meet you some day. I know we have chatted on Facebook ,my name is Brett sully friend but ur amazing just amazing. Here's to someday keep the faith

  8. Gare Bear says:

    Fantastic article Katie! I am so proud of you friend. Never be afraid to acknowledge who you are! You are a good person!

  9. Trauma and addiction stunts our growth as individuals. If and when we ultimately overcome these circumstance, we have a lot of self healing ahead of us. We have a lot of catching up to do within our social circles and maybe some refining. However, it's never too late to be healed. Those burdens eventually enhance our character. People begin to understand the nature behind our own seemingly confusing choices. Suddenly, the show is over. Those who are still waiting for you to make your usual appearance, may have to learn how to communicate differently. This can be a challenge. You'll be amazed at how many people fail to do so. And how many people you'll leave behind.
    You are probably more powerful and observant – now that you can step away from the situation. You'll recognize others that are still searching and trying to understand who they are, and what they want, and what they need from Life.
    If you need more positive female energy, you've got it right here, Katie. And you can even wear your comfy sweatpants when we hang out.
    However, I would borrow your shoes any day. I love them!!!!
    Thanks for sharing your story and embracing your fears. ~DEMI

  10. That took a lot of guts, baring your body as well as your soul. I salute you. Good job and great article. Let the healing begin.

  11. Good for you Katie–speak out! Many appreciate your courage!

  12. Beautiful, just beautiful.

  13. Thanks for sharing Katie, although not exactly something I would post on the WCA facebook page it is very interesting to me as my work deals with body image and person history. It is most definitely a feminist issue, and one that has inspired a great deal of art by women. Thanks again for alerting us to your story.

  14. Glen Vitullo says:

    Great article! The real undressing took place before you took your clothes off. You are very brave!

  15. Erica Elsa says:

    Body image is one of the most difficult issues for a woman to confront. I give you a lot of credit to do it in front of so many! 😉

  16. kudos to you Katie Lewis! For being so honest and open with everyone and with yourself. Its never easy.. I hoped you helped people that day and found solace in it for yourself.

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