Aside from streaking on a dare at sixteen, and attending an “underwear” party a number of years back, I can’t claim to have had a lot of experience with public nudity. My two-year-old daughter, Clementine, on the other hand, is already making quite an impression in the parks we frequent by doffing her clothes at every opportunity.
The first time I got a comment about this, I was more startled than anything. We were in a local playground. Clem was one. The place was practically deserted, and she was naked, playing in a sprinkler.
I noticed a cop stroll in and talk to an older couple sitting at the opposite side of the park. A few minutes later he strolled over to me. “Do you speak Polish?” he asked.
“No. Sorry,” I told him.
“I’m trying to tell them they can’t be in here without a child, but they don’t understand.” He paused for a second. “You know, you really should put some clothes on your baby. People like that, you can’t always trust them.”
At first I was a little surprised. The old folks – who seemed simply to be having lunch – were potential pedophiles? I would never have guessed. Good thing I’m not a cop, I thought.
It seemed more likely that the couple simply rather hadn’t understood the sign that read “All adults must be accompanied by a child.” I mumbled something about how it was fine with me if they stayed, and that I would keep an eye on Clem.
“They’re lucky,” he told me. “You saved them a ticket. But you really should put something on your daughter.”
I didn’t, and as a result I spent the rest of the time we were there worried that the cop would come back and haul me away.
Other incidents have been less amicable, and now that I have a two-year-old, they have also become more common. That’s because the two-year-old in question could pass for three and sees no need to stay dressed when it’s hot. Or when she’s bored. Or if there’s water anywhere in sight. Or just because.
That just because was the catalyst for a recent comment we got as we walked into our building. To me a toddler in a onesie is fully dressed, but a woman in the foyer disagreed. “Looks like someone forgot her pants today,” she said. I couldn’t quite read her tone, yet I felt defensive. “She had a skirt,” I said too quickly. “But she took it off.”
It’s funny; despite hearing tongue-clucking and getting vaguely accusatory questions from other parents (“Don’t you worry about people looking at her when she’s not wearing anything?” “Did you see there are boys here, too?”), I have yet to hear the most obvious and legitimate argument for clothing a baby: accidents.