Humor by Greg Schwem
The San Francisco TV reporter was young, perky and brunette. Her interview subject was her polar opposite: male, late 60s and balding, with skin that looked as if it had traveled south for the winter and wasn't coming back.
He was also naked.
I came across this rather, um, awkward exchange while channel surfing in my Bay Area hotel room one evening. Over a plate of room service pasta, I watched several unclad men and women strutting their stuff outside San Francisco City Hall in unseasonably chilly weather, protesting what they said was their right to free speech and freedom of expression. I stared at the TV, speechless and expressionless. Any desire for food disappeared.
"Stripped" down demonstrations have played out repeatedly following this most liberal of cities' decision to ban public nudity. While the rest of the country debates the right to bear arms, some San Franciscans are fighting for the right to bare everything. Unfortunately, it appears they are losing, thanks to a recently passed bill sponsored by City Supervisor Scott "Trust me, I've heard all the jokes about my last name" Weiner. The "Weiner Bill" makes it illegal to display one's junk except at nude beaches or during special occasions such as the Gay Pride Parade. An appeal is currently in the fully robed lap of
The law as it currently stands was news to me; I've been to San Francisco numerous times and have never seen a resident, say, feeding a parking meter or making an ATM deposit au naturel. Those images stay with you. For that matter, so does a gathering of naked people who look like they could be protesting a loss of
Seriously, where are all the young nudes? Who elected Grandpa Saggy Butt to speak for the entire naked community? After watching him converse with the San Francisco reporter, I wanted to put on a parka and not remove it until July. Wouldn't our nation's exposed improve their standing in the court of public opinion if their spokesperson were, perhaps, 23, with a body that screams, "I have an active health club membership! And I use it!"?
Felicity Jones, 24, thinks so. She's co-founder of Young Naturists America, a New York-based group for the 18- to 35-year-old naked set. Founded in 2010, the group boasts 7,000 website subscribers but only 80 paying members, a figure that concerns her.
"The usual demographic for nature and nudity is age 50 and up," she said. "Those people are not reaching the younger generation today. They are outdated in the way that they market."
Actually I'm not sure the nation's naked are marketing at all. I'm 50 and check my email daily, but have yet to receive correspondence from anyone inviting me to a clothing-not-required event. I even check my spam folder, just to be sure.
Jones said nudity today is perceived as "sexual" and "dirty," two viewpoints her group is trying to change.
"Naturism should be about acceptance, not sex," she said, adding that more nudists of her generation would be inclined to model their birthday suits in public were there less of a stigma.
At the risk of sounding incredibly perverted, I then asked Jones the question that had been on my mind since she dialed my office and we began chatting.
"Are you currently naked?"
"I'm topless," she replied.
Jones will be disappointed if Chen upholds the ban, saying it would be a loss of "one of our basic freedoms." I, on the other hand, will be returning to San Francisco next month and will be very disappointed if a naked Gen Y or Gen Z individual doesn't step up and handle all media interviews. The city, after all, has tremendous restaurants and I'd like to maintain a hearty appetite.
Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad
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