What Medusa and My Naked Body Have in Common

Note: This is a column from YEARS ago, but it’s one of my favorites. I thought it would make a great first post on the blog. Plus, if I don’t update it for awhile, you can at least enjoy my personal humiliation over and over and over. 

There are some things you can never take back. Swimwear from which you’ve removed the panty strip, the fruitcake your neighbor gifted over the holidays, that comment about your mother-in-law’s meatloaf and her family’s genetic propensity for lazy eye, and the image of your naked self irreparably burned into the retinas of your oldest offspring.

Yes, gentle readers, my son accidentally walked in on me naked this week, and he shall never be the same.

I think mine is the generation of teenagers whose parents all walked around in their underwear, at least that’s what I’ve gathered from informal research.  When I came home from a night out with friends, I’d have to stick my head in the doorway and call out, “Everyone decent?” before inviting people through the Barnes threshold.  My friends all have similar stories to share, of naked fathers and their robust dashes from the john to their bedrooms, of mothers accidentally flashing neighbor children when answering the front door in beltless robes, and countless potty breaks with gaping bathroom doors.

All this probably explains my prudery.  Until this week, I’m fairly certain that my children have been spared any full frontals of their mother.  My mad dashes from the shower to the bedroom are quick and covered.  Any scantily clad trips through my own home are often made to the Mission Impossible theme song, as I duck under windows, peek around corners and hug the walls in order to maintain modesty.

But sadly, all good things must come to an end.  In my defense, it was his fault.  He was tattletaling, and we all know there’s no reward for that.  Regardless, my 9-year old son walked into the bathroom as I was entering the shower.  In that frightful moment his face elongated around his gaping, oval mouth—I can now guess why Munch’s screamer was screaming.  Like Medusa’s head, my naked self seemed to have turned the kid to stone for a few awkward moments, during which time I cried, over and over again, “Shut the door, shut the door, shut the door…”

For a frozen second I caught myself thinking, This would have been so much better had it happened when you were thin.  To which I realized, can it ever be good to see your naked mother?  Only, I gather, in Greek mythology.

Finally, mercifully, the bathroom door closed.  I quickly put on my robe (secured the belt, of course) and followed him into the bedroom.   He fell on the bed and covered his head with the comforter.  At which point I thought, What do I expect to say, exactly?  “So, you saw me naked? Bummer.”  Or “That’s why you should always knock, mister.”  I bit my tongue on the tempting, “I can’t be held responsible for most of what you saw, because a lot of it is your fault, carrying you around in my womb and all.”

It’s done.  You can’t unring a bell, or in this case, you can’t unsee your naked mother.  He had a tough time meeting my eyes the remainder of the day, and I had a tough time keeping down solid food.  For any of you that might be interested, his birthday’s coming up, and the poor boy could use a lifetime supply of therapy.

To his future wife I say, “I have effectively lowered his expectations.” And, “You’re welcome.”

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