With brand new, glittering red, pedicured toes for Valentines, my two nieces and I walked into Sephora. I was on a mission. I needed bright-red lipstick and was determined to find the perfect shade for my newly-cut, short hair. My nieces, seven and nine, helped me look for the elusive Red Whale. Diligently, we tried on a multitude of colors. Children are brutally honest; either I would quickly receive a nod of approval or a look of horror. They were enthralled by the each lipstick, giggling with each other, and quickly picking out other makeup and brushes.
Then, it happened. My seven-year old niece pointed to an eyeshadow palette. With wide eyes she said, “that’s a bad word.” She showed genuine concern over such public display of inappropriate terminology. How in the world, could our society allow such a scandalous expression be displayed for all to see, especially children? I walked over to her and quickly read the word that she was still motioning towards. Relieved, I smiled. Thank goodness it wasn’t one of the countless other words, ones my sister would be upset if I taught her daughter; I read the word out loud, “Naked.” Frightened, my niece gasped and quickly responded with, “don’t say that!”
I simply asked her why. She proceeded to explain to me that being naked is bad. She was completely embarrassed to have to explain this to me; her explanation didn’t cover her extensive, underlying belief regarding morality and modesty, but I understood what she meant (I will discuss it in a later post). I don’t have children. In fact, I have spent the last six years traveling the world, thus I have not spent a whole lot of time with my nieces and nephews. This might give you some insight to my reaction. I nodded and said ok. I had no idea what to say.
I was so surprised by her response that it left a lasting impression on me; it has given me plenty to contemplate. “Naked” is just a word. On the surface it is neither good nor bad. Being naked is neither good nor bad; it just is. We, as humans, get naked to shower, change, swim or do a multitude of other activities. Why then, did my niece respond so vehemently that it was bad?
I always found it fascinating how easily different topics embarrass us and make people uncomfortable. Why is it human nature and bodily functions embarrass us, causing us to completely avoid acknowledging their existence? We don’t hold conversations about certain topics, or, like my niece, we can’t even say a word. Yet, those words or topics are probably some of the most important dialogues in our lives. They impact our daily lives and our interactions with others. Everything we do is affected by these scandalous topics: sex and sexuality, bodily functions, mental disability, emotions, not following social norms, death etc. The list could go on forever. Each one of these topics is vital to our lives, yet somehow we have deemed it unsuitable and uncivil to address. Leaving me with one simple conclusion: “Life is Taboo.”