How did I end up naked in front of these people? It was like some horrifying nightmare where you’re giving a speech without any clothes on, only this is much worse – I was awake and this was really happening.
Erik, my husband, and I had gotten to know Gunther, Elsa, Stephen, and Tibalt last fall while my stepson, Henry, was enrolled in soccer, and Stephen and Henry were on the same team. Only being in America for two months, their German accents were thick and melodious, and we struggled along with them as Gunther, Elsa and Erik conversed about everything under the sun, and I shyly voiced my opinion here and there.
Our first get together came shortly prior to the end of soccer season; we gathered in their beautiful house that sat upon Lake Sawyer, and dined on a truly wonderful meal Elsa prepared for us. As we drank our strong coffee, she happily answered my million questions of Germany and their life, then brought out a few photo albums to show me the life the temporarily left behind. Breathtaking mountains, fields of flowers, and waterfalls with…naked people in front. Not just naked people, but Elsa, Gunther and baby Stephen naked. Oh my God! I’ve just seen everything! Elsa is a true blonde and it may have been a bit chilly that day.
Elsa sensing my discomfort, she turned to me and said matter of factly, ‘Everybody is naked, it is natural in Europe. But I do not wish to offend you.’ Trying desperately to regain my composure, I sputtered, ‘No, no, it’s fine. We’ve all got the same equipment, I was just caught by surprise,’ and smiled, trying hard not to stare at the photo still on my lap. What else can you say or do in that situation? Think I may have missed that part in etiquette class. Elsa smiled back at me, apparently pleased with my response, which was the truth, and continued to show me the majority of Europe through their eyes. On our way home, I gushed to Erik, ‘I saw them naked! In a photo! I saw everything! Thank God they’ve never seen me naked! Elsa is very athletic and I’m, well, not.”
Erik laughed and said, “You look great, you’re just too hard on yourself. So is she hot?” Typical guy response, but let’s face it, if women were honest, it’d also be a typical girl response.
As time continued on, we saw more and more of them and our friendship naturally deepened, yet I still remained shy. Then, with both of our schedules being as hectic as they are, we weren’t able to meet up for several weeks, until the weekend of the World Cup Finals. It was Germany vs. Spain in a battle for the championship and our friends invited us, as well as another family, over to help cheer the team to victory.
With dinner long past and the temperature still hovering around 90 degrees, Elsa suggested we all cool off in the lake. The other family, Erik, and I exchanged uncomfortable glances as Elsa said, “We have swimming gear for everyone. It will be nice,” then decidedly set out to retrieve said gear. Erik, dressed in dark shorts and t-shirt, opted to just swim in his clothes, reasoning that after a swim, he’ll remain nice and cool under the hot sun. Even though I was wearing my bikini top (a choice I was about to regret), I only had on a pair of white cotton shorts, white collard shirt, and undies. Not exactly suitable ‘swimming gear,’ unless you enjoy showing God and country everything you have to offer.
“Tara, which do you prefer?” Elsa asked me as she held out my last two options – a Speedo bottom that would surely only cover one of my ass cheeks, or a pair of khaki shorts that might fit. Both would expose my vast expanse of cellulite, but I had better coverage with the shorts. Without thought or hesitation, I snagged the shorts and thanked her.
Once changed, together we padded down to the dock and with effortless precision, Elsa dove in and surfaced with a beautiful smile, encouraging each of us to do the same. Her heart and kindness knows no bounds and her enthusiasm for life automatically encourages whoever is in her presence to join in the fun, despite their athletic ability. Looking more like a drunken sailor than an athlete, I ‘dove’ into the water and surfaced, sputtering and clearing my eyes. With a kind, yet sheepish laugh, Elsa swam near me, bringing my wayward bikini top along with her and offered to help me secure it back in place. Feeling little embarrassed, I again thanked her and questioned why I didn’t feel more than just a little embarrassed. I reasoned it was because of Elsa herself and her ability to make any faux paux seem like nothing at all. Pushing my humiliation from my mind, I joined the rest of the group and played in the water, all the while keeping a close eye on my top.
The men swam back to shore and Gunther asked us to stand on one of the floating docks, preparing to dive in while he took our photo. Happily, we all agreed and did as we were asked. For the life of me, though, I couldn’t figure out why Erik was gesturing like a mad man behind Gunther. Clearly he wanted to tell me something, but I had no idea what. I checked my top – all was secure and the girls were nicely hidden. What else could it be? I was wearing shorts and I could feel the cool fabric stick to my thighs, so they hadn’t gone A.W.O.L., as my top had earlier done. Before being able to check anything else, the time to say ‘dive!’ was here and we got our picture taken. Elsa then suggested we go back to the house to enjoy dessert, which was readily accepted by both the kids and adults.
Erik met me on the dock with towel in hand and I beamed at him, feeling sublimely happy from the swim, as well as the loving gesture my husband had made of doting over me. Just barely out of the water and in a movement quicker than Flash Gordon himself, Erik wrapped the towel around my waist and whispered in my ear, ‘Those shorts are see through. We can see everything; thought you should know.’ Suddenly sick to my stomach, my mind raced back to the first night with them and the naked photo. Near tears, I pulled myself together and walked with Erik back to the house and quickly changed. Planning on making a fast exit so I may rehash every moment spent with these people in private, we began to say our goodbyes when Gunther insisted we have dessert first. Rationalizing that we’re all adults, I set to mind putting my, yet another embarrassing moment, behind me for now and to simply enjoy dessert, then get the hell out of there.
Shortly after dessert, the other family left and ‘being raised right,’ I helped Elsa clean up while the men discussed ‘football.’ We walked out onto the deck and there lay my khaki shorts and towel that I had placed there, along with all the others. Picking it up, I decided to say something. “I didn’t realize khaki was see through when it was wet.”
“Mmm, yes it seems it is.” Elsa replied with little acknowledgement. Damn! They had seen everything!
“I feel rather embarrassed.” I said not looking at her.
“Why?” She stopped what she was doing, turning toward me as she asked this.
“I guess because in America, nudity is typically frowned upon and a person is judged not only by their physical appearance, but by their morals as well. Appearing naked in public is seriously frowned upon here.” I said looking her in the eye and with a hint of a smile.
“We’re German. Nudity is a part of life and is accepted. You said we all have the same equipment, you do not believe that now?”
“No, I still believe that, I am just embarrassed; I’m not in great shape like you are.” I said as I shrugged and smiled.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about; we do not judge, we are your friends and we like you very much for who you are.” And it was with that statement that I let go of all of my failures and flaws and accepted myself for who I am, cellulite and all. After cleaning up the deck, we walked back inside and chatted with the men, me unabashedly speaking my mind, until the weekend became the weekday.
As we began to say our goodbyes for real this time, they both gave us an invitation to come by anytime and use their kayak, fishing poles, and dock as well as anything in their home; it was German for ‘You are family.’
Looking back at the events of that past weekend, I can’t help but shake my head and laugh at the fact that baring all helped me to strut my stuff; cellulite and all.
by Tara Aarness