Instead, Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams confirms what we already suspected despite the claims of a thousand Playmates: it's weird. (And, full disclosure: this doesn't actually involve Nigel Barker. But who needs an excuse?)
Now, "don't assume I'm making a big statement on behalf of my sex, or presume I'm trying to be an example to anybody else. Get your own self-esteem role models, girlfriend," she writes. So why does a non naked-person, who feels herself to be unphotogenic, decide to bare all, with a group of other poker-playing moms, for Time Out New York's "naked New Yorkers" issue?
Well, to toughen up. To inure herself to the hurtful criticism that comes from putting yourself out there in a creative way. After all, when you've experienced the ultimate in exposure, maybe your skin is that much thicker?
The challenge is to not become completely dead inside — just dead enough to keep doing what we do without pharmaceutical intervention. That's why the idea of getting naked for public display in a different way, the non-metaphoric kind, intrigued me. I can blithely crack jokes about my deepest pains, but I'm not so cavalier about showing my body. And so, taking to heart the maxim that you should do something every day that scares you, I decided to drop not just my trousers but also my defenses. The fact that I'd be doing this with friends — strong, supportive and deeply ribald fellow moms — made the notion go down a lot easier. Besides, as someone who traipses through life looking for frozen metal poles upon which to plant her tongue, I never met a dare I could refuse. (You should see how much pie I can put away when my pride is at stake.)
And lest you think this was some soft-focus exercise in boudoir come-hither, think again: despite the liberal application of self-tanner to body and wine to face, this was not about sensuality.
As if to beat our critics to the punch line, it was the iconic image of dogs playing poker. Jessica got the plum role of the ace under the table player, Stacey was her accomplice, and Aryn and I brought up the other side of the table as the skeptical opponents. I was to be the beagle.
In fact, Williams and her friends look gorgeous. But the larger point of the piece must resonate with anyone who's dealt with thin skin and the necessity of exposure. She concludes, "Showing that side of myself didn't change that; it didn't make me stronger or braver or better. It gave me something else — it let me be, for a little while, vulnerable."
It's one approach. After all, exposing yourself nowadays isn't what it used to be - everything is like some endless EST seminar. To be on YouTube is to be assaulted by a poorly-spelled verbal meat-tenderizer with strong opinions on female beauty. (Yes, the meat tenderizer does.) To advance an internet opinion is to be subject to derision and scorn formerly reserved for only society's most taboo-breaking offenders. This is not news, nor is the fact that this form of talk is particularly cheap. But no one's skin has been able to harden at a rate commensurate with vitriol's increasing acidity, not Perez's, not Tila's. At the end of the day, the human ego, however well-bolstered, isn't made for it. And Williams is right, we need defenses, even if it is unnatural and corrosive: so's a lot of what's in the modern environment. Nudity, a literal baring, probably isn't the answer for everyone. But the idea of facing one's own private fears isn't necessarily a bad one. I, for instance, long ago vowed to never allow anyone in any public way to hear my speaking-voice. Maybe it's time to get over that. Because damned if I have the cojones to be the Beagle.