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Facing Fear (While Naked): Naked Girls Reading

This weekend, I conquered a huge fear. I popped my "Naked Girls Reading" cherry and I... well... I read naked onstage! It was not an easy process.

My brain could not wrap itself around the concept at first. I asked Cherokee Rose, the leader of the DC chapter, if I should bring flesh-tone pasties and a merkin. "We don't cover up at all," she told me. "Naked is naked."

And that it is. Armed with only a smile, my favorite Bettie Boots, and a much-too-small glass of Prosecco, I joined Cherokee, Cherie Sweetbottom, and Delilah Dentata onstage at the DC Arts Center for what was single-handedly the best literary event I've ever experienced.

When I arrived at the theater for call time, I felt incredibly queasy. Due to anxiety, I hadn't eaten a thing all day. I had never done anything fully nude before. I was immediately freaked out by the fact that there were audience members right there, mingling with us right before they would see us fully naked. In those pre-show moments, I realized how much armor those lil' pasties and thongs provide performers -- there's a bit of a wall there, a barrier protecting them from seeing "too much". But on Friday night, right before showtime, I was keenly aware that I would no longer have this "protection".

At the risk of being too vulnerable, I'll also share that every horrible thought I could imagine crossed my mind in the minutes before doors opened. "You're awful, ugly, nasty, a whore," someone told me in my head. Not sure who... maybe it was my old youth pastor? As a shy empath, I grew up internalizing much of what adults rammed into my brain. I was often shamed for showing my arms, told I "wanted to be a whore" for baring my midriff, etc. etc. And here i was preparing to get fully naked. This voice berated me until I literally threw up in the bathroom. Sounds traumatic and incredibly frightening (and yes, it is) but this is familiar territory many people living with anxiety and PTSD.

Anyway, after I went a little upchucky in the bathroom, I was ready for showtime. I went backstage, apologized for being a little late and of course, explained what was going on in my head. All the other Naked Girls were incredibly understanding. Cherokee revealed how incredibly nervous she was her first time as well. Delilah and Cherie both assured me that once we started reading, I would more than likely forget I was even naked. I grabbed that tiny glass of aforementioned Prosecco, looked at myself in the mirror, and told myself that this was a moment. Regardless of whether I ever did Naked Girls Reading again, I was being vulnerable and challenging myself. When I am 120 years old, this is what will keep me alive and giggling to myself. I will remember that I am a Bad Ass MF Queen, and I did things that shocked even myself. So now was the time to do it - to live that life of freedom.

And then it was showtime. We walked into the tiny little black box theater, the lights obscuring much of the audience beyond the front row, and we dropped our robes and picked up our science fiction books.

I demurely crossed my legs and let my hair cover my breasts, although I am sure my nipples peaked through. As I listened to the other Naked Girls read their selections, I discovered that they were right -- I completely forgot I was nude. My posture relaxed, I had a sip of my drink, I laughed, I fiddled with my hands, I made little funny quips. It was quite exceedingly normal albeit our stark nudity.

As the night grew on, I also noticed something else: we were lulling the audience into comfort by reading aloud. I saw hooded eyes and content smiles. Hushed voices, listening with an almost serene reverence. As I watched them listen to us read, I realized that if this was simply about the nudity, they could just leave and go to a strip club. There were about three within a two-minute radius. No... this was something different.

It was beautiful to be a part of Naked Girls Reading, to exert that type of quiet, femme power over our audience. To make them think long enough to distract them from our bodies, which even while fully clothed, seem up for full consumption by many masc folx in society. Being onstage both fully naked AND fully aware of our intellect, using our voices while our bodies sat perched and still, was thrilling.

At the end of the night, I felt just as content as the audience looked. I'm going to buy every single book that was read by the other Naked Girls. They did a wonderful job of bringing the listeners into these different sci-fi universes, and I'm honored I was lucky enough to join them for a night!

Until next time,


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