I suppose it may stem all the way back to my winsomely strange childhood, when I first witnessed a man and woman enjoying naked yoga in my neighbor’s lofty tree-hooded backyard.
I believe this was the first time I had ever seen a penis or a vagina outright, though at the time I had no idea what I was looking at.
By the way, if anyone knows what a “non-outright” penis or vagina looks like, have your people call my people.
It was an unusually hot and weird summer, even for Southern California, which was even weirder during the 1970s than anyone is willing to remember. Not that anyone does remember. It was the ’70s, after all.
But I will always remember that moment, and I believe that it both scared and scarred me deeply, even though I have since been naked on my own on occasions . . . like when I have visited the the doctor’s office, while bathing or stalking Bradley Cooper, or when giving birth to children.
(Okay, I may be wrong on the last one as I birthed my middle child with a halter top on, so I was slightly clothed.)
I believe I was about five or six at the time, when Shirley Temple was still my idol. Ahhhhh . . . those sweet innocent days before the naked yoga people descended upon me with their flacid privates and smirky glances. It was a cheery sunny day, like every day near the windswept beach that was my childhood home, and I was outside on my parents’ front porch when suddenly, there they were . . .
And it wasn’t one of those quick ‘out-your-mind-in-a-second’ naked moments that we all have during young childhood . . .
Like when you walked into a bathroom and accidentally see your uncle or aunt going pee pee, or when an older sibling insisted on changing their clothes in front of you, while you watched in disbelief, but not in absolute horror because you actually enjoyed their nakedness in a really odd way.
Like I was saying, I was young and innocent, and not ready at all to see a man stretching his thighs towards the sky while his privates faced the summer sun, somewhat like a organic bunch of grapes that you can’t even afford at Whole Foods or from the crazy neighbor who swears she grew them herself.
After the man stretched forward into an inhuman position with his butt facing towards me while Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young played in the background, he called out to his lady friend.
“Hey Stilla!” Jimmy said, with his lean and tan back bending and twisting towards the sun.
Stilla had long frizzy blonde hair like some sort of of virgin-lion waiting to be sacrificed at a medieval altar. But she wasn’t near any altar because she was next-door to my house.
At first Stella didn’t answer back because she seemed to be in an unconscious daze, humming along to Dave Crosby and attempting to get her chakras aligned.
She then muttered, “Hey Jimmy, don’t bum me out man, I’m in my pose.”
But Jimmy insisted that she look at his new pose he was trying out, which involved tucking his head underneath one leg while one of his hands grabbed a cold bottle of Heineken, after which he said, “Now that hits the spot.”
I only know the beer was cold because he cooled his forehead and then his Burt Reynold’s-style chest with the brew. Not that I was staring.
“Man, that’s way cool,” Stilla exclaimed, after which she jumped up and down with her tiny A-cup breasts flapping around like the mini pancakes my mom made for us each Sunday.
“But hey Jimmy, watch this!” she yelped.
She then did the unforgivable and spread her legs wide open like a cheerleader.
Even though she was a girl, she didn’t look anything at all like me, because I was five. And at the moment I was praying that I never would look like her, even though I had no idea how to pray because I was a Japanese Jew.
I ran into my house and said to my sister, “Naked people are right next door doing terrible things to each other!”
I got no response so I lied and said that a murder may be soon committed in our neighborhood, and that she must come with me immediately so that we could be eyewitnesses together.
She looked at me over copy of her personal copy of The Taming of the Shrew, as she was a genius at four, and scoffed at me through eyeglasses as if I were a peasant begging for bread crumbs.
For some reason, she still calls me a liar to this day.
That night I had a nightmare that Stilla and Jimmy had adopted me, but weirdly enough, in the end . . . it seemed more like a pleasant dream.
The fantasy, as Freudians and paranoid Socialists would certainly call it, began with me wandering aimlessly in a dirty crowded grey city, looking for any transportation that might take me to a place of nature. I was clothed heavily in several burdensome coats, a man’s hat and some military rain boots, and I was very hungry.
In the dream, I suddenly became warm as I looked up and saw the yoga couple hovering above me, telling me to come with them into the light of nakedness and to not be afraid. They also gave me large platters of melons, cherries, grapes and tuna fish while they chanted the following line from The Rolling Stone’s song . . .
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you’ll find, you get what you need”
After I woke up from this dreamy nightmare, the next few days were a blur of more nakedness, while even my family, who usually chose to ignore me, wondered why I chose to sit under a ledge on the porch until dark each day and night for nearly a week.
On the second day, Jimmy brought out bongo drums and invited friends to join him. There must have been about 20 naked people who really let it all hang out as they contorted their bodies in ways that seemed unnatural and yet definitely up for posterity.
But then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over.
On the ninth day after my dream, I tip-toed outside to my very special place with a book by Dostoyevsky and Oreos in hand, but Stilla and Jimmy were gone.
Later that summer at my parents’ annual Anti-American fourth of July bash, I heard that the naked yoga couple had been visiting our neighbors on their way to a religious retreat in India, and that Stilla’s sister Rita, had owned the house but was now visiting Paris as a Road Scholar studying women’s 16th Century literature in an age of forced misogyny.
I also saw Rita sister the following Fall, passionately kiss another woman, whose name was Cleo, who was wearing nothing but a dried lei and Birkenstocks.
Eventually, Rita sold the house to a Yuppie couple who were both celebrity lawyers, with no naked visitors or good material to offer me again.
Some years later, I swore that I saw Jimmy at a local Jewish deli eating a pastrami on rye with extra large dill pickles, although it was hard to recognize him because he had clothes on.
His date definitely wasn’t the divine Stilla though . . . that natural, naked and sweetened temptress I will never forget.
Instead, he settled on some cheap mini-skirted mall chick with a black Cher wig who wore false eyelashes the size of Manhattan.
I didn’t like her.
Or perhaps I jealous that someone else stole the heart of the man who first visually introduced me to naked man parts.
Either way, I am still fearful of yoga, perhaps because it was my first introduction to human sexuality. Or perhaps I am scared that my exposed and unexposed body parts will never hold a candle to Stilla’s.
Or even more frightening, perhaps I am afraid that I am just as sexy as Stilla was, and that even Jimmy would fall in love with me, both naked and clothed.
Or maybe none of the above is true, and I am naked at this very moment while writing this for you to read . . . and I am in the most genius and far-out naked yoga pose you can possibly imagine.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jim Campbell/elephant archives