On Being Naked

Posted On: 06.03.10

on being naked

First order of business: Thank you. For reading my admittedly very vulnerable post yesterday. To be honest, I was very scared to publish those words. Scared to put myself out there. Before publishing, I read those words to Husband and he said to go for it. That those words were honest and raw and heartfelt. And that they were me. And so. With shaky hands, I hit publish. And then I sat there, shrouded in soft silence, waiting for you. Your words. And they came swiftly and sweetly. And, throughout the day, I lapped them up, your sentiments, thoughtfully strewn here in my space. And, magically, meaningfully, I felt stronger. More secure. Before I knew it, smiles, real smiles, returned.

And today? Today I am happier. Happier because I allowed myself to stop pretending and strip down for you. Happier because you allowed me to be something other than polished perfection. You allowed me to be me. Today, I am happier for another reason though. Last night. Last night was pure celebratory magic. Last night was another Happier Hour. The third I’ve hosted so far. This time, the party took place in a gorgeous four-bedroom apartment with fabulous city views in a new building on the Upper East Side called The Azure. We women sipped delicious wine donated from a wonderful Argentinian label called La Linda and talked about Commitment & Celebration. And my co-host was the incredible Jes Gordon. And because I know many of you are new here (welcome!), I will read you what I said to the cluster of sixty or so women who gathered to listen and learn.

Welcome all to this beautiful apartment on this beautiful evening. Many of you know the idea – both simple and profound – behind Happier Hours, but it’s worth repeating for the rookies here. The idea is that a chilled glass of wine is a scrumptious way to bookend a long, hot day, but that conversation and connection are what truly make us happier.

And tonight, I am plenty happy. I am happy because my first novel Life After Yes debuted a little over two weeks ago. Some of you might know that I had a bit of trouble coming up with a title for my story. Up until the last few months, it was called BlackBerry Girl. But then one random Wednesday afternoon, as I was wrangling my little girls on the Wild Wild Upper West, my editor called and told me – very diplomatically – that we needed a new title.

At the time, I wanted to cry – and I’m pretty sure I did – but after many brainstorming sessions at Starbucks, I came up with Life After Yes. And it is the perfect title if I do say so myself. Because, yes, it captures the subject matter of my book – an engagement and a maybe wedding. But more so, because, really this story is about something bigger. It is about saying Yes. About commitment. Not just to a man, but to happiness, to a city, to a career, to friends, to dreams.

And what is life, but the commitment and re-commitment to people and places, to passions and purposes? And so. Tonight, we celebrate commitment. Tonight, we commit to celebrate. Conversations and connections. Life and love and literary ventures.

But my book is not all that is making me smile. Hardly. Tonight, I am giddy because my good friend and event planner extraordinaire Jes Gordon is here with me. Sure, Jes is a rock star in her own right. She runs her own very successful business and she too just published a book. But what means something to me, a great something, is that once upon a time, Jes planned my wedding to Husband. I remember waltzing into her studio with Mom, sitting and talking and dreaming about my big day. I remember her showing me the tiny white ski vests that became our totally ridiculous, over the top, and amazing save the dates. They said: “Take a snow day!” Jes was incredible to work with and thanks to her love, creative genius, and imagination, my wedding day, the day on which I committed to my forever guy, was perfection. Not fairy tale perfection. But my kind of perfection.

So, thank you, Jes. For helping me celebrate my commitment more than five years ago and for helping me commit to celebrate many magical moments in my own life after yes.

Like this one.

And then I turned things over to Jes. Unlike me, she had nothing planned. She did not clutch a piece of computer paper between quaking fingers. Instead, she just talked. About her story. About her commitment to helping people celebrate. She was articulate and engaging and wickedly funny. She threw around a naughty word here and there which made us blush and giggle. I wish I could tell you everything she said because she was really that good, but I will stick to one thing. One brilliant thing.

Jes talked about being naked. About how writing a book and putting it out there in the world is like standing naked for all to see. She also said that this is what happens when we are brides; we think we are there tucked away in our expensive tailored gowns, but in reality, we are stripped down, naked, there to be judged. And that this is a scary and amazing thing. As Jes said these things, I stood beside her, smiling and nodding. Yes, because I love me a good metaphor. But more because she is right. I remember my wedding day. Standing there in my vast princess dress. Surrounded by people looking, watching, judging.

And that is how I feel now. My book is out there. Which means I am out there. A piece of who I am is floating about. But I am also still here. In my yoga pants and glasses. Behind a soothing screen. A human being. One with dreams and doubts and fears and flaws. One who is just now realizing how powerful, truly powerful, vulnerability can be. How it can free us, and connect us, and make life real and good.

Thank you, Jes. For your unique and unwavering friendship and support. For making me – and all of us – realize that buttoning up and playing it safe is not what makes us happy. No. It is being naked from time to time – at our weddings, in our words and wishes and ways, that makes it all worth it.

Today I am happier.

Thank you, Jes.

Thank you, all.

___________________________

  • Do you agree that there is an immense power inherent in vulnerability?
  • Do you agree that life entails constant commitment and re-commitment to people and places and purposes?
  • Do you have a hard time stripping down and letting go?
  • Are you good at celebrating life’s sweet moments?
  • Are you afraid of commitment?
  • Did you feel naked at your wedding or at other times in your life? Was this scary or amazing or both?
  • Do you think that in blogging we are in many ways stripping down, exposing emotional and existential skin?
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18 Comments for: "On Being Naked"
  1. Yes! I totally agree that vulnerability is immensely powerful, and it makes for great writing! I recently wrote a post on this very topic, actually. http://divorcedbefore30.com/2010/04/09/running-naked-through-a-library/

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Just read your post, Emma, and it certainly resonates with me. Particularly the bit about how there is no streaking halfway. Sometimes, we just have to go for it. I liked the way you closed:

      “People have asked how Im able to be so open here, and in large part, its because of the support Ive received from you, dear readers. If my story resonates with you, I hope youll continue to play the role of my teammates, encouraging me to write with reckless abandon. It may be a wee bit less exciting than public nudity, but its far more psychically rewarding.”

      Support, yes. Psychic rewards, absolutely.

      Thank you for linking all of us to your insightful words

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  3. I love watching someone speak from their souls and just letting the words flow, especially since I usually feel like a staccato and stumbling ball of nerves when speaking in public — despite being really used to doing it.

    Sounds like another really awesome night.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It was a really awesome night. I might have to start recording these evenings and stream them here for you all to see because they are really so fantastic and it is impossible to boil the magic down into a blog post.

      Jes was so incredible last night in large part because she was off the cuff. She stood there, cool and confident, and spoke sincerely about her path and her passion. Still a rookie – and a incurable perfectionist – I always write what I want to say ahead of time. To have a safety net. But I hope, I really hope, that someday I will be able to stand up there and speak as effortlessly and exquisitely as Jes did.

  4. Last night was amazing! Both you and Jes were authentic and gorgeous and naked in your own ways…and I loved it. Thank you for the Happier Hours…I feel so energized and…well…happier, each time I leave. Keep up the great work and keep on stripping down for us!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It was so good to see you last night and to meet your wonderful sister. You know how the whole idea of sisters makes me melt 🙂 I also want to thank you for asking the question you did about knowing. That question will be the core of its own blog post and I would like to credit you if allowed? I think it will prompt an amazing conversation!

  5. AG

    This is an awesome post and what a great idea for a speaker! Sounds like another successful Happier Hours! I really like how an event planner gave that analogy for a wedding. I am planning a wedding right now and very nervous about what everyone will think about everything and can’t figure out why but when it gets down to it, it’s because I am stripping down to the core of who I am…my tastes, my ideas and I am also going to have myself on display that night and that’s the most personal part of all. Maybe now that I have this great analogy to link to my emotions on this I’ll be able to better deal and attempt to “do what I want and not care!” I did say attempt! But I imagine it will be scary and amazing both at the same time.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Scary and amazing, yes. And this is exactly what Jes talked about last night. About how when we marry we put ourselves, our very beings, on display for the world. She remarked that this is both a daunting and incredible concept. Good luck with your plans. I hope you are able to strip down and figure out exactly who you are and who you want to be on that big day. So very exciting 🙂

  6. Ash

    I recently came out from behind a bloggy pseudonym, placed there for two years to cover up my bum. I’m currently struggling to write as “me” – odd how that works.

    I also invited my Mother. Talk about dropping trou. Her reaction came as quite a surprise – “I know you as a woman now, not just as my child.” With that in my corner, fear should go out the window, no?

    So glad today dawned brighter for you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Who knew that it isn’t always easy to be ourselves? In our life and in our writing? I think this struggle to inhabit our identity is a universal feature of humanity. I so relate to the bit about your mother. When I first started this blog, my mother (and others) had reservations. But now? My mother reads my words daily and this means the world to me. I cherish the fact that she is getting to know me as a mother, a woman, a writer.

  7. T

    Yes. Exactly. I read your post from yesterday and thought, “Well, no wonder you feel lonely. You are OUT THERE, vulnerable and hoping the world accepts you.”

    On the blog, we do the same thing to a certain extent but we get a semi-instant response in the way of comments. With a book, ah yes, it is like standing naked, isn’t it?

    I’m so proud of you. So proud that you’re opening up, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to stand naked before the world. Own it, Aidan. Wear it proudly!

  8. I think blogging is definitely putting yourself out there. All of my friends and family read my blog, (maybe not consistently, but they read it all the same), and being recently married, recently graduated, recently moved to a new state–there’s a lot of room for mistakes and failure. But what is a good story without some drama, strife, and vulnerability? Not so good, methinks. I think when we tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, we become accessible to people–they see themselves in our lives and identify with what’s going on with us. You and I live totally different lives–linked only by a happenstance google search–but I feel what you’ve written, in some way, shape, or form. I check and re-check to see how you’re doing because parts of your story are parts of my story, even if it’s just familiar emotions and minutiae. And as for weddings, YES, I felt vulnerable. I loved every minute of it, but it was also painfully awkward at times–you’re “supposed” to be this way, but you really feel another way, but which side to you show, and to whom? It was a delightful and unique weekend in my life, but one I’m happy to only relive through the lives of my engaged friends.

  9. Hubby & I farm for part of our living and sell directly to the public. We have to sell them on more than just the food…they buy into our life story. How we met. Why I became a farmer, too, despite my college degree. That we’re not Amish. It’s wonderful and frightening at the same time,, very much like being naked in front of strangers. I think that happens whenever you expose your passions!

  10. Aidan;

    It’s funny but after I finished writing my first novel I had this incredible sense of loneliness. I couldn’t explain it. I’m not sure I can know.

    Perhaps the experience of writing is so lonely that those celebratory moments feel lonely as well. Even when those you love are close by and as happy for you as anyone could possibly be.

    As I read your posts, I wondered when it would hit. I somehow knew it would. It’s great. Your human. Success if a tricky thing.

    Embrace it all. Even the loneliness. We are rooting for you. And who cares about PEOPLE anyway!

  11. tara

    I feel like I’m from another planet sometimes. I watch, with envy, others who have restraint. I’m too open, too willing, too ready all the time. I’m learning from my relatively new bestest that I can slow down. I can say “I’ll have to think about that” or “can I get back to you on that?”. I always feel like I owe it to people to make them feel comfortable, welcome, relaxed. These are traits of a good hostess, but the hostess in me never goes off-duty. So, I learn alittle bit from you, Aidan, and all of your strong, insightful readers, about leaving alittle bit of armour on; that it’s okay to protective of others, and yourself, as well. So, being naked for me is a normal, raw experience. I’m in the laborious process of learning to keep my clothes ON! 🙂

  12. Ann

    Yep, I definitely agree that vulnerability is powerful. And it’s what makes good art. And good connection, and sisterhood, and friendship. Also, I loved your insight about having a piece of you floating out there in the big world with your novel, and also still being you, in your glasses and yoga pants. I have a lot of public, successful people in my life and I’ve observed that phenomenon a lot. When my godfather, who was a famous actor, passed away, it was striking how much there was a part of him that the public “owned,” in a way, and then there was a part of him that we, as his family, had to ourselves. That’s not in response to one of your questions, just something that came up for me while reading your post.

  13. Wonderful post! I agree that writing and putting your voice out there is much like stripping naked before the world. I feel a bit of that every time I post a blog and I know that when my book is published I will even more so.

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