Rob Brezney’s first horoscope of the New Year beckoned me to, “let your freak flag fly” and continued, “be your most unique eccentric self; show off your idiosyncrasies with uninhibited pride.” I think this is a perfect mantra for me for 2018, which is also a significant birthday year. Much of the horoscope this week resonated with me and how I want to enter this period of my life.
So, anyone who knows me well–family and close friends–knows I love to be naked. “Jenn, are you wearing anything?” is how my close friend/neighbor responds to my “who” when she knocks on my door. You don’t have to tell me twice to skinny dip or go topless on the beach. I love the feeling of air, sun, water, etc. on my skin–as much skin as possible. While I have not yet visited a nudist establishment, it is not off my list, it just has not yet crossed my path (nor my path crossed it).
I also love to read, it is a part of my job and it is also a part of what I like to do for pleasure. I get great joy out of the smell of books; I love the fresh-off-the-press smell of new books and the musty smell of old ones. Whenever I get a new or new-to-me book, the first thing I do when I open it is to take a deep whiff of the scent even before I read the front or back copy or look at the cover art. I love that I have a couple of bookshelves full of books (punctuated by random chotskies). Naked Girls Reading (NGR) presented me with the opportunity to try do combine two of my loves. Naked Girls Reading (different link) is a global movement started by a burlesque dancer in Chicago. It is a way of combining smart and sexy in safe spaces and now has chapters from Adelaide to Warsaw.
Back in November I wrote about my Calgary adventures and volunteering for NGR. Well, after volunteering, I became intrigued to read myself. Because of the adventure getting there I thought I’d wait until I had a “ride and die” to accompany me, but my ride and die options (my Calgary community is slowly growing) all happened to be out of town. So public transport it was again, however less eventful than the first time probably because I knew where I was going.
I entered the venue and went upstairs (the “undressing” room) to meet the other readers and prepare for the show. I met a couple of the other ladies; all but one were NGR virgins like myself. There was a nervous energy in the room as we put on make-up, did hair and disrobed. Including our fearless leader Keely Kamikaze, the founder of the NGR Calgary chapter, the there were five readers and an emcee. The theme was “fantasy” to be interpreted by the reader. I read from Octavia Butler‘s Fledgling, and here is the preamble I included as to why I chose this work,
Zeine came across Octavia Butler’s work when she saw Ms. Butler read at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005, a year before her untimely death in 2006. When Zeine first started reading this autographed copy, she got creeped out by the the vampire feedings and put it down. She did not pick it up again until more than a decade later to read for NGR and now could not put it down.
BTW, my stage name is Zeine Bruja, I’ll write about the name at some point, but not now ;).
Getting ready to read. My niece is not around so I had to do my own make up.
Like any show, we arrived early, did sound check and waited for the crowd to arrive. The sound check also included directions about disrobing, mike placement and book holding. Readers enter the stage area with a robe, dress, cape–anything that allows for a reveal of the body. The emcee make the introduction, the reader disrobes, places the garment on a chair and either sits or stands to read. To me, it felt like any other performance I have done except I was naked in front of a room full of strangers. Once I took off my dress and started to read, it was no longer obvious to me that I was naked and I felt that the audience responded to me, as a reader, as they would have had I had on clothing; there was very little if anything that seemed voyeuristic about the audience; several of the readers were there with their family, partners and spouses. It was an intimate space because of the acceptance and openness of the audience and had very little to do with sex, which is often equated with nudity.
I read twice, first from chapter 1 and then from chapter 3. I did not want to read to far into the book so as to ruin the story should someone from the audience want to read the book themselves. Keely sends out a reading list to audience members who sign up for it.
My autographed copy!
At the end of the show, the readers and emcee gathered for photos, both robed and unrobed and even did a nude group hug–we were all psyched about our performance–post-performance high. When I dressed and came downstairs to leave, I received many complements on my reading (I read with my teacher voice), the choice of book, and even my accent (I sometimes forget that I have a CaribBrooklyn accent).
Returning to Brezney, “I propose that we revive [your flying freak flag] for your use in 2018. I suspect the coming months will be a favorable time for you to cultivate your quirks and trust your unusual impulses. You should give yourself maximum freedom to explore pioneering ideas and maverick inclinations. Paradoxically, doing so will lead to stabilizing and enduring improvements in your life.” I heeded this call and I would say that 2018 and especially my birthday month and significant birthday year are off to a great start!