Seeing the Nakedness of His Father

Commentary, June 1992.


Standing in the large men’s locker room of the National Capitol YMCA, getting dressed after my swim and shower, I overheard a conversation taking place out of my sight, on the other side of my row of lockers: “You wait right here; I’ll be back soon, after my shower.”

On my return from the shower a minute before, I had glimpsed, out of the corner of my eye, a young child, perhaps three years old or four, playing on the floor far down the neighboring aisle, a child much too small, thought I, to be left unattended amid this motley crowd of unfamiliar men. While I was fantasizing how I might abduct the boy for a few minutes, just to teach the father a lesson, I heard another voice arresting his movement to the shower: “You shouldn’t bring her in here.” “Why not?” “Because of all the naked men.” “So what,” replied the father, “she sees me naked all the time and thinks nothing of it.” “How old is she?” “Four. She doesn’t know or care anything about sex or even gender.” “You mean she doesn’t know the difference between girls and boys?” “Sure, but it doesn’t mean anything to her. Why are you so uptight?” “Because many people in here don’t feel comfortable parading naked in front of young girls; besides, don’t forget, they lock people up who expose themselves before children—just like this.” “You have a sick mind,” says the father, and goes off to shower.