By Jia Lim

August 6, 2018


I do not want to be naked. The thought consumes me to the point of obsession. As we crunch across the luminous blue-gray glacier, as we delicately spear a rack of the best lamb I've ever had in my life, as we drive for hours in the liquid darkness searching for the northern lights, my mind churns over scenarios. You see, we are in Iceland, and we plan to go to one of those hot baths in the misty outdoors, with locals. Everyone has to shower before going in. Naked. Without a swimsuit.

In my same-sex high school, we’d turn off the lights and change out of gym clothes in our classroom. I’d perfected the fine art of shimmying out of my shirt and into a fresh one in approximately two seconds. We’d pretend we couldn’t detect the snow-white elastic bras covering our budding chests, and we’d pretend we didn’t try.

But now, for the first time everyone would see my pasty white flesh, the generous cushioning rounding my belly, my angular, severe hips. I gnaw on this.

Then the moment is upon me. I rifle through my backpack, darting my eyes around the changing room, my heart thundering. Murmurs of conversation, childish squeals, the harsh spray of hot water meeting slick skin. Stretchy faded underwear, varying amounts of unkempt or tufty or stringy hair, battle scars from childbirth. And the women and their bodies, walking not in pride or self-consciousness or defiance or flaunting delight. Just walking.

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