Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was kind enough to send me a letter from Dear Abby which she thought I might find interesting.  She was right!  Here it is:

April 7, 2010


DEAR ABBY: My brother is 9 and still walks around naked. I have asked "Josh" repeatedly to put on some clothes, but he blows me off and flaunts himself around the house. My mother is no help. When I ask her to talk to him, she laughs and says, "Boys will be boys." Abby, I'm 13 and it is starting to freak me out. Am I being paranoid, or am I right to want him to put on a pair of boxers or something?


DEAR OLDER SISTER: Your mother is right about one thing: Boys WILL be boys. Your brother is acting like an immature child who's enjoying teasing his sister. On the other hand, she's wrong to laugh off your discomfort. One reason children have parents is so someone can teach them respect for the feelings of others. At 9, Josh is too big to ignore, and at 13, you are no longer a little girl. If he wants to be naked in his bedroom, fine and dandy. But when he's in the rooms shared by everyone, he should cover up. And if he doesn't, there should be consequences.

What do you think?  Should a 9-year-old be allowed to run around naked if he feels so moved?  Should he be forced to cover up?  Is the mother allowing the kid to grow up without respecting the needs of others?  Is the girl too uptight?  Is our society too uptight that she would be upset at the sight of a 9-year-old's body?  Or is this just sibling silliness?

Here are my friend's thoughts on the matter:

Hi Susan,

I read the "Dear Abby" article this morning, and it struck a chord. The one I highlighted below (re: nakedness) caught my eye. I can't decide how I feel about it - either about the 13 year old girl who complained, or about Abby's answer. I haven't raised children of my own, so I haven't experienced this situation in real life.

Prior to reading your explorations and thoughts regarding nakedness in our society, I would have agreed completely with Abby's reply. I would have moved on, without a second thought. But now... a part of me wonders if the 13 year old is having a normal human response, or if she is being badgered by society's morals and views on nakedness. I had a little brother, too. I do well remember giggling when he used to (as a little boy) escape from my mom when she was drying him off after a bath - and run around the house. It was a game to him, and my sister and I were not disturbed by it. I don't think he was 9 yet, though.

Anyway, I am forwarding it to you since it may spark a discussion with your friends/fans as well. I'm still not sure what my own thoughts are, except that I am a bit disturbed that the 13 year old is uncomfortable with her little brother goofing off. What is going through her mind? Is she feeling that his playing around is sexual in some manner? Maybe that is what bothers me. Hmm.


Please feel free to add to the discussion if you have further thoughts on the matter...


  1. Totally depends on the culture of the family. My friends in California, adults included, still walk around naked sometimes. And the kids I know that grew up at Esalen don't bat an eye at nudity. As for me, I've never seen my mother, father or brother naked!

  2. I think the age is significant: She's a 13 year old girl, just discovering her own sexuality and aware of just how much it means. It's also important to consider the background. How has the family treated issues like this in the past, and have they reacted differently to her than they have to her brother?

    I suspect if she had been allowed to run around the house naked for a number of years as a child, this would not be as big an issue for her as it seems to be. That it is an issue leads me to think that this family has not been so open about nudity in the past and that this is not as much about nudity as it is about sibling dynamics. It seems, from what little we have, it's more about the brother's effort to embarrass and annoy his sister than anything else, and he's found a parent-sanctioned way to do it, so that's what he's doing.

    I also wonder how much of the girl's concern is about the possibility of her friends coming in and seeing her brother naked. I think she's reacting to the social mores she's been taught all along and can't really be expected to break out of that mold on her own, without guidance.

  3. What first came to my mind is that this boy is being set up, in a way, to possibly enjoy the thrill of shocking others with his nakedness. I think this could be a flasher in the making. It all depends upon how the entire family deals with this child's behavior. If they were mine, I'd ask the boy to be more considerate as he is maturing and begin explaining that although the naked body is a great thing, so is privacy and modesty in certain situations. Considering the girl's age, I think she's reacting fairly normally. It's a great opportunity for both children to learn to deal with multiple issues from their parents. Regardless of how any of them feel about nakedness, the fact is that the boy is being inconsiderate KNOWING that his sister is disturbed and continues with his behavior nonetheless. In other words, I don't think this issue is about naked bodies at all. The body is being used as a vehicle for the boy to taunt the sister.