The World Needs A Naked Flaneur’s Stroll

Naked cyclists make their way past Toronto's Eaton Centre, June 13, 2009, for the World Naked Bike Ride. Participants in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax rode naked to celebrate cycling and the human body and to demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclist on the road and protest against oil dependency. [Photo by Tara Walton/Toronto Star]
Naked cyclists make their way past Toronto’s Eaton Centre, June 13, 2009, for the World Naked Bike Ride. Participants in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax rode naked to celebrate cycling and the human body and to demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclist on the road and protest against oil dependency. [Photo by Tara Walton/The Toronto Star]

Whenever I walk by the Eaton Center I remember a poignant story of childhood disappointment when Ms. Modigliani’s grandfather, the Mayor, did not choose her to present the flowers to the Queen in front of Toronto’s Old City Hall. The year might have been 1958. How things have changed! Now this image will be mashed up with my mental map of the corner of Queen St. and Yonge.

If cyclists can pull off a World Naked Bike Ride every year in cities around the world, it’s time for flaneurs to match their audacity. Imagine Charles Baudelaire strolling down the street in nothing but a top hat.

Katie Gillmor Ellis writes in The Toronto Star:

The phalanx of naked cyclists at Bloor and Avenue Rd. on Saturday afternoon drew a variety of responses, but I wonder how many people shared mine?

There was shock, of course, and laughter. It would be politically correct to say the laughter was in response to the shock but, no. The naked cyclists looked funny. Hairy in unexpected places. Floppy flesh jiggling in unexpected ways. And who knew how awkward male genitalia can look when in juxtaposition with a bike seat?

But after shock and laughter, I had an unexpected reaction: chagrin.

Why do I worry about how I look dressed when others are so unconcerned about how they look undressed?

That very morning, I had spent too much time choosing clothes that could diminish or (please, please, please) camouflage my body’s defects. An exercise in futility because I’m 65 and no one is looking. Worse, I did the same thing 35, 40 years ago, when people were looking and had no objection to what they saw.

So while I’m not about to strip and hit the road – the bike would be wobbling as well as my flesh – I am going to reconsider my morning routine. Putting on a costume (or not) is superfluous. Maybe it’s time to like what I see in the mirror. Maybe showing up, in whatever form, is enough.

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