HUESTON WOODS, Ohio (ZP) -- Sometimes it becomes necessary, in the course of one's life, to do something completely stupid. Everybody does something stupid every now and then, something so recklessly irresponsible that even Mother Nature laughs at you.
I'm certain that goddamned squirrel chatter I heard as I jumped into a pool of cold, murky Four-Mile Creek water in nothing but my Stetson was Mother Nature's way of saying Jason, you are a dumbass. And that's okay - be a dumbass sometimes.
Of course, it may have been the blinding whiteness of my bare ass that sent these annoying little tree rats into their racket. Certain parts of my body have rarely seen the sunshine; given the amount of peeling I've been experiencing in certain areas lately, I'm not sure if random acts of public nudity is a good thing or not.
Okay. Not public, exactly. In a public park, yes. I know...you might be thinking to yourself, "Aren't you being a hypocrite? Didn't you criticize a bunch of wannabe pot farmers for breaking the law when you're doing it yourself? Isn't public indecency just as bad?"
Well, yes and no. First, being naked is man's natural state. Nobody, save maybe this completely wasted Phish fan I saw once in
So how did I end up becoming a hypocrite and defiling the environment with my Day-glo ass?
Well, there's something to be said for wanting to entertain tourists....
I met two women last Saturday during a hike. While I was unloading some gear, "Kate" and "Allie" (Not their real names, but 80s sitcom buffs might appreciate my alias choices) walked up and asked where if I knew where to find a liquor store.
We struck up a conversation. The pair - both graduate students at a major southwestern research university - was strangers in a very strange land, native Coloradans on a kinda-sorta working road trip across
The driving force behind all science, of course, is this very human need to explore the unknown frontiers of our world. Sometimes, one can do that in a lab. Other times, scholarship requires an interaction with the world, outside of the ability to control the environment, a field trip into the meticulously organized chaos that is our planet. One should never trust an archaeologist who would forsake a fresh dig to do easy research. There are biomedical researchers somewhere, at this very moment, pulling samples of some of the most dangerous viruses in the world from the field, interacting with the sufferers of such plagues at their own peril so colleagues can safely dissect, examine, and look for treatments.
Science is, after all, a full-contact sport. Exploration requires risk. To understand the universe, one must admit being part of it. I've never understood why so many librarians, IT professionals, archivists, etc., believe that the science behind what we do - information science - can exist as a science without any sort of personal or professional risk.
Kate and Allie didn't know anything about Preble or
The pair followed me into nearby College Corner, Indiana, a tiny border town with a remarkably well-furnished liquor store. The pair followed me into
Sitting in a coffee shop that night, while checking email and having a rather burlesque IM chat with some random local lurker, I realized that the couple were probably a couple-couple. Sometimes, people discuss their sexual orientation with complete strangers; other times they don't have to. How many female just-friends hold hands? Or call each other honey or feel comfortable enough walking around in public with a hand resting in that "lover's only" spot, just above the ass and just below the beltline? Sure, it's just a suspicion...
Sunday, I arrived at their place sometime after breakfast. Kate and Allie had decided, like the dozens of other women in the park, that it was too hot to wear a lot of clothing. There's no sin in hiking in a bikini top. Besides, there's nothing like the feel of sunshine on one's skin on a warm Easter.
We spent about two hours hiking. Allie wanted to take a few water samples to at least pretend like she was on a research trip. So we headed down Four-Mile Creek to find a place to lie out and to satisfy a researcher's need to test for agricultural bi-products in the stream. We took along a bottle of Jose Cuervo for added companionship.
Ain't no research partner like the esteemed Dr. Cuervo. Unfortunately, consultations with the good doctor often lead to a miraculous abandonment of anything research-related.
Kate and Allie confirmed my theory about their relationship status rather bluntly. They simply stated that they were indeed gay and in a relationship and hoped that that fact didn't make me uncomfortable. I told them that I'd kinda sorta figured it out already and explained my reasoning.
I guess they thought they'd been doing a good job of keeping their hands off each other in public, and I think that made them a bit uncomfortable. The greater
Figuring the conversation was making everybody feel awkward, Kate, who'd already displayed a flare for cheekiness by flashing her boobs at some bikers and vividly describing the art of cunnilingus (yeah, I figured that was meant to be a subtle hint), decided it was time to go for a dip in the creek. We were far enough away from the hiking trails, so Kate simply stripped.
Allie looked at her, then looked at me, then looked back at Kate. Lord, don't wait for the straight guy! It's not like she's the first naked woman I've seen. I was engaged to a stripper, for Christ's sakes. I offered to leave if the two wanted some privacy, but despite Allie's apprehension, Kate pointed out that we were all adults and were capable of being naked around each other.
So Allie and I started to strip. I'd was taking my shoes off when Allie suddenly blurted out that in her three decades on this planet, the only men she'd ever seen naked in person were siblings. She knew at an early age she was attracted to women, had never kissed a guy, dated a guy, or even fooled around with one.
Okay. Let's just say that was a bit intimidating. I would've been much more comfortable not knowing that. She wanted me to know that in case I caught her staring at my junk, there was more curiosity involved than sexual desire. Not a very relaxing situation. I'm just glad it wasn't a cold day... for obvious, guy reasons.
Logically, through my own field, I know that there's anxiety that goes along any Information Search Process. Why should any aspect of exploration - interpersonal or otherwise - be expected to be any different? Is a lesbian's anxiety over skinny-dipping with a man any different than, say, a student struggling to find a thesis in a sea of information resources? Is my anxiety over somehow being the sole penile representation for my gender all that different from that of someone preparing to present an information-based product for the first time?
Science is about exploration, and I'm an information scientist, goddamn it. I wasn't going to let my fear of exposing myself to someone who might be seeing an adult male's penis for the first time get in the way of going skinny-dipping. Life is about learning; learning is the most mesmerizing, terrifying part of exploration because it presents both an obstacle and a reward simultaneously.
So, to ease any anxiety, I simply stood up, kicked my shoes off, stripped off the rest of my clothes, and jumped into the water. Fuck it. I even made a joke about my penis along the way, explaining that if it got in the way in the pool, I'd simply duct-tape it down to my leg. Feel free to look. I'm comfortable with what I'm packing. I told Allie that if she had any research questions about my penis, I'd be more than willing to offer any research help I could - I'm a librarian and that's my job.
Kate thought that was funny. So did Allie, actually. She lightened up a bit and even did a bit of a striptease. I was only partly joking.
See, in my world, this is called easing user anxiety during the information-seeking process. I'm just cool like that.
A group of young women - local college students - walked by while the three of us, a lesbian couple and some dude in a Stetson, were lounging in the water, naked as jaybirds, smoking Camel Lights and consulting with Dr. Cuervo. I recognized one of the women as a frequent patron of the library where I work.
I almost stood up to wave. Luckily, I was reminded that that might not be a very wise idea.
Exploration is fun, but there are limits...