Like other folks, I had seen this Heidi Julavits article on nudity just before I checked in. It was one of the last things I had read just before the men in white suits packed me into the back of the ambulance. In fact, it was not the straitjacket that had me howling in the back of the vehicle. Whenever my limbs are bound, I’m generally a good sport about it — particularly when the people binding your limbs are medical professionals who might have some input into how long you stay at a hospital. Had I not been in a straitjacket, I would have likely tipped generously.
Unfortunately, my politeness and good sense drifted away when I entered a primordial millieu — not unlike Spock resorting to his atavistic urges in the Star Trek episode, “All Our Yesterdays,” when transported into the past. Like Spock, I thought of the Julavits article and had the sudden urge to eat raw meat. The details are a bit fuzzy, but apparently I bit one of the orderlies. And when the orderlies could not calm me down, and the raw meat I desired could not be produced, I screamed, “HEIDIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” and asked the orderlies to tear off my clothes so that I could jump in a hot tub myself and be photographed by a New York Times photographer performing fellatio on Dave Eggers or, failing that, giving his wife’s hair a good wash. Shortly after this, blood trickling down his hand quite close to where I had bitten him, I was injected with something that caused me to see a number of birds flying around my head in an elliptical pattern and passed out.
If I had to figure out just how the article enraged me, I suppose that what set my anger went over the pot (the entrepot of supposed ideas that the Gray Lady has continously promised us?) was this: Julavits, perhaps the closest thing the literary hipster set has to a sanctimonious and sniveling Emily Post type, could not perceive nudity within any other context other than checking out other people’s privates or being fundamentally aware of them. This struck me as a remarkably adolescent approach to the human body. So self-conscious was Julavits that she actually believed her “lobster-red bum” would have any real bearing on scheduling a reading.
Then again, I live in San Francisco.
Then again, The Believer is based in San Francisco. What the hell?
I wondered why Julavits would attend such a “naturalistic spa,” let alone write about such an experience, if she had so many personal hangups. Did not most people get over their initial fears spending a weekend prancing around in front of a trusted and intimately connected person such as a main squeeze? I wondered further whether this was a stunt to garner publicity for the Believer. After all, she had enlisted many of the staff members to appear for the corresponding photo. This seemed especially ironic in light of Julavits’ inability to accept her own body.
Now I myself have pale-white skin myself and went through years of being ashamed by it. I was called “albino” and “ghost” growing up and, for many years, did not deign to wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts. I thought of this as the men in white suits put the white straitjacket and shepherded me into a white vehicle leading me to a white building with shiny white linoleum floors, white walls and indeed white everywhere. White, white, white! But yes I could deal with this. What I couldn’t deal with was the contrarian view that somehow white (or “lobster red”) was somehow bad or verboeten.
This morning, I confessed all this during my individual therapy session. The doctor’s name is Heidi too. So our talks have been a little bit on the uncomfortable side of things. However, Heidi (the doctor, not the writer) has proven quite empathetic to the finer details of my collapse. She told me that she wasn’t the one who wrote the handwritten note. There was another doctor who was a bit on the drug-happy side of the fence. This doctor had a look at my file and had based his decision solely on a videotape of my entry into the clinic and a followup therapy session. This doctor, who Heidi did not name, has since been reassigned to another wing of the hospital, as apparently other patients had been doped up with tricyclics. Heidi told me that while I would likely be ingesting drugs that would help me, she didn’t want to place me in a total stupor. I thanked her for this.
Heidi (the doctor) has also told me that reading anything by the McSweeney’s/Believer crowd was likely to upset me. She has prescribed 10ccs of something called “yulthodranine” — a new antidepressant that pertains to people with my rare condition, namely those who get upset by people they perceive as “literary hipsters.” So far, I’ve been able to write about my Julavits experience without feeling like Spock, much less having a hankering for raw meat. Maybe this yulthodranine’s working!
Anyway, they’re asking me to come in and watch the late morning movie, which they tell me is an overlooked 1999 gem starring Kathleen Turner called Baby Geniuses. This movie will be followed by a hearty lunch and a few rounds of The UnGame, a board game in which everyone can win! My transition, so far, has proven quite exciting.
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.