My Story: Give and take

The point of a Nude Ladies' Party is to exchange clothes with friends who are more or less your size.

clothes drawing 88 248 (photo credit: Yaniv Singer)
clothes drawing 88 248
(photo credit: Yaniv Singer)
Women may be sassy, but they astound me with their depth of caring and doing, their ability to spread both around with limitless energy. They give and take with generous hearts. Many modern authors agree with me, such as Khaled Hosseini in A Thousand Splendid Suns and Chitra Divakaruni in Sister of My Heart. In my college days, I adored Company of Woman, by Mary Gordon. Although not a popular book shelf item, Look Homeward Erotica written in the early '80s by the middle-aged-and-then-some Kensington Ladies' Erotica Society, dared give erotic thoughts a voice in, and for, the company of women - to their delight and mine. Last week, I attended an evening for women only that made me once again appreciate my womanhood and theirs. When my friend Liana invited me to a Nude Ladies' Party at her home, I burst out laughing. "My body, and - I must admit - strangers who look at it, prefers the cover of clothes," I said. "No, no, you don't get it. You mean to tell me that you've never heard of a Nude Ladies' Party?" When I admitted that I hadn't, she told me all about it. No one has to be nude, she explained. The name was coined because everyone gets to see each other in their underwear. "So make sure it matches!" she advised. THE POINT of these parties is to gather together friends who are more or less your size, and exchange clothing that's sitting in your closet but you just can't part with because you feel guilty about how much you spent on it. Particularly nowadays. "We do it right," she boasted. "Everyone brings either cheese, wine or some 'forbidden' snack." It sounded unusually tempting and a touch risqué. It also seemed like a wonderful way to stretch my unemployment budget. I was in. I arrived late, the 12th and last guest. I placed the three pieces of clothing I had brought alongside everyone else's clothing, laid out in boutique-like fashion on Liana's dining room table. Another table was set up with wine glasses, cheese trays, crackers, cut-up fresh vegetables and an onion dip. The lights were low, making the candlelight on the food table glow soothingly. There were flowers on the table, too, pinky white cyclamens that looked plastic in their perfection. The conversation was flowing, aided by the wine. I took a glass and sat down next to a mutual friend of Liana's and mine, Hana. Neither of us had ever attended a Nude Ladies' Party, and we voiced our qualms about trying on clothing in front of everyone. "It's just like Loehmann's big dressing room!" Hana laughed nervously. "Yes, but these are people we know, not strangers!" I laughed back in kind. We chitchatted a bit until Liana signaled for attention. "We're all here now," Liana said. "What do you say we start?" It took a few moments until conversations wound down. Then Liana held up the first piece of clothing, a pair of black cotton pants cut to whisk away the years. "It looks like they'll be great for you," Liana said to a woman named Sally, whom I had met a few times before at our all women book club gathering. "Yes, it does," someone else agreed. "Go for it," Liana said, tossing the pants over to Sally. Sally smiled, stood up, and began unzipping her jeans. I detected a bit of nervousness in her smile, or was I projecting? Liana had already picked up the next piece of clothing. "Who wants this gorgeous sweater?" she asked. She caressed it with her fingertips, oohing at the feel. "It looks like cashmere. Is it really?" a woman whose name eluded me asked reverently. Liana glanced at the label and nodded. The woman feigned a swoon. "You're kidding! I've always wanted a cashmere sweater, but would never permit myself the luxury," she admitted. "Now's your chance. It's yours," Liana smiled, this time walking the sweater over to her and depositing it gently in her hands. Pretty soon, all of us were either topless or bottomless, except of course for our underwear. Occasionally someone would yell something across the living room, like "That looks great on you!" or "Not quite your style. You need a brighter color to offset your skin tone." At one point, two women fancied the same piece of clothing. They argued over who should take it, each selflessly pushing it on the other. I LEFT Liana's home with three new items: a turquoise turtleneck sweater made of fine, ribbed cotton, a designer shirt that had never been worn and a pair of pink suede boots with pompoms lined with warm, fuzzy stuff. I was delighted with my loot, but more than anything, I was amazed at the generosity and encouragement that this group of women, some strangers, had shown me and that I had effortlessly returned. I began to think about different types of parties to exchange all kinds of goods that women tire of: jewelry, handbags, books, magazines, movies, music. Knowing my limitations, I willfully stopped short of animate objects. I mounted the stairs to my apartment quickly, anxious to show off my pickings to my boyfriend. He brings out one of the best aspects of my womanhood, my femininity. Sometimes brash, other times playful and yet other times reticent, my femininity has finally attuned itself to the give and take of couplehood. "Looks like you hit the jackpot," he said after I had tried everything on for him. "Maybe I should organize a Nude Gentlemen's Party for the guys. What do you think?" "I think," I began, jumping in place until my pink pompoms danced, "that you would rather die. Why don't you just invite them over for humous, beer and basketball?"