It was late one night and I took my dog out for her final business of the day. I waited as she did her usual search for the perfect blade of grass to drench.
It was pitch dark everywhere. The only light was the blue hued glow of the nearly full moon out that night. My dog kept venturing toward the neighbors’ house and I followed. Then I saw an amber light radiating from their lanai.
I don’t know if my dog was attracted by the light, but as she got closer, I heard a low tone of music, laughing and splashes of water.
I smiled and chuckled a little that my new neighbors were going for a little late night swim. Finally my dog picked a spot and assumed her position. I turned my back and first and blankly looked into the dark abyss, but I admit, I was a little curious. So, I took a peek at the neighbors and then quickly averted my eyes in shock. They were skinny dipping.
It was so unexpected a host of thoughts were swirling around my head. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I invaded their privacy. That soon translated to curious confusion – why were they skinny dipping? Not wanting to think about the answers to that question, I shook my head, picked up my dog and quickly moved back to my house.
When I told my wife, she laughed. But I wasn’t sure whether she was laughing at them or at my somewhat indignant surprise.
For the next few days, my dog kept going back to the same sweet spot between the two properties. Hoping to avoid peeping and nervous for another encounter, I turned my back and faced the golf course and then went back into the house, gratefully without incident.
I usually take her for a walk during the day, but I was taking a break from the heat in our pool and just took her out the back. I wasn’t thinking and started looking around. And there before my eyes was my neighbor lady, watering her plants with nothing on. The full moon was out even during the day.
Embarrassed again, I immediately looked down and began coaxing my dog to finish, when I heard a voice.
“Oh hi neighbor. I was hoping to meet you,” she said.
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be neighborly, so I pasted a smile on my red-blushed face and walked toward her.
“Hi. I’m glad to see you…uh..meet you too. I’m Brad,” I muddled.
“My name is Inga,” she said.
She went on to tell me that she and her husband Lars are from Sweden and bought this as a winter vacation home. As she talked, I barely heard what she said. I mostly just nodded. I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. If I look down, I could offend her and if I look up and down, I could offend me and her. I probably looked like a crazy person as focused directly on her face the entire time.
But let’s face it. I saw. Inga was an older women in her 70’s, mildly slender with white hair and very pale skin.
As she continued with her friendly patter, I started to be aware of my own nakedness, as I was only wearing my swim trunks. I started to squirm a bit and folded my arms across my chest in a few different ways.
In all the confusion, I didn’t see my dog finish and go over to our lanai door. Suddenly, she barked in command for me to let her in. I was saved by the bark.
“Sorry, I have to let her majesty in the door,” I laughed. “Nice to meet you.”
Walking back to my house, I sighed with relief, but I felt stupid.
The rest of the day I kept going over it in my mind. Should I have done something different? Was I being childish?
When my wife came home I told her what happened and I felt better. She was equally shocked by the awkward encounter.
I know it’s silly, but from that point on, I took our dog to the front of the yard for her business. I was really uncomfortable and didn’t want a repeat occurrence.
A week or so later, we got an invitation in our mailbox. Our next door neighbor was having a housewarming party.
When my wife showed me the invite, I was starkly against going.
“How can I possibly face that lady when I have seen too much of her,” I protested.
“Come on. We have to go. She’s our neighbor. How would it look if we didn’t go,” she reasoned. “And don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll have clothes on.”
Logic and wives rule. So, we went. When we arrived, the house was full of the people on our street. I was relieved. I could just give a casual hello and avoid talking to her the rest of the time.
They greeted us and we came in the door and I introduced my wife Sarah.
“This is Lars,” she said. “Please enjoy, we have some wonderful wine and smårätt.”
“That’s Swedish for snacks,” Lars smiled.
I sighed in relief. I was in the clear.
As we walked into the kitchen, my mind conjured all the Swedish food I knew in anticipation of a familiar international cuisine. Meatballs, Swedish fish and those great crepe like pancakes they have at Ikea. They had a big spread of wonderful appetizers, but no meatballs. Actually, most everything looked fairly common for a party here. I was a bit disappointed, but hungry, so I made a plate.
I walked around a bit to find a place to sit, but meanwhile, I was ogling and admiring their art and furniture. It was so different and interesting. I found myself gazing at an abstract painting with a lot of colors and shapes. I stared at it trying to make sense of the subject matter when Lars startled me.
“You like my work?” he said proudly.
“You did this? It’s intriguing. I love abstract art,” I said.
“Then you’ll love this,” he said and led me to the other room.
I nearly choked on my food. There was a painting of Inga, in the nude. It was abstract but I had no problem recognizing the subject.
“Yes, I’ve seen it before…uh her…uh you’re very talented,” I stuttered out.
I was sure my face was once again blush red or pink at my awkward foible.
He looked at me and let out the biggest belly laugh you’ll ever hear.
“Don’t fret, my friend. Inga told me she met you before.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.
“Please don’t be uncomfortable. This is not our first trip to America. In Europe, people feel more open about their bodies. There’s no need for awkwardness. It’s fine,” he assured.
Later when we got home, I pondered the idea of nudity. It’s just their way; no big deal. And why do Americans feel differently? Why did I feel awkward? I thought of myself as a pretty progressive person, but I just couldn’t reconcile it in my mind.
I appreciate their free thinking and wish I could feel easier about it. But just the same, I think I’ll stay away from their lanai.
(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022