Saturday, 4 February 2017

Under and over dressing in Luton

Wandering back towards my car through central Luton yesterday, I was surprised to hear a woman shout at a figure further down the road, “oh, put some clothes, why don’t you?”

I looked up and there, indeed, was a man coming the other way, stark naked. He wasn’t even wearing shoes. And yet it wasn’t as though he had no clothes. On the contrary, he was carrying shirt and trousers and, as far as I could tell from a quick glance, other items of clothing, neatly tucked under his arm. In the other hand, he was dangling a pair of shoes.

He seemed to be providing something of a public service. People had stopped to comment on his passage, giving them a moment’s distraction from their usual chores. Though, mostly, they were expressing disapproval.

“There are kids around. They might see him.”

It was difficult to understand what harm the sight might do them. I don’t like to stare at people’s genitals, especially if they’re not wearing clothes, but even a glance was enough to establish that he had some. They were, however, in a perfectly – how shall I put this? – quiescent state. Nothing about him suggested sexual appetite, let alone sexual threat.

Further up, his body, though not that of a young man, was in exceptionally good form. Abdominal muscles well delineated, good pectorals. A matter not of condemnation but of envy. I suspect I couldn’t have come near that level of bodily fitness had I gone far more regularly to the gym than I ever have, even starting from a lot younger than I am.

Still, all around me I heard disapproval being voiced. Some, like the woman I first heard, were shouting advice at him. Much of it was ribald.

It all strikes me as bizarre. Surely none of us can be unfamiliar with the structure of the human body. What’s our problem with seeing it? It was unusual, certainly, to put one on display in that way, but why should it be shocking? To me, it seemed the man was more to be wondered at than condemned: I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to lay aside a single stitch of the clothing I was wearing, on a cold, grey February day. Nor would I want to walk the streets of any town in bare feet.

Besides, given the weight of disapproval any such act of non-conformism with common standards is likely to attract, I’d have to wonder about the mental state of a man who willingly incurs it. If he’s deliberately, rationally attacking convention, good luck to him. If he’s making a desperate plea for attention out of a place of unhappiness, he deserves sympathy, surely, far more than reprobation.

I’d have liked to illustrate this post with a picture of the man, if only to prove that the incident happened. But to have taken a photograph would, I felt, be to line up with those who felt it was strange. Or possibly to attract attention to myself for entirely the wrong reasons.

So instead I’ve picked a picture of some who are more heavily dressed. I’m not sure, however, it would appeal much more to the shocked observers I saw yesterday than he did. But then, there’s no pleasing some people.

What are you complaining about? They're fully dressed.


Becky Campbell said...

You certainly have in interesting world!

David Beeson said...

Indeed. Certainly an unusual one...