I am no stranger to Sterling Memorial Library. I like to keep my studying within 1,500 feet of my Branford bedroom at all times. Sterling is particularly appealing in December, when my hibernation schedule is already in full swing. Still, despite my familiarity with the study spot, I don’t usually strip naked in the stacks and run through Bass and Sterling throwing candy at people.
Yes — I did the naked run this past reading week. And let me tell you, I had a surreal experience, up in the stacks with twenty to thirty naked men and women. One moment, you’re all dressed; the next, everyone is getting naked and you feel extremely awkward because you still have on a single sock.
If you’re joining a throng of naked people for the first time, you should actually stay inside the crowd. Trust me. If you’re on the edges, you feel exposed. Some random student studying (or sleeping) on the seventh floor of the stacks — why would he want to be so high up, that’s just sketchy — could walk up behind you unannounced.
I came out of the elevator, stark naked, with some other (possibly inebriated) streakers and literally caused a freshman girl to gasp and drop her books. The kind of gasp you would hear from some southern belle. (She would then say, very emphatically, “I do declare!” and flounce out of the room.)
Then, I saw my Branford little sib. I actually stopped in my tracks and looked for a way out. Where would I go? Out the front doors of Sterling in 40 degree weather? I decided against this: I collected myself and kept running. Later, I found out he didn’t see me — Thank God! (Am I a bad role model?)
Now, the worst part. As I went down the hallway from Sterling to Bass, I encountered a wall of clothed bodies and shocked, excited eyes. I felt like a specimen in some high school biology class. (I think these people attend because of the classic American voyeuristic impulse. (I was one of these sad voyeurs last year.))
I did feel bad for this one boy, poor soul, who kept his eyes squeezed shut. He hadn’t known about the naked run beforehand. I threw candy at him, maybe too aggressively, as a sort of conciliatory gesture.
Now, after the worst part, the sad part:
I am, or at least I was, pretty good friends with the security guard John. My dad is security guard back home and once, John asked me about my sweatshirt, a hand-me-down, which read “Mike — Security Guard.” I like to think we forged a bond. He actually came to my dance show with his wife. But, I saw him during last semester’s naked run and now I have trouble looking him in the eye.
So, was I stupid to run? Maybe. Am I even more stupid to publish this story, a story future employers can read? Sure. (They might worry that I will strip naked in the workplace if they ever try to fire me.) But do I regret it? No. I’ll never regret it.
Throughout the day leading up to the naked run I tried to find friends who would join me. All of them said no, citing various reasons: “I don’t think I’m confident enough,” and “Maybe when I’m a senior and I don’t have to see anyone again,” and “Maybe next semester after I work out a lot.”
That last reason gave me a pause. Background context: I’m not the skinniest girl. I struggled with my weight in middle school. The Wii Fit classified me as “Obese” at one point. Though I exercised a lot in high school, I definitely gained the “Freshman 15” in college. Whatever. Who cares?
But for a moment, as my friend explained her reasoning, I cared. I thought, “Yeah, I will work out really hard, eat healthy and wait until spring semester. Maybe, I’ll find my soul mate because of the naked run. I should look good.”
Then, my inner goddess — I call her “Sasha Fierce finally turned Beyoncé” — said “Why the fuck did you want this to begin with?!”
I had an epiphany. We run to empower ourselves. We run to love ourselves and other bodies, bodies of all shapes and sizes. We run for all the 14-year-old girls picked on in gym class because their boobs were too big or too small, their elbows too knobby, their stomachs too soft.
I ran for them. I ran for me.
During the week after the naked run, I tried (subtly) to bring up my majestic moment in every conversation. I’m still proud. Sure, I think part of me ran just so I could say that I ran, that I milked every possible experience out of Yale. But still, destiny gave me the chance to learn, to grow and appreciate myself and the world around me.
I do kind of regret telling my parents.
My father found it hilarious — unfortunately, he didn’t have the good sense to keep the secret. He told my reserved Catholic grandparents. By Christmas, most of the extended family knew about my escapade. I’m proud, yeah, but I don’t want to bring anyone closer to their deathbed.