If Britney Spears shouldn't be naked in front of her kids, what about me?

I'm naked in front of my kids all the time, but I'm no slut! I'm a good responsible mom!

Published October 30, 2007 10:35AM (EDT)

Dear Reader,

I am thrilled to announce that my new book of collected columns is now available at CaryTennis.com!

Response so far has been remarkable. People who pick it up seem to really love it.

So let me know what you think of the Web site, and please buy a book -- or five! They make great gifts for the holidays!

I am so excited about the book that I could hardly concentrate on writing today. In fact, I found it necessary to sit lotus style, breathe rhythmically and contemplate Britney Spears naked in front of her kids ... in order to quiet the mind sufficiently.

Dear Cary,

Here I am, raising my kids alone, working full-time, chaperoning them around, helping them with homework and projects, watching movies with them, reading books to them, giving them their vitamins, making sure they shower, brush teeth, go to the doctor, get their shots, hug their grandmother, and in general looking over every need with a reasonable amount of contentment, if not a certain amount of exhaustion.

I make decisions for them daily, even hourly ... and the weight of the world rests on some of those decisions, I am convinced. Who they will be and how they will be it could be resting in any one or all of my decisions. I take this responsibility very seriously and work hard to do the right thing for the kids, including working at a job I really, really hate, full-time, in a cube next to my narcissistic asshole boss, and including going to PTA meetings instead of poetry readings ...

That's all fine. I feel like I'm doing all right. I'm reasonably happy, attractive, well-read and sane. Reasonably.

So I don't know if you can imagine my utter shock after reading psychologist after psychologist weigh in on the whole debacle about Britney Spears being naked around 1- and 2-year-old boys, saying that it was damaging to their psyches and she should have her kids taken away just for that alone!

My kids have seen me naked on an almost daily basis since they were born. My son is almost 10 and my daughter 7, and neither has a predisposition toward sexual deviancy or gender confusion that I can tell. They don't think it's a big deal at all. When they had questions about various parts that are different from theirs over the years, I just answered them and we moved on. It's never been a big deal. I have always expected that when my son hits puberty, he will probably not be comfortable with it anymore, and might ask me to stop parading back and forth from the bathroom to my closet without clothes on. At which time I'd oblige by either asking him to leave the room if he's uncomfortable or by putting clothes on, whichever is most convenient at the time. I've always thought that my daughter will hopefully learn that her body is not something to be embarrassed about, no matter how imperfect it might be compared to those in the fashion magazines, and so far, this seems to be all right.

It's not like I go out in public without clothes on, or parade in front of open windows. I have normal amounts of modesty when needed, I think. When I'm naked, I'm not "nekkid." The thought of my young son seeing me in the latter way is just, well, disgusting. Maybe it's the establishment's own sickness that confuses the two states of nudity? Maybe I'm confused and it's all nekkid when you're doing it in front of your kids. Ewww!

Am I missing something? Am I really a bad, bad mom using poor judgment on a daily basis? Are my kids in actuality going to be totally screwed up for the rest of their lives because they've seen me au naturale for all these years? I seriously can say that it never even crossed my mind that it was "bad" until a couple of weeks ago when I saw all those "experts" weighing in. I can also say that it has made me self-conscious for the first time in front of my children as well. Wondering what they're thinking and feeling, when indeed, they're not paying any attention to me at all ... I think ...

Naked vs. Nekkid in Front of the Kids?

Dear Naked vs. Nekkid,

You sound like a great mom, a smart, responsible, levelheaded mom.

So let me remind you of something: Britney Spears being naked in front of her kids has nothing to do with you.


I know you know that. But I just ... I just mean, really, we live in such a crazy, media-saturated, postmodern world where identity is constructed in such goofball and topsy-turvy ways ... that things can get really confusing, but if Britney Spears is nude around her kids, if her kids are nude, if the whole bunch of them are eating ice cream in bed together with Kevin Federline, whatever happens in the world of Britney Spears has nothing to do with your life. This thing came to light because of a personal squabble in the lives of some people that are utterly irrelevant to your life and my life. The life of Kevin Federline might as well be the life of a bug. That world is so distorted by money, power, greed, hunger for fame, drugs, alcohol, egomania, immaturity and bad taste that it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with you or me or anyone not directly related by blood or money to the Spears-Federline clusterfuck of lawyers, attorneys and producers all standing behind their desks talking on the phone naked from the waist down and drinking vodka through sippy straws. I mean, that world -- and I know that world, having worked for a short time in the business of rock journalism -- that world is so corrupt, so crass, so craven and so insane that, really, it has nothing to do with you or me or anyone we know (except maybe my incorruptible rock-journalist friend Tom Lanham who can deal with it only because he is at heart just a boy from the Midwest who loves rock 'n' roll).

I just had to get that off my chest, OK. You hear where I'm coming from? You OK with that? I hope so. All I mean is this: You're doing fine. You're a good mom. It's Britney Spears who's fucked up -- and I don't even know that she's all that fucked up. It's just a whole fucked-up world of publicists and lawyers and celebrity Web sites and photographers and wannabe this and wannabe that and ... yikes! Help!

Now, obviously I'm not a trained child psychologist. I'm just a regular guy. I like to just say what I'm feeling.

But I'm capable of thinking things through, too. And I can look stuff up on the Internet. And I'm still not exactly sure what happened.

My admittedly thin perception of the actual events in question is based on this one New York Daily News story and whatever incoherent gibberish I have been able to decipher off the Internet. So again, I suggest you remember that there are a lot of nuts and crackpots out there making money by talking about Britney Spears naked. It's just like money in the bank to them. It's a business. Nothing wrong with it as a business, I guess, although the kind of people you're likely to meet might make you feel kinda dirty at the end of the day, but that's life. People gotta make a living and you can make money talking about naked Britney Spears. In fact, we'll probably make some money off it right here, today, on this site, just by saying Britney Spears naked! Britney Spears naked! Britney Spears naked! Wow! Britney Spears naked!


If you want a professional opinion on the question of being naked in front of your kids, here is a very balanced and thoughtful perspective from a psychologist who, like me, has heard and is likely to continue to hear ample, passionate opinions from both sides. His name is Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., and he is, to the best of my knowledge, a child psychologist at the Children's Medical Center of Dayton, Ohio, and a columnist for the Dayton Daily News.

Or as family therapist Joanne Baum notes, "It depends on a set of circumstances. How often does it occur," she asks, "and is it that you're getting dressed and your child happens to be nearby? As you're getting in and out of the shower, if the kid walks in the door, that's probably not an issue. But you wouldn't be sitting watching television naked with your kids cuddling up to you. Parents can be seductive with children and be inappropriate with children, so it's more complex than just 'is the parent being undressed?'"

Also, you might consider the academic study "Early Childhood Exposure to Parental Nudity and Scenes of Parental Sexuality ('Primal Scenes'): An 18-Year Longitudinal Study of Outcome," which tentatively concluded, based on the abstract I was able to read (and I love the language here): "It is suggested that pervasive beliefs in the harmfulness of the predictor variables are exaggerated." In other words, seeing your parents naked, or even seeing them having sex, probably isn't really such a big deal after all.

You could buy the whole study for $42 and read it, but I like the abstract's simple conclusion: "Pervasive beliefs in the harmfulness of the predictor variables are exaggerated."

You got that?

Of course, Britney Spears wasn't a part of the study. We'll have to wait to see how her kids turn out.

And won't that be exciting!

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