A den of hungry lions

I’ve realized recently something about myself. There was a party and I separated from the main event with my wife and some of my friends. I used that moment to take off my shoes and be barefoot for a while. My wife and most of my friends know about me going barefoot (it was pretty difficult to hide after the injury and besides, I realized that there’s no point in hiding it), so there were no objections.

When I was required to re-join the main event, I realized I dreaded the idea of going in there barefoot. I asked myself why that is. Some staff saw me barefoot as I walked about just moments ago, but I couldn’t present myself inside for some reason. I looked through the glass window into the brightly lit room with all the people (some completely unknown to me) in it and imagined their reactions to the sight of my bare feet. I tried really hard to imagine the mildest reaction possible from some of them and realized that I’d hate to take all that at once.

I could handle all of them individually, explain to them that I’m fine and used to the “cold” (the ground was actually much warmer than my shoes) and that this all feels really great and not at all uncomfortable. But when there’s a crowd of people, I don’t want to lecture them, they’re harder to dismiss, there’ll be multiple objections to everything I say or do and I can’t answer them all and I can’t ignore them all.

So before I went in, I put my shoes back on.

And now I’m trying to imagine what all that would look like if I was going about completely naked. At times, even my wife is giving me a hard time about it even though I’ve made her comfortable enough to follow my lead occasionally. Our mutual friends have never even appeared shirtless before us, let alone pantless and underpant-less. Their dread of being naked has had a chance to demonstrate on such occasions when the subject of nudity sporadically popped up in our conversations. I’m avoiding asking too many questions because it’s obvious how uncomfortable and even nervous that subject makes them feel.

Even as I imagine the situation where I stood barefoot at the door leading into the party and change it in my mind to make myself stand there completely naked, thinking whether to go in or not, I shudder. I could walk miles naked, hang out with like-minded people without a second thought for hours on end, but that one tiny step over the doorstep seems impossible; unimaginable. Like considering whether I should enter a hungry lions’ den, or walk away from it.

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