Doublespeak and the naked truth: a Northwestern story

Jonathan Katz

For a moment, we were naked.

But that’s not the story.

See, first of all, not all of us were naked. Not literally. Seven or eight thousand of us — myself included — were dressed, or at the very least a little unclothed in private. Most of us were just doing homework or updating our résumé or sneaking into The Keg with a fake ID that the guy on the Internet swore would look just like it was from Wyoming. But that’s not news, and so that’s not the story either.

A week ago tonight, four members of our community looked around and saw our uptightness. They saw our brown-nosing and our career-destined drive to conform. And so, in the dim light of somebody else’s apartment, they shed their clothes and laughed.

They were naked and vulnerable and the rest of us still had pants or a shower curtain between the world and our genitals. That was funny, but still not the story.

Moments later, the girl who owned that apartment and had organized the party started yelling at them for sitting on her couch naked. That’s not the story, because you would yell too if four naked strangers with mystery hygiene were sitting on your upholstery without any underwear on. It’s especially not the story because the whole affair had been advertised as an open-invite “naked party,” so the scene shouldn’t have been much a surprise to anyone involved in the planning.

In any case, after a brief confrontation, the strangers ceased their naked couch-sitting and resumed their naked alcohol consumption. At some point, one of the strangers recalled that admission to the party was advertised as free for anyone who showed up in the buff. He hadn’t been in the buff when he came in, but he sure as heck was now, so he went up to one of the fully-clothed organizers and asked for his $5 back. He was obliged.

Seeing this, the stranger’s three friends found another organizer and asked for their collective $15 donation to be returned in kind. They explained that the flier advertising the party said that partial nudity warranted a $2 discount and that complete nudity was a free pass inside. But this organizer refused. Again, this is not necessarily the story, because breakdowns in communication occur all the time.

Some time passed. More alcohol was consumed. And soon, the alcohol needed to pass as well. So the four strangers ceased their naked drinking and decided to begin standing naked in line for the bathroom.

And then, a flash bulb popped. And then another. And maybe a third or a fourth as well. Pretty soon, to the drunk and naked strangers in line, it seemed like the whole world was passing by to take their photograph. This might not be the story either, since folks have been trained for years to take pictures of things which are strange or out of the ordinary. And though four naked guys at a college party — especially a naked college party — should not have seemed that odd, well, this is Northwestern. People don’t get naked much around here.

Yelling ensued. The couch-defending organizer returned and joined the fray, and soon, the strangers discovered that the novelty of their presence had worn off. The nude were not welcome at the naked party.

The strangers protested. They just wanted to have fun. To let go. To relieve themselves.

But the organizer would have none of it. They had to get dressed and get out. They were rude, they were drunk and, worst of all, they were naked.

The strangers protested again. They cursed. They spit. And they invoked the flier, the one that spelled out the rules of admission, the one that said to come naked.

And then it hit them. “The whole naked thing was just a gimmick,” the organizer said. “Now get out.”

They gathered their clothes and left. Life at NU returned to normal. And once more, the story ended before it could begin.