This question arises from a book of photographs we recently obtained for one of our more non-schizophrenic patrons. In a spirit of curiosity about the photographer and his work, I opened the book to a random page and saw the photograph in question. The photograph itself bore the caption, Kent, England, 1968, and depicted a nudist couple sitting on a park bench. The man in the photograph is drinking a cup of tea—it could be coffee or some other cup-borne beverage, but for the sake of stereotype I am assuming that the gentleman in question is drinking tea—and the woman is knitting something or other. I instantly closed the book with a loud bang, a bang so loud that no fewer than three teenagers actually came out of their angst-ridden self-involvement to see what was going on, but it was too late; the photograph had seared itself into my memory and led inexorably to the question at hand.
Knitting, for a nudist, would appear a bit counterintuitive, as when you go to a kosher restaurant that serves a great cheeseburger. A nudist may knit for many reasons unrelated to fashion; for example, a nudist knit a blanket, which is not clothing, though you could wear one in a pinch—in fact, wearing a blanket in some situations could stimulate a pinch and the concomitant sexual harassment suit, but in general blankets are not thought of as clothing. A nudist might also spend some time knitting an afghan, though I’m sure the Afghan would find the prospect of having some naked infidel knitting him with a pair of needles more than a little disconcerting, to say the least. My grandmother, and yes, this is a totally irrelevant aside having nothing to do with the subject, was very fond of knitting afghans, although she always insisted on knitting them fully clothed, which we were always grateful for.
I never actually saw her finish an afghan, though—she always seemed to be working on the same one whenever she came up from the great metropolis to stay with us here in our happy little burg for the summers; and I sometimes wonder if she knew how to finish them once she’d gotten started. I’m pretty sure that the afghan she was working on the week she died was the same one she’d been working on since she came to this country in 1929, well after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War made it impossible for large numbers of Jewish intellectuals to remain in an increasingly anti-Semitic Soviet Union. I don’t know what that has to do with knitting nudists or my grandmother, since my grandmother knit, and knit like a woman possessed with a knitting demon, she was neither a nudist, Jewish, or an intellectual, even if she liked listening to Toscanini on the radio.
My grandparents did come to this country in the late 1920’s, which was after the Bolsheviks’ October Revolution, but so was every other year after 1917, and coming as they did from Liverpool I am certain that the Russian Revolution played very little part in their lives, even if my grandfather knew all the words to the Internationale. He also knew all the words to It’s a long way to Tipperary, what with him being a veteran of the Great War and all. Now that I think about it, we still have the afghan Grandma was knitting right up to the time of her death. It’s up in the attic and we had a hell of a time getting it all to fit; there must be a couple thousand sheep’s worth of wool in the thing. I think we’ve been using the thing for insulation ever since Grandma passed away.
So for the interior design-minded nudist, knitting afghans would be just the thing to liven up a dull living room. Or they could make clothing for their non-nudist relatives, if doing so didn’t go entirely against their principles. I could be wrong about that. Nudists tend to cling to their principles, even when those principles seem to make little practical sense. Nudism, when viewed objectively in the altogether, is a most distressing sight, a nineteenth century philosophy with very little basis in scientific fact, but whose adherents tend to hold on to the tenets of that philosophy with ever greater determination the more one tries to disprove those tenets. Nudism shares this absolute determination to hang on to their core dogmas no matter what with other nineteenth century quackeries like Marxism, phrenology, and the odd idea that the Earth is a hollow ball filled with other hollow balls, some which contain equal proportions of raspberry jelly beans and chocolate cupcakes. Adolf Hitler believed passionately in this idea, but he was a vegetarian as well, and prolonged consumption of vegetables can foster odd ideas in those people already inclined to hang by their fingernails off the lunatic fringe.
In addition to the original question, this corollary also arises: why would anyone want to be a sun-worshipping nudist in England, a country not otherwise noted for the consistency of its good weather. It seems odd at best, being a sun worshipper in a country with so little sun to speak of, but I suppose it could be done, up to a certain, carefully calculated point. There are, after all, no famous Eskimo nudists, and there’s a good reason for that.
So, after much fumbling and stumbling about, we still have our original question, and no nearer finding an answer for it, no matter what Socrates thought about asking questions. The unexamined life is not something most nudists have to worry about, especially if they appear in Playboy or Penthouse, and the question of why nudists knit will continue to haunt moral philosophers. Not all nudists knit, however; in the extensive research I did for this essay I did discover a crocheting circle of nudist Unitarian grandmothers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, so perhaps needlework is not so foreign to nudists as I originally thought, or maybe more nudists are willing to compromise on the non-essential aspects of their philosophy than many nudist leaders would have the general public believe. This is a matter for further study, just as soon as the kid next door gives me back my copy of this month’s Playboy.