By Marshall Chapman

I’ve never been big on clothes. I’m not talking about fashion here. But clothes. The things that cover our bodies. I am especially leery of clothes that constrict in any way.

When I was a child growing up in South Carolina, a print of Gauguin’s Two Tahitian Women hung on the wall in our breakfast room. Bare-breasted women holding mango blossoms? On a remote island in Tahiti? My five-year-old mind took careful note.

About that same time, my grandfather had begun taking home movies. In one, my sister Mary and I are positioned together in brand new, matching, two-piece sun suits. Mary poses like a model, while smiling at the camera, looking happy as can be. I, on the other hand, look miserable, as I scowl at the assembled adults, while trying with all my might to pull the bottom of my sun suit down. The elastic in the waist band was annoying me no end.

Perhaps that sun suit is to blame, but the truth is . . . I haven’t owned a swim suit in over thirty-five years.

One time I was at Pawley’s Island with three women I grew up with in South Carolina. This was in 1991. The four of us were staying at Snug Harbor, a rambling old beach house owned for generations by the Harrelson family from Sumter. Lucy Harrelson was our host.

While there, I had taken to nude sunbathing every afternoon on a second-floor deck that faced the ocean. To ensure privacy, I draped a couple of bedspreads along the railing that faced the house next door. Okay. So one afternoon I’m lying there in a state of bliss, soaking up the sun’s rays, when suddenly my reverie is shattered by the voice of an angry woman yelling at the top of her lungs—PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!!!

When I told Lucy what had happened, she immediately went up to the deck and removed her bathing suit top, then proceeded to vigorously shake her ample bosoms at the house next door. “Damn renters!” she spat under her breath.

I recently played a nun in a movie called Novitiate. My character is Sister Louisa, an older nun who loses her mind, then walks naked through the refectory where all the other nuns are having dinner. “Please make way for my untouched, virginal body!” Sister Louisa shouts, as diners gasp, giggle, and cross themselves.

A part of me was waiting for someone to yell, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!!!, but it never happened.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit www.tallgirl.com.

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