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  • I got my first job in construction in New York, assisting a fellow artist.
    He had seen me grinding limestone blocks for lithography and noticed I had strong arms.
    He needed an assistant for some weekend work at a club that was opening on 14th street called Nell’s.
    Nell was a celebrity and personality with shocking red hair and lipstick to match.

    One day, while I was painting the walls in the kitchen at Nell’s, she came in, to change clothes for a photo shoot.
    She chatted with me, asked where I was from, what I did, talked about how excited she was to be opening this her place, a social club where people could relax and have fun she said.
    I was focused on my work and answering her questions, but I turned around at one point and she was stark naked and pulling on a dress.
    She was so indifferent to her own nakedness that I felt at ease.
    It was her place, after all.

    When I was 8 years old my friend, Helen, told me that I had well developed biceps.
    I had no idea what she meant by that and was afraid to ask her.
    I was afraid to ask my Mother too, the word sounded wrong, like it meant something that you weren’t supposed to say.
    It sounded like something my other friend, Anne, had mentioned, about the ‘Birds and the Bees’.
    When I asked her what that meant she told me to ask my parents.
    But I did not want to ask my parents.
    My friend Anne had lived in Turkey for a year where women walked on the public beaches with their tops off.
    Or so she said.
    I finally asked my brothers and they explained what a bicep was.
    Oh, is that all.
    Why didn’t she just say so?

    When I was going through chemo, 10 years ago, I lost my hair and wore an uncomfortable wig.
    I felt bad about the way I looked, puffy faced and with baby butt smooth, baldhead.
    One night I had a dream.
    It was a classic dream about being in a grade school assembly, and this time I was fully naked, not just in my underwear.
    But I stopped for a moment, in this dream, and thought to myself, while still dreaming, that this was perfectly natural.
    It was not my problem, being naked; it was for other people to accept me as I was, and as I am.
    It was all right to be naked.
    Even better being unafraid.
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