Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.
In her latest blog, Röhm — who is mom to 2½-year-old daughter Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — recalls her free-spirited mother’s exhibitionist streak during her childhood, realizing that she herself may be more conservative with Easton than she initially thought!
I was raised by a free-spirited hippie chick who let it all hang out. Literally! She was all about having no hang-ups, communication, accountability, telling the truth and keeping it real — maybe sometimes too real.
In turn, I am a grown-up person who loves to talk and am open about my true experiences and feelings. I’m not one for masks. Truly, my mother was perfect in oh so many ways, but something new dawned on me last night. Could it be my mother may have had a flaw?
The question of nudity in the home came up at dinner last night amongst a few of our friends. Now because my mom was always streaking in her true bohemian way, I will say that I am very comfortable with my body and do not judge myself harshly over extra pounds and such.
My mother was not the typical beauty that we see glamorized in magazines, and she impressed upon me the value and gorgeousness of our many shapes, sizes, colors and textures. She didn’t think thin was beautiful or not; in her estimation it was just one expression of beauty.
Thankfully, because my mom was so open with her own body I’ve never been embarrassed with mine, or apologetic of its often fluctuating form. Which is hugely important, I’d say! Although — contrary to popular belief — nude scenes are not my favorite!
To add to my unconventional childhood and the parental figures in it who set the tone of my adult life, I also had a step-mother who is a free spirit. Different from my mom’s 70s pursuit of freedom, my step-mother was an 80s rebel who — to this day — makes her own rules and doesn’t ask for permission to live a life of happiness.
On that note, she was also someone who streaked around, sunbathed topless, walked around naked and might be seen wearing a sexy, revealing outfit. I have felt looking back that these two wild women left their indelible mark on me in the most positive of ways. I too, see myself as a free-spirit and not self-conscious a bit.
Until last night’s dinner, that is. When a group of our friends were talking about our kids as usual, it suddenly dawned on me that I might be more conservative than I’d always thought. As I said, the subject of nudity in the home and in front of the children came up. I realized that I don’t sleep in the nude, I don’t think Ron and I should make it a habit to walk around naked and that — although I’ve loved bathing and showering with Easton over the last several years — it might be nearing its natural end.
As the many different opinions were flying around the table, I thought to myself, somewhat perplexed, “Who am I? I thought I was the person who’d be saying, ‘The less shy you are with your body the more comfortable your kid will be with theirs.’” Right? That makes sense! The cooler and more relaxed you are on the whole subject of all things body-oriented, the better adjusted they will be with their own bodies. This always rang true to me.
So why was I suddenly realizing that I might be a tad prudish? Could it be possible that the openness and free-spirited nature of my childhood had made me somewhat more private than I had previously recognized? I guess all that nudity in my childhood has made me equally concerned with the subjects of privacy and boundaries. And no, I’m not more comfortable with the lights off when I undress!
Dinner was quite revealing, to say the least! The husband of one of my best friends, who is a great go-to dad (they have three daughters so he has the “been there done that” attitude that’s so helpful to new parents like us) piped up and said that he stopped walking around naked when his first daughter was 2½.
She wandered into his closet when he was getting dressed and innocently said, “Oh, your penis. How I’ve missed it.” He was stunned. Shocked, he turned to her and said, “You can never, never say that. Not ever.”
He said from then on he began to be more conscious of her awareness, although he stated that he still showered with her from time to time for several more months not wanting to make a big deal out of the closet incident. Then of course, they had two more girls so he became even more buttoned-up. There went his free-spirited nature!
Most of my girlfriends — like myself — bathe and shower with their children (who are all about ages 2-4), and as a mentor of mine said, “Hold them close for as long as you can. Be affectionate. It goes by so quickly!” So, to sleep naked or not to sleep naked? To sunbathe topless or not?
We want our children to feel comfortable with their bodies, confident in their appearance and free with their expression of themselves. However, it is also important to know you have the right to privacy and that your boundaries should be voiced and acknowledged. People need their space … some more than others. Where to find that delicate balance?
I loved my mother’s free-spirited nature. To this day and forever, her spirit is what gives me the courage to play by my own rules and to not ask permission in my pursuit of happiness. But I can distinctly remember wanting her to wear a few more garments as time went by.
Not to mention, sometimes I didn’t want to talk about my feelings. Sometimes I just wanted to be left alone and not be open. I think that is natural too. Walking the line of not being inhibited but also not being exhibitionists; I think promoting both is important. To each his own, right?
Where do you stand, PEOPLE.com readers? Are you of the hippie vibe, or not so much? Should we bare it all?!
– Elisabeth Röhm