My friend and I boated across the lake to meet her neighbors, a couple in their 60’s. “Nice to meet you,” they said warmly, shaking hands. “Come on, the sauna’s ready.” And suddently, there we all were, people who had just met each other two minutes ago, sitting naked and sweating in close quarters. Somehow it all seemed perfectly natural. Extraordinary how ordinary nakedness quickly becomes when you have a whole culture behind you saying, “Hey, This is what we do. No big deal.” And so it wasn’t. We jumped naked into the cold lake, back to the sauna, back to the lake, a three-bath event, sat a bit outside in towels swatting mosquitoes, got dressed and had a light dinner inside with convivial conversation, no mosquitoes and not the slightest hint that we had been sitting around undressed just a few minutes earlier. The Finnish way, I guess.
Now I’m at the airport about to board Turkish Airlines for Istanbul. Several women have their head covered in scarves and are wearing long-sleeves blouses and long dresses. I can’t help but wonder if they were invited to any Finnish saunas and what that would have been like. But between naked in two minutes and a lifetime in public covered from head-to-toe in some cultures, one thinks about how completely arbirtrary and random human culture is. If enough people decide to agree that certain parts of the body are too shameful or private or sexy to be shown in public, it quickly becomes the truth.
So watching people boarding the plane, I played a little game with myself, imagining our nostrils as indecent parts of the human anatomy. Within minutes, suddenly everybody’s nostrils seemed a bit weird and grotesque (which if your really study them, they kind of are!). I imagined that if I could talk a handful of other folks into snickering and pointing and making fun of people’s nostrils, that suddenly the stock in Nostril Coverings would skyrocket.
So I’m considering both a sociological study and a get-rich-quick scheme—The Nostril Project. Spread the word that nostrils are unfit to be seen publicly while simultaneously manufacturing all different styles of nostril covers, from basic to chic, in gradated skin tones. Get a little Youtube clip of hot models showing the choices to go viral and within a month, two important things will have been accomplished. 1) I will both have proved that human beings are completely out of their minds. 2) I will made enough money to retire.
Of course, once all nostrils are decently covered, there still will be one place where you can reveal your naked nostrils without shame. You guessed it—the Finnish sauna.