I was brought up in a fairly conservative household. My dad wasn't the type to walk around in his underwear, and my mom wouldn't be caught dead without a robe over a long nightgown, even if she was just hanging out and watching TV. As most kids do, I took this in and assumed that it was the norm. Until one day when I went over a new friend's house to stay over, and walked by an open bathroom door. I was greeted by the sight of my friend's mother, on the toilet, cheerfully talking on her giant portable phone. Shocked, I turned bright red and stuttered an apology, while practically breaking my leg to get to the safety of my friend's room. When I busted through her bedroom door, I saw that she was standing in front of a mirror, naked, blow-drying her hair. "Sorry!" I said, and started to back out of the room.

"What are you sorry for?" she asked, spraying more Aqua Net into her perm.

"I didn't realize you were getting dressed," I answered, from outside the door.

"Oh...I don't care. Come on in! I'm almost done."

This whole situation felt a bit weird to me, but whatever...everyone has a different comfort level with nudity, right? Hiding outside would only create uncomfortable tension, so I came in and sat on her bed while she continued to tease her bangs and apply sky blue mascara. I attempted to look everywhere but at her, but I think she was literally the first naked person I had seen in real life. Every time I looked at her, all I could think was, "I am talking to a naked person right now."

As if this wasn't uncomfortable enough, her naked mom walked in and started talking about all the random things that normally clothed family members talk about. As they discussed chores and plans and appointments, all I could focus on was the fact that two naked (related!) people were having the world's most banal conversation in front of me. It was so boring, yet the naked factor had brought things to a whole other level.

Since then, I have seen lots of naked people, and my attitude has shifted along with my age. Nudity is no longer something shocking or off-putting...but I still remember how it felt when I lacked exposure (no pun intended) to the sight of an unclothed human body. I try to always keep that in mind when I am with patients, and since my goal is to make their experience here as comfortable as I possibly can, I always err on the side of keeping patients overly covered. It's always better to overestimate their sensitivities to being exposed, than to leave someone feeling vulnerable on the table.