A few readers have called to ask whether the Daily Press plans to take a stance on the recent court ruling stating that if men can go topless in public, so can women. To be honest, I'm ambivalent. I wouldn't shuck my duds in public. No one wants to see a woman of nearly 60 out there floppin'.
For those who haven't been keeping up with current events, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling last month, based on an equal rights case in Fort Collins, Colorado. Oklahoma falls under the jurisdiction of this court, but Attorney General Mike Hunter has already said his office will continue to enforce "public decency" laws. Local law enforcement entities have followed suit.
The three people with whom I've talked disagreed on degrees of boob nudity. The man thought it was fine, but subsequent comments he made suggested he's not someone in front of whom a woman could safely bare her breasts. I thought I heard drops of saliva hit the microphone on his cell phone. One of the women was torn. She wanted women to breastfeed without ridicule, but she added that lactating ladies would likely be in their early 40s or younger, so they wouldn't be creating a shuddersome sight. Perhaps, she speculated, only younger women should be allowed to prance about sans shirts - and then, she realized how that sounded, and she apologized.
The second woman made me chuckle. She was a little irritated by it all, she said, but it wouldn't be the first time in U.S. history that the untethered mammary had been celebrated. "This is just what them hippie women been wantin' for more'n 50 years," she groused. She then explained how she'd seen adherents of this free-spirited movement in San Francisco. "I was offended, 'cause that just ain't right, with them little kids around and what-not." She admitted if she'd been 10 or 15 years younger and in college, she might've felt differently. Doing the math, I decided she must have been pushing 90 - a member of the category the other caller felt should accept the bare breast ban with dignity.
The woman then said, "You're pretty young; have you ever seen wunna them hippies?" That's when I laughed, because I knew my guess on her age had been correct. Only someone in at least her eighth decade would refer to a 59-year-old as "pretty young." I told her I was 7 when the "Summer of Love" took place, but I saw a few people in my hometown wearing tie-dyed shirts, headbands and beads. Some of the women had, as my mother whispered in disapproval, "forgotten to put on their bras" before going out in public. My dad was more blunt. He snorted and said the women had probably "burned their bras on the town square." I asked where that was: Fort Gibson, as far as I can recall, doesn't have a "town square" - at least, not in the sense that Tahlequah does. He amended his allegation to suggest the bonfire occurred at the fort.
Has anyone ever seen a bra being burned? I've always thought that phrase was a metaphor, as opposed to the book-burnings that crop up during darker periods of history. I'm convinced the tales of flaming fabric are urban legends - like the hippies my father claimed to have seen in the late '60s when we were camping at Lake Texoma.
My dad and uncles had a set of binoculars, which they trained on the next campsite over. They insisted they'd seen these hippies "wiping their butts on the American flag." This was another claim I'd heard repeated about hippies, but I suspect if any were desecrating flags, it would've been by burning them, instead of the bras, as a constitutionally protected form of protest. I can't imagine anyone thinking that putting such a private act as toilet etiquette on public display would win any sympathizers.
According to my dad and his brothers, the hippies were engaging in all sorts of vile acts. Labels like "dirty hippie" and "commie pinko" were flung about like pendulous breasts beneath the gauzy smocks. I could see the six people wandering rather slowly around their camp, smoking - something. They were dressed differently than we were, and their hair was long and a little scraggly, but I saw no evidence to suggest they were bereft of hygiene.
One accusation was accurate, though. At one point, one of the men with the binoculars said incredulously, "She's deliberately exposing her crack!" This was discussed by the men, as the wives grew apoplectic. Possibly fearing reprisal, the men put down the binocs on the picnic table and busied themselves with more fruitful activities. When no one was looking, I picked up the binocs. The woman in question was sitting with her back to me, and I could see about 2 inches of her crack. She was wearing one of those swimsuits that has a net one-piece over a bikini. Im retrospect, I doubt she had any idea her rear end was showing.
Speaking of hippies, as I wrapped up this piece, I got word that Jane Fonda had been arrested, but her violation stemmed from a less radical protest than the one in which she took the side of the "enemy" in Vietnam. She's been trying to shine a spotlight on climate change - and this time, she got hauled off with Sam Waterson. Tsk, tsk. Jack McCoy in handcuffs. I think it happened once in "Law & Order," but that time, Adam Schiff bailed him out. We'll see what happens next.