Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 13 March 2016


Naked Truth

Without thinking
I barged into her room
only to find her praying.

She paused
and looked up in silence
like the time she caught me spying
as she undressed.

But then she did not cover herself:
her arms even fell by her sides
so that I could see better.

But all I could see were her eyes.

9 November 1988

The problem with the truth, the real truth, is that it’s not simple and as such can’t be expressed in simple terms. What’s going on in this poem? Someone, presumably a man, intrudes on a woman while she’s praying and his mind is immediately thrown back to a previous invasion of privacy only that time there was intent: he wanted to see. Seeing is important to men. I’m told it’s not as important to women but I’m a man and I just can see why anyone wouldn’t want to see. Seeing’s great. It’s also disappointing because once you see you’ve seen; the past tense rushes in and ruins everything. Voyeurs want to see more than most, they’ll go out of their way to see things, but the turn on is not being seen seeing. If they know you’re watching then it’s spoiled. They change. They perform or chide you or close the curtains. Or scream, “Muuuuum! He’s doing it again.”


Kass said...

So many ways to be naked. Even words can strip you bare. The explanation of this particular take on voyeurism - so revealing.

Jim Murdoch said...

A while back I got to see the film adaptation of Under the Skin, Kass. I was looking forward to it because I enjoyed the book although I was aware up from that the director’s take on the book was, to put it mildly, different. I had also heard that the film included a naked Scarlett Johansson which was a bonus. I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing her naked—that’s smacks of childish glee and I’m well beyond that—but I cannot pretend I wasn’t curious. In that respect the film did not disappoint—she appears fully naked several times—but I was still disappointed. I didn’t like the director’s take and I wasn’t that impressed with Miss Johansson’s bits and pieces. If I can dwell on the latter for the moment. As I was watching there was a little voice inside me that said, “So what did you EXPECT to see?” Well I didn’t really expect anything but all I saw was a naked girl, a little on the dumpy side if I’m being honest but then so was Marilyn Monroe. Over the years I’ve seen women of all shapes and sizes, from Chesty Morgan down to flat-as-a-pancake Jane Horrocks in The Dressmaker. What more is there to see? But I’ll look just in case. Just in case WHAT? In case she’s got three boobs? Seen that (the first Total Recall).

Writers are a special kind of voyeur. I’ll watch pretty much anything if I think I might get an idea from it. The new book, Left, when I get round to working on it, features a woman who finds herself watching a man-boy getting changed. I often watch what my neighbours are up to when I’m doing the dishes and mostly all I see are other people doing dishes but occasionally I see a “scene” play out and it’s these we gems I’m on the lookout for. Bits of reality. It’s SO important that they be real.

PhilipH said...

You could be Tom, he of the peeping fame, Jim.

If ANY male denies loving to have a butchers at a bare bint the he's a liar. And that goes for many a gal, too.

That was a highly erotic poem Jim. Loved it.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you, Philip. Oddly enough I don’t find the poem even slightly erotic. Even though it’s purely fictional—despite having a sister who was perpetually in some state of undress in her late teens—I never blundered in on her naked or even topless. Nor did I ever see her praying. When you pray you bare your soul and that’s really what I was getting at here, the eyes being the windows to the soul and all that rot. It’s easy taking your clothes off but revealing our true selves is another thing. Voyeurism for me as a writer, as I was saying to Kass, is all about glimpsing truth and nakedness is actually a distraction.

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