It was Friday August 24, 2012. I went with two of my girl friends to the ByTowne Cinema in downtown Ottawa to watch ‘Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present’. After the movie we went for dinner in the ByWard Market. The evening was suppose to end there, but instead we decided to head over to the recently opened Mugshots Bar at the HI Jail Hostel so that we could have one last drink before heading our separate ways.
However, upon arriving at the HI Jail Hostel we were surprised to see that the parking lot had been converted into a party zone as part of the Ottawa Pride Festivities. Organized by House of SAS, the parking lot was covered by a large white party tent. The pavement of the parking lot was covered by red carpet and throughout the venue were several big screen TVs, a food stand, a very large bar, a photo booth and a stage to accommodate the many scheduled musical and DJ performances of the night.
The sign at the entrance read ‘Cirque du Bizarre: Come as you are’. My two friends were quite excited about checking out this party regardless of the $15 cover charge required for entry.
Once inside we noticed that several people were dressed-up in a rather funky manner, which fit naturally in-line with the title of the event. I mean it wouldn’t be a circus, let alone bizarre, if everybody was simply wearing their regular office attire.
I was lucky to cross paths with the head organizer, who easily gave away her title by the amount of lanyards and ID badges strung around her neck. I asked her if it would be appropriate for me to wear my birthday suit considering that this was a ”come as you are” event. She quickly approved and gave me permission to get naked.
By this time my two friends were sitting on the white couch that was part of the photo booth, ready to have their photo taken. I told the photographer that the head organizer had given me permission to wear my birthday suit, and he simply proceeded to give me his own nod of approval, as if stripping down to my skin in public was a totally normal thing that every other person did.
I told my two girl friends that I was going to get naked. While one of them begged me not to do it, the other totally encouraged such an endeavor. Within seconds I was naked in public and in just as much time I could already hear applause and positive comments from the crowd of folks standing nearby.
I proceeded to sit down in between my two friends on the striking white couch so that the photographer could capture one of the most amazing moments of my life. Clearly my one friend who at first was not keen on the idea of seeing my clothes come off was now without any objections.
Not long after I put my clothes back on, only to have them immediately removed by one of the staff members on site. In other words my nudity at this event was more than welcome. From there I stayed naked for the remainder of the night, busting my moves on the dance floor until closing time.
Throughout the night I did not receive a single negative comment. Instead, I was privy to endless fist bumps, winks and smiles from women and men alike. One person thanked me for ”having the courage to do what so many others are unable to do”. Somebody else who was visiting from Montreal mentioned that they had never witnessed such a thing back home and were pleased to see such a confident act in small town Ottawa.
It is true that getting naked in public requires a fair dose of courage and self-confidence. It is also true that Ottawa is a small town, known to be very conservative, for that is where the nucleus of the federal government resides.
Looking back on that night, I was more than happy to take the conservative out of Ottawa and to put the bizarre into the circus. After all we only live once, right?