Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nipples Believe It or Not

Author’s Note: There are a million stories in the NAKED city; this is one of them. So BARE with me and I will keep you aBREAST of all the facts.
What you are about to read is a true story, sad to say in this day and age. But, upon further review, it is the day and age in which we live that is responsible for this nonsense. I have learned the hard way that when you fight corporations and their peculiar views of the day and age, it is like fighting city hall or butting your head against an immovable object.
Your head hurts and nothing happens … or changes.
The company in question is a major technology corporation in Dallas, but, for this offering, the names have been changed to protect the innocent; which, in this case, is my sweet wife and her loving paycheck. I’d tell you but I also want to stay alive.
And we begin:
It is said a blind squirrel gets acorns, too; that a stopped watch is right twice a day.
As a photographer, I have my moments; I find the acorn. One such acorn turned out to be the Saturday before Father’s Day when I took my wife, son and granddaughter, Riley, the MOST adorable 18-month-old little girl ever (strictly an opinion of total objectivity) to the Oak Point Recreation Center pool in Plano, Texas. It was hot and the water was not, and Riley is the kind of little child who fears nothing – least of all the water.
So, for 90 minutes or so, until the sun was too much to stand, we played in calf-deep water for me (waist deep for her). Riley would plop in the water, putting her head under the waterline and think it was great. No fear, as I said. She would run under the cascading water falling from tall towers as they were made for her pleasure.
And when Robert lifted her in his arms, I took a photo with the digital camera I carried because it is my want to document everything and every moment I spend with her. Later that night, it was apparent that the shot was that acorn – a moment of perfect joy and exuberance caught at the exact second.
SO proud were we of the photograph, I wanted to share it with the word. And the first opportunity came in the form of an art contest sponsored by the wife’s employer. We had entered a couple of years before with photo shots from past vacations (Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Boston Harbor, Saguaro National Park in Tucson), but this one just felt like a winner.
Off went the e-mailed form to a central entry point, with an attached image of what it would look like (as required by the company). As we prepared to frame the photo, this communiqué arrived in my wife’s work e-mail from the company’s director of public affairs.
“Thanks for your image submission. (I hate doing this, but it is a necessary part of my job.) Would you mind cropping the man’s nipple out of the picture? Since this is a corporate art show and we have a diverse group of employees that we try to be sensitive to, I need for this small change to be made both in the physical print and electronic image for it to be included in the show. Other than that, it’s fine.
“Thanks for your understanding. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

To say the least, I was shocked; jaw-droppingly, stutteringly, head-shakingly stunned. How was completely altering the image, by chopping off a part of my son’s anatomy (which was a natural thing to see … IN A SWIMMING POOL) … violate someone’s “sensitivity?” You have GOT to be kidding me, right?
So I penned (and e-mailed) the following response:
“I cannot comprehend anything on that image that would be deemed too ‘sensitive’ or, according to the stated rules of the contest, ‘considered inappropriate to display within (the company).’
“The photo is that of my son, holding his daughter (my granddaughter) during a recent visit to a Plano swimming pool. Both are completely and appropriate attired for the event, something every single employee of (the company) would be under the exact same circumstance.
“It is a photo of their joy, which I tried to have expressed through the picture and the entry. If that is considered too ‘inappropriate’ for entry into an art contest at (the company), then I cannot think of any entry that would be ‘appropriate.’
“However, in order to avoid any conflicts, and owning to the right that (the company) possesses to control its own contest and display on its premises, I respectfully withdraw this entry. As the artist, I cannot consent to any alteration of the image, something also is stated in the contest rules.
“I do not find anything shown to be overly sensitive or inappropriate. It is what it is – their (and my) happiness.”

I signed the note “Charles Bloom” in order to know I meant business. Had I really wanted to show I was mad, I would have done what my parents used to do when they were angry with me – use my full birth certificate moniker – Charles Andrew Bloom. That was a signal to my brain to look out below (usually nearer to my backside).
And as I read this, using “the company” so much, you’d think it was the CIA – yeah, the crop image agency.
Meanwhile, back at the work station, the wife forwarded my letter and a question: “What was wrong with this?” to the company’s top diversity person. And this was the response:
“Although I personally do not find it objectionable, this is probably one not worth quibbling over in the grand scheme of things. And that is really a shame because I see this as something special between dad and daughter.”
Hey, if this person got it, why couldn’t EVERYONE have the chance to get it? In other words, this executive-type person couldn’t explain the problem, but didn’t want to rock the boat; corporate types tend to stick together.
A few days later, the company’s public affairs person relayed another message:
(The company) has a very diverse population and we try our best to create a safe and comfortable workplace for everybody. Please know that cropping the nipple out of the image in order to include it in (the company)’s show was the decision of (the company)’s ethics department and not mine, alone. We would love to have you still participate in the show and welcome any additional pieces you would like to submit.”
Ethics?!? When did ethics enter into the picture?!? When did a man’s nipple become “unethical?” Uh, before or after God created it in his own image?!? IT’S A PICTURE … for God’s sake!
The dictionary definition of “ethics” is “a system of moral principles; the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.; moral principles, as of an individual; or that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”
I fail to see the word “nipple” anywhere. Corporations, however, equate ethics with behavior and somehow nipples on a man in a swimming pool fail their standard.
Still, I checked with MY “ethics” department and it wouldn’t allow me to stoop that low in order to find something ethical, un-sensitive and appropriate enough to contemplate entering. I will not crop; I will not edit; I will not change the image. It is what it is. A NIPPLE!
Then my mind went into overdrive – creating puns that flowed like water off one of those play towers in the pool. Nipple-gate. “Nippled” in the bud. The “breast” that you can be. An old Doctor Demento classic tune, “(Do you like) Boobs Alot,” began rolling around in my head. It was followed by another old song by The Band, “Chest Fever.”
OK, that’s enough.
The photo in question will now go into the Bloom household Hall of Fame. I remain proud of my photographic effort. However, I will resist getting one of those pasties required by Dallas strip club dancers to wear and plastering it on the aforementioned area of Robert’s anatomy.
After all, I know when I’m licked … all over.
That’s how it is in the NAKED City. And now tit’s over.

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