Snow: Sorry, Mama, I can’t answer that question

asnow@newsobserver.comMarch 29, 2014 

When my grandson was here last, I escorted him to the shower for his bedtime bath.

He stood in his shorts as I adjusted the water’s temperature.

“You can go now, Snowdaddy,” he said, and closed the door behind me as I left.

Such modesty is refreshing in a culture where modesty seems to be going to hell in a handbasket.

When I was a boy and my mother’s sense of propriety was offended by, for example, someone at church wearing a low-cut blouse, Mama would sigh and mutter, “What is this world coming to?”

When I read about the current epidemic of teenagers posting naked photos of themselves and/or their male and female friends, on the Internet, my mother’s exclamation of despair echoes in my mind. “What is this world coming to?”

I grew up in a large family in a rural area that probably overdid the privacy thing. A popular family legend purported that my great Aunt Lottie’s husband never saw her deformed foot until the wedding night.

Back then, city kids were less shy than we rural youngsters were. My older sister’s kids from Winston-Salem often spent summers with us, helping on the farm.

When we were out playing or working in the fields and needed to relieve ourselves, the Snow boys would step behind a tree or a building.

Not the Sechrist boys! They were always challenging us to urinating contests – how high, how far, how straight the stream.

You can also imagine the bloodbath of embarrassment when, during World War II, thousands of shy farm youths were thrust into what amounted to a worldwide locker room.

On induction day at Fort Bragg, as we waited stark naked for our physicals, I noticed a strapping fellow, obviously from the boondocks. Declining to sit on a bench with the rest of us, he crouched on the floor in a corner, covering his privates with his hands.

In all my time overseas in the South Pacific, I never felt completely comfortable sitting in an outdoor latrine with two other men. The situation was not conducive to intellectual conversation.

Any man who has spent any time in a hospital knows he might as well check his modesty at the admitting desk. Wouldn’t you think that a country that can send a man to the moon and install hearts in humans could by now have designed a hospital gown that will stay on the shoulder, one that would give the patient the option of exposing his frontside or his backside as he strolls down the hall?

You’d think that athletes, of all people, would soon become adjusted to communal nudity. Not true. At least not in one case.

A favorite columnist, the late Lewis Grizzard of the Atlanta Journal, once wrote a column about a highly-sought-after high school football star by the name of Andre Hastings. Andre refused to sign with any school that would not guarantee him a private bath.

Grizzard quoted a mythical Coach Hardrock of Cheat U: “I’ve got six BMW convertibles and three cheerleaders to give away, and this kid wants a private bathroom.”

When Andre eventually enrolled at the University of Georgia, I personally called the sports information director there and asked if the prize recruit had a private bath.

“Of course not,” he said. “Just like everybody else, he’s in a four-man suite with one bath.”

Law enforcement and Wake schools administrators are trying to deal with online nudity that included one photo of two students engaged in oral sex.

A school spokesman reminded students that posting nude photos “is not a prank but a crime.”

Many of you may consider me a prude to be concerned with what I heard someone describe as “merely a passing fad, kinda like when getting tattooed was considered indecent and only sailors wore them.”

The pain and suffering comes when nude photos sent to friends are disseminated to a broader audience. They can then be used for blackmailing or online bullying that has become a nightmare for many young people.

“Sorry, Mama. I can’t answer your question. I have no idea what this world is coming to.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service