Naked and Afraid (Let It Be Easy)

My partner Steph and I are huge fans of the TV show Naked and Afraid. In this reality television spectacle, there’s a duo previously unknown to each other who are thrust buck-naked into a hostile environment somewhere in the world, their naughty bits tastefully pixelated. [Ed Note: I read that the show employed eight editors whose sole job it was to do said tasteful pixelation. So if you think your dream job doesn't exist, think again!]

I should also mention that there is no actual prize for surviving the twenty-one days with sunburned privates while on a steady diet of sticks and bugs. Contestants only get their very unscientific “Survival Rating” adjusted upward or downward depending on how many body parts they have left at the end. 

Steph and I are clothed and calm as we settle down to watch the latest duo who are dropped into the sand dunes of Northern Brazil. The woman was kind of a survivalist hippy chick. We’ll call her Hippy Chick. We hear Hippy Chick’s voice-over as she expresses concern that her partner appears to be not as fit as she is. The guy is a Pacific Northwest grunge-guy survival type. We’ll call him Portlandia.

Hippy Chick and Portlandia dramatically cross the dunes to meet each other, hug, (Butts out! No down-there contact!), and commence their adventure. Hippy Chick sprints down the nearest dune and starts maniacally cutting palm fronds — the de rigeur item for shelters. She hauls her body weight in fronds up the dune, and as she passes Portlandia who is carrying a single frond at a sedate pace, he quietly mumbles, “Hey it’s hot and we don’t have water yet, you may want to conserve your energy.” She glares at Portlandia and chirps, “I’m good!”

Hippy Chick scurries through the episode looking here, there, and everywhere for food, sitting in the blazing sun heating drinking water with her magnifying glass. Contestants get one — just one — item they can bring in addition to their skin. Who brings a fucking magnifying glass as their single item? Next thing you know, she’ll whip out some Silly Putty to make artsy palm-frond prints.

Meanwhile, Portlandia takes a calculated risk based on his survival knowledge and discovers drinkable water right from the shady source, no need to sit in the sweltering sun. He appears to have gathered ample fruit to share as well. The producers are not showing much of what Portlandia is up to as he appears to spend his days conserving energy by chilling in his shelter. Not exactly riveting TV.

Portlandia’s boring surviving is not good enough for Hippy Chick. They need to work hard to survive, dammit! She confronts Portlandia, “We’re trying to survive here and you’re just sitting on your lazy ass!” Portlandia calmly tries to explain to her that in his book, surviving is about using the least possible amount of energy, and because energy is scarce, you must think through every action before you take it. He then presents her with a large insect he’d roasted for her. Hippy Chick storms off.

The episode reaches its crescendo when Portlandia finds Hippy Chick passed out facedown in the sand. She’d become dehydrated using her magnifying glass in the broiling sun so they medivac'd her out and pushed some IV fluids. She was fine, but that was game over for her.

Meanwhile, Portlandia’s got this. He sits in the shade eating his fruit and drinking his water. When it comes time for him to do the totally superfluous march to the “extraction point,” he simply gets up and walks there. Brilliant survival strategy, crappy TV.

Portlandia didn’t just teach Hippy Chick a valuable life lesson, I picked one up too. I see where I scurry around like Hippy Chick, hauling way too many metaphorical palm fronds and making things really hard when all I need to do is to let it be easy.

Portlandia expends the minimum amount of energy possible for the maximum benefit. He thinks before he moves. He systematically figures out how to meet his needs, and understands the value of rest and energy conservation. He’s not budged off his path by others calling him names or questioning his approach. He’s true to his vision.

So the next time I find myself metaphorically face-down in the blistering sun, I will channel my inner Portlandia, push fluids, and get myself back to shelter for a nice rest and some fruit while I carefully contemplate my next move.


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