Naked in a swimsuit

I recently joined the local gym; a large complex with all the typical amenities: basketball courts, weight rooms, and two large heated pools.  My mission was two-fold: to spend some time on the treadmill since the weather is not so conducive to outdoor exercise this time of year; and improve my swimming skills.

As I read people’s various accounts of their first experiences with social nudity, I find myself feeling exactly the same way at the gym.  I was never particularly athletic or coordinated as a kid, so any memory related to walking into a locker room brings with it a flood of uncomfortable recollections from adolescence.  (I was that kid who did not fare well around the bullies in middle school.) Strangely enough, naturism has always been something of an escape for me from all that baggage, in that exercise clothing and swimsuits tend to share a common element – at least to me – and that would be drawing attention to features of the body that you may not have been proud of in the first place, and those that rarely get better with age!  (Thinking, in particular, the mid-section here. Despite my clothed appearance as tall and slender for my age, gravitational force seems to have found its home just about the belt line, or more aptly in this case, gathering around the elastic band of a wet swimsuit.)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to seeing people naked in social situations, and in fact, there is no body type that I consider particularly unusual or surprising anymore.  In fact, I found it especially reassuring to encounter a woman with a mastectomy at a French naturist resort, seemingly completely at ease with the results of the surgery that most probably saved her life.  How incredibly powerful that there was no need to don extra apparel to fill out the expectations inherent of wearing a swimsuit.  And so it goes with people with various scars and body attributes which require careful concealment in the clothed world, but are simply part of life and reality in the naked world.

So there it is.  I’ve been going to the gym for several weeks now, and still find myself to be, at very least aware, and on some days, downright self-conscious, of my appearance in a swimsuit. One might even say…  feeling naked!  Realizing that this assessment is, in all likelihood, uniquely my own, (who cares about the just another guy in the pool or on the treadmill) but wondering at the same time how it is that social norms have evolved to make it more acceptable to wrap yourself in clingy, all-telling, wet nylon, rather than simply being comfortable in your skin.

Hey! What about Naturism in America?!?

[Reblogged from when I first started my WordPress site. I’ll be reposting a few of those early posts for new readers that I’ve picked up along the way.}

So… your blog talks about Europe, the Caribbean, Africa… and even naturism in Asia?  What about getting naked in America?

Well, we’ve tried that.  With passion and diligence.

And in fact, sometimes we still practice naturism in America, be that at a nearby nudist club, Palm Springs, or if we’re feeling particularly adventurous, a nude beach in California or on the Jersey Shore.  In fact, my last major internet endeavor involved a web site dedicated to family naturism in America.  At the time, our children were typical adolescents; quite willing to participate in naturism when we went to Europe, but pretty much put off by the entire idea anywhere else in the New World.

All that said, I’ve come up with a fairly concise list of why it’s better (and easier) to get naked in Europe than on this continent – listed here in no particular order:

  • The Puritanical Legacy!  Damn those Puritans!  Made all that much worse by the Victorian Age which brought us crazy inventions like the girdle and petticoats.  Who, exactly, sat down and decided that it would be good for humanity to obscure every contour and curve of the female body, while at the same time, creating the ultimate phallic symbol known today as the – necktie?  We have yet to recover from this fashion disaster, despite the fact that in today’s marketplace, strategically clothed is WAY more alluring than naked.
  • The ever-expanding mythology that Jesus spit upon the feet of the naked sinner.  (Ooo… may lose a few readers on that one!)  Right from the story of Adam and Eve, we are taught that figs leaves are for concealing the body parts – at first thought to be among the most beautiful works of all creation, but now denigrated to reside amidst attitudes of shame and guilt.  So many social norms have been attributed to New and Old Testament writings, even by those who have abandoned the tenants of religiosity, but yet, have held closely to the ethical values seemingly derived from such ideologies. In any event, a lot has happened in the last 2000 years, and generally speaking, European society has evolved a bit more quickly on the sociology front.  In most cases, encountering a naked person on the European beach does not elicit the same emotions of embarrassment or disgust, even amongst those who choose to remain clothed  
  • Europeans LOVE to go on holiday, and their social infrastructure allows them enough time to do so!  Go to a French naturist resort and stay less than two weeks, and the girl working at the reception desk will cock her head and politely say, “Leaving so soon?  Why would you drive six hours from Paris for only a few days of relaxation?”  This is completely in-congruent with the American idea of ‘higher, bigger, faster.’
  • American ‘nudists’ have a tendency toward weirdness.  (Oops – there goes the OTHER three people who read my blog!)  By that, I mean, we’ll lie by the pool all day and have casual conversation about the genuine qualities of being naked in public, blah, blah, blah… but then the sun goes down and everyone shows up in crazy lingerie outfits for the ‘grown-ups party.’  Compare that to a typical evening at a European resort, where indeed, people go adorn themselves in stylish European clothing, sit down for a nice meal with an aromatic Bordeaux, then dance the night away – grandparents with their grandchildren, adolescents with one another regardless of gender, in many cases three or four generations of a single family – hanging out together and creating another memory for the scrapbook.  We have yet to find anything close to this – naturist or otherwise – on this side of the Atlantic.
  • Seems redundant, given the previous bullet point, but it’s nice to see a demographic similar to that of, oh, say… Disney World, at most naturist establishments in Europe.  I will muse a bit later about how Europe is absorbing some of the negative Puritanical influences of the US in a subsequent post, but even with that in the mix, I don’t feel like I’m stepping outside the boundaries of social acceptance for the privilege of going au naturel abroad.
  • I’ll eventually get around to airing my laundry about the infamous Jerry Sandusky case; that most amazing dude from Penn State who made even the most liberal and easing-going parents shudder with fear and paranoia.  Thanks Jerry.  (And the other people in your court who apparently never gave a thought to “ACTION = CONSEQUENCE!”)  Now ANYone in ANY capacity involved with children under the age of 18 is held in contempt of being ‘one step away from being a sexual predator.’  Heaven forbid that you find out that the aide in the second grade classroom went to a nude beach last Sunday!  This person was naked, and now is with my child?  Paranoia and naturism are NOT likely to strike up a courtship any time soon. 
  • There are SO many choices!  I suspect that France, alone, has well over 100 ‘naturist resorts’ where you can rent a fully equipped apartment or chalet.  And that many twice again if you’re willing to pitch a tent.  Then there are the spas in Germany and the Netherlands, the mega-resorts in former Yugoslavia, and now, the new niche market for naturists in Greece (let alone innumerable beaches where nudity is tolerated).  Put those statistics up against David Sedaris’ unflattering account of his visit to a American nudist colony, and you start to get a sense of the disparity.  David Sedaris: NAKED
  • Finally, Europeans are not afraid of sensuality!  Be that the privilege of feeling the breeze and the warmth of the sun on body parts typically deprived of such, or simply sweating it out in a 90 degrees Celsius sauna.  Europeans put a very high value on the quality of life, be that good wine, aromatic cheese, or simply the privilege to swim naked.

The list could go on and on… but suffice it to say, we essentially dismissed our personal vendetta of normalizing family naturism in America.  Life got too busy and the task was too daunting.  

Image

The American naturist family

And indeed, there are a few very excellent places to get naked in America, and in time, I think I’ll try to document a few of those ventures as well.  But when you consider the whole deal… the food, the wine, the quality of light during summer on the Mediterranean  and Adriatic Seas, and then you throw in the European concept of conviviality, we have concluded that it is simply worth getting on the airplane and getting it right.  

Life is short, and from everything I’ve read, the life hereafter requires long flowing white robes!  THAT’S no fun!

Gazing into the horizon… with a naked eye

[Originally posted on my Blogspot page on 16 December 2012]

We, my wife and I, have been naturists for a long time.  She discovered it first during college at a beach in Northern California, but it is I who diligently carries the torch of unrelenting naturist passion.  And so it has been for nearly about a quarter-century now, since we first visited a nude beach together.

This summer, we will set off on a naked odyssey of a grand design, beginning in a naturist resort south of Barcelona, an extended stay at a favorite naturist spot west of Bordeaux, then travelling circuitously through the south of France, across Italy, on down the rugged coast of Croatia, Montenegro, another bounce through southern Italy, and finally, on to Greece.  The main objectives of our journey will be the search for good food, fine wine, and daily communion with the sun – a feast for the senses, to be sure.

Sails

Aboard the Royal Clipper

I’m hoping this blog will be ‘informative’ to some, while perhaps even ‘inspirational’ to others who have wondered what it’s like to swim in the sea in the absence of clingy wet nylon, or walk for miles on a beach, completely embracing the sea-breeze.  I, for one, am addicted to those sensations, and have concluded that nobody does naked like Europeans do naked.  Add in cheese from the local market and a ten-euro bottle of wine, and you’re all set for an extraordinary naked picnic at the edge of the Adriatic!

In these pages, I will document some of our more memorable journeys of the past, muse over the plans for the journey in the making, and I suspect, wax philosophical about the virtues of nakedness in general – particularly for typical quasi-puritanical Americans; many of whom are all but obsessed with appearances, and all but overwhelmed with the inconsistencies of humanity and the impossible labyrinth of the norms of social acceptance in the 21st century.

Should be a good ride.