In my most recent post – Nakation for Dummies – I made a bit of a fuss about finding the right place to experience social nudity for the first time, including a few punchy remarks about geriatric communities and sagging skin. A long-time reader felt compelled to write me a long and thoughtful email suggesting that my comments may have been a bit harsh, particularly when you consider that we are largely indebted to these pioneers of nudism for having any place to go naked at all. Point well taken.
As it happens, while my insurance company has not yet granted me the benefits the label of geriatric would provide, I’m most certainly getting closer to that mark each and every day. And I would go on to say that I’m a bit envious of those who are ten or twenty years older than I, as it seems there was a synergy and passion in those early nudist efforts that is all but lacking today. I remember those first naturist endeavors on the world-wide-web (Who remembers CompuServe?) that first made it possible to not only seek out places for nude recreation, but led me to meet real people as well, each of whom had a tremendous influence on our subsequent naturist endeavors.
There has been a lot written about the aging face of naturism, not only as that pertains to venues and clubs in the United States, but also for those in the large European naturist centers of Spain, Croatia and France. It is easy to neglect a few awkward truths that are frequently lost amidst overly simplistic statements about preserving nudist culture and recruiting the next generation. Having pondered this at great length, I have wondered if others have gone down the same rabbit holes that I have…
- In the digital age, traveling to a protected naturist environment costs money! My reader friend updated me on the status of several nude beaches that were popular back in the days we lived near San Francisco, some of which are no longer clothing optional, others of which have been compromised by the fact that the naked people are out-numbered by the clothed gawkers looking for a cheap thrill. And that’s to say nothing of the evolution of high-tech camera equipment (Drones, for god’s sake!) than can capture clear digital images from a mile away. The security and self-assurance that could be had for free at a local beach in 1970 now requires a reservation at a luxury resort or on a dedicated cruise. That requires discretionary income. Who has that kind of money? The aging naturist, of course.
- Naturism is inter-generational, except when it isn’t. That is most definitely something we took from our summer vacations in the South of France – naturism actually can be an inter-generational affair. In fact, it was particularly heartening to see two or three generations of a family, from one year to the next, as the grandchildren turned into young adults. Seems that’s never been part of the American nudist experience, and we’ve never really noticed that in Croatia or Spain either. In fact, at the huge Croatian resorts of Valalta and Koversada, the camping area is all but segregated with older folks who have dibs on the beachfront camping spots, and younger families who pitch tents up the hill. I suppose it makes sense, really. The French people go to French resorts with their French families, and it becomes a family tradition. I envy them for that. With the naturist population in Croatia coming mostly from Germany, and those in Spain coming mostly from Great Britain, it all becomes a bit more complicated as far as family traditions are concerned.
- There are perils involved in purchasing your own personal naturist hamlet! So you fall in love with a naturist place in France, or Spain, or Palm Springs, or Arizona, and you decide to buy into a condo or into an apartment complex. Maybe it will be an investment property, or even something you can leave to your family as a vacation home… except the local law of the land requires nudity! La Jenny in southwest France opened in 1984 with about 1000 chalets built over the following ten years. But what happens when the offspring don’t take a fancy to the naturist idea? This has become a significant issue at La Jenny when non-naturist family members want to come use the vacation hideaway, but aren’t too keen on the code of conduct which says, “Take your clothes off!”
- It Takes a Village… to make a Village. Especially in the United States, I believe this has become a particularly critical point. Like anything else, it requires a critical mass to provide a wide array of choices for various life-style preferences. Our most vivid experiences to this end have taken place in Florida, in one instance where we visited a “family naturist place” with our children only to learn of the unadvertised strong sexual undercurrent, and another “family naturist place” only to aggravate a less than tactful older man who quite clearly did not want children playing near the pool in his retirement village. But the fact is that when there are a finite number of people who consider nude recreation to be an All-American pastime, then facilities are challenged with being all things to all people. With literally hundreds of naturist centers in a space smaller than Texas, France has a marked advantage here that goes well beyond their laissez-faire attitudes about nudity. French people simply have a lot of choices! Wish that were true everywhere.
As I go about sorting all that out in my own head, it occurs to me that the age thing is perhaps the most perplexing conundrum in the demographics of nakedness. If you’re over sixty, and reading this now, there’s a good chance you have been an advocate for the free beach movement, or have volunteered at your club to fix the roof and paint the snack bar. Or perhaps you were simply there as part of the village to say “Naturism is important. Let us live and let live!” For this, I am grateful.
Here at this lovely little resort in Mallorca, we met the most lovely man who spends a month each winter at Club Orient in St. Maarten, and a month each summer here in the Balearic Islands. Having suffered a bad fall, he’s a bit less ambulatory in his 84th year than he once was, but his mind is sharp and his humor is vibrant – if not a bit stinging at times. He left early this morning, and I think I can speak for others when I say a certain energy went with him to the airport. Turns out that when he was in earshot, he was the life of the party.
Perhaps the takeaway there is that we really can’t measure the naturist population in calendar years as accurately as we might in the appreciation of one’s love of life, despite the condition of the skin that contains it!
[A disturbing side-note: As I was searching for images for this post, I used terms like “senior nudists” or “vintage naturism.” What Google pulled up was some of the most raunchy pornographic images fathomable, most of which were neither seniors nor vintage. While I’ve been around the web enough to find neither the images or the search results particularly surprising or shocking, it’s no wonder people are so confused about naturist/nudism, especially when searching for reliable information on the internet. Bummer!]