Rebels with a Cause: A story of two meandering naturists

My blog is just over five years old now, and after an incredibly busy year with great periods of sparsity for managing new posts with fresh topics, I’ve exploited a bit of down-time in recent weeks to catch up. In doing so, it occurs to me that people rarely click back beyond a page or two of a blog, if that. In the blogosphere, everything is more or less in present tense, until it simply ceases to exist altogether.

And thus, it occurs to me that my sudden influx of new readers  – resulting simply from a sudden increased presence amidst all things naturist on the internet – have little or no idea who we are, how we found our way into naturism, and why we would seek ways to promote such a thing.

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First visit to La Jenny

Seems our story is unusual, as it was my wife who made the first foray into social nudity, and well before she was my wife, or even an acquaintance. Though we attended the same university in California, we had not yet met when she was enrolled in a Human Sexuality course that included an action research project. Most students stayed pretty closely on script, visiting a home for women, or a Planned Parenthood clinic. But my (future-tense) wife and a friend decided to venture out to a famous nude beach near Santa Cruz to see what all the fuss about. The was the early 80s, mind you, when the last wafts of free love were still blowing south from the Haight-Ashbury. They weren’t out looking for that, or anything else in particular. They simply thought it would make for an interesting term paper.

We had been dating for some time when she first told me this story, which immediately caught my attention given my proclivity for home nudity as a kid growing up in a very conservative household. My father would frequently rant about the newspaper stories that gave the play-by-play about a nearby nudist watering hole, and I think he was genuinely giddy when the police finally raided the place and sent all the hippies away to find their clothes.

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First visit to La Jenny

Suffice it to say, I was nude-curious, but it would actually be another three years until I would work up the courage to bare all, with all the typical concerns about male arousal, wandering eyes, and comparison shopping! We were married by then, and it was immediately evident my wife had – unknowingly at the time – married a serial naturist. Neither of us had the body types that played well in a swim-suit, nor were either of us fashion conscious enough to even join in that game. But naked on the beach became an immediate and persuasive common denominator that would come to define many other values in our relationship, beginning with this unusual thing that we shared with each other, to the way we’d eventually raise our children in regard to body acceptance and self-esteem.

It is worth noting that at this point of our lives, children arrived early, and money was tight! And beaches in Northern California were always a crap-shoot even at the height of summer, as it might be 90°F five miles inland, but round the bend near the ocean, and suddenly you’re shrouded in fog! We found a quirky hot-spring establishment that was close enough for an occasional Friday night date, and if we could save up enough for a real splurge, we’d visit a brand new little nine-room inn called Desert Shadows resort in Palm Springs, California. I remember fretting over our first visit, trying desperately to read the subtext on a primitive 1993 website (remember those?) as to where you could and could not be naked, and is there an implicit expectation that we will be doing more there than lying naked by the pool? We watched the place grow up, and even took the kids a time or two, and it was… “OK.” Except for the part when they would ask, “Where are the other kids, mom? Thought you said there would be kids here.”

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La Jenny, France

We also checked out a couple traditional nudist clubs in the Bay Area, then later, on the east coast, far enough inland to be warm, and remote enough to be naked. But almost without fail, not only were we the token familial unit on the grounds that day, but we would be saddled with the sales pitch of “You can come three times, then you need to become members.” Membership might have involved a commitment to helping with spring cleaning, or to serve chili at the cook-out dinner, but it almost always required a hefty annual membership fee that at the time was roughly equivalent to two months of our food budget. Perhaps a worthy investment for some, but beyond our means at the time, especially when we knew that life with young kids – at least for us – did not mean every weekend at the nudist club, particularly since we couldn’t find one where our kids didn’t feel like Thing One, Two, and Three.

In the meantime, I had been corresponding with a guy named Don (Cadonick, I think was his on-line forum name) on a server called Compuserve. Even in its time, it was basic technology, and one had the sense that when you hit send, a pigeon carried the message from the back of your computer to that of the receiver several states away. Slow, cumbersome, and awkward were the defining traits of the platform, but it was about the only place I could find an internet message board about social nudity, or… naturism.

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Naturist Dordogne, France

This guy Don was married to a French woman. He read my post about my frustrations in searching for a place where we could practice naturism as a family. A place where we would all feel safe, where the amenities would be a bit nicer than a 1950s church camp, and where the children would feel like they’re part of a real community with families like ours, doing things that families do! After bantering back and forth on the topic over several posts, he finally gave me the clear directive that what I was looking for most certainly did exist, but I was looking on the wrong continent. He pointed me to a place called La Jenny, west of Bordeaux on the south Atlantic coast of France, suggesting my efforts were futile until I found a way to get there and see it for myself.

Remember, we were long on children, and short on cash! So it took several years until my wife and I could make our first reconnaissance trip to naturist France. We checked out St. Tropez, (Yeah, I guess!) and the famous, or infamous Cap d’Agde (Oh! Well… That’s something!), then finally made our way to Village Naturiste La Jenny, where Don’s words immediately rang true. Naked or clothed, this was a beautiful holiday center for families from all over Europe where everything happened in (at least) four languages, and as weather permitted, most things required no clothing. Nirvana!

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Corsica, France

Our children were near adolescence before we could cobble together enough frequent flyer miles and loose change to get a family of five to France, but from then on, we somehow found a way to make the trek every other year, until things got a bit better yet and we could go every year. Strangely, we never morphed into one of those “naked at home” families you read about in naturist magazines. For our kids, naturism was a vacation in Europe kind of thing, and the day we would get home, they would essentially revert to traditional American household modesty values. That was OK with us. In the last place, nudity was simply not a thing – one way or the other.

Around 2004 I put together a website about our family naturist travels, and started getting more involved in various message boards that far exceeded the technology that had been offered by Compuserve. I lost track of my friend Don and never had a chance to tell him that we had made it to France, and that he was right! In the meantime, the activist part of me said this ethos must exist in America – we just need to help other naturist families find one another with all these newfangled internet tools. To that end, I started a new website called Naturist Family Network, which I managed in my spare time for perhaps a year or two, mainly trying to create an online community where “real naturists” could find one another. Frustrated with the outcome, I eventually handed that off, and I’m not sure… it may still be hanging around the web someplace.

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As such things do happen, our children grew up, our discretionary income increased, and our discretion to use it on ourselves changed quite dramatically. One advantage of starting a family young is still being (relatively) young when they leave home and graduate from college. As we both have an affinity for seeing as much of the world as possible, the value-added component of finding naturist places became nothing short of an obsession for me.  The upside is that looking for a naturist place in Brazil, Thailand, or South Africa most definitely pulls you off the beaten path to where the real people live, and we will long cherish the conversations we’ve had with other naked travelers we’ve met there. But at the same time, we’ve stumbled into the reciprocal downside – that outside of a few European countries where nudity is a normal part of the social fabric, (Thinking Germany, France, Spain, and Croatia to name the biggies!) social nudity is at least as complicated and quirky everywhere else as it was in California thirty years ago. It some places, quite a lot more so.

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Corsica, France

But alas, we continue to meander, seeking out unique travel experiences – naturist when possible, but with a good bit of exploring along the way – while documenting our travels in hopes of accomplishing two things. First, that people will come to think of naturist travel the same way they think about back-packing or ski vacations. “It may or may not be right for me, but it seems perfectly normal that other people would want to do that.” And secondly, an effort to simply normalize social nudity itself, until again people might say… that’s not a thing! In the same way that hiking or skiing is not a thing. At least, not a weird thing.

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Jerolim, Croatia

There is an interesting bi-product/conundrum of keeping this blog. Now married well over thirty years, we can earnestly say that travel and naturism are most certainly defining characteristics of our life together. And because naturism is what it is, that’s been somewhat removed from the rest of our hustle-and-bustle lives. Many of our friends and colleagues know about our nakations; many others simply know we like to travel. The fact that blogging makes the private part of our life “anonymously public” is  something of an oxymoron. We simply hope that in doing so, we might encourage a few others to take the leap, and join us in the crusade for making naturist travel and social nudity more mainstream and less circumspect. Like… it’s not a thing.

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Naturism & Exhibitionism: Enemies or First Cousins?

Some people dismiss streakers, naked protesters and even nudists and life models as ‘exhibitionists’ without fully appreciating that we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, motivated by exhibitionism. We learn to be that way in order to stay alive. A baby needs to be seen and to be noticed by its mother, and this need continues to operate in us throughout our lives… Every human being is motivated by this deep desire to be seen, to have attention paid to them, to be noticed and to be heard.

Philip Carr-Gomm, A Brief History of Nakedness, 2012

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I keep trying to figure out how the social media thing coincides – in a meaningful way – with the naturist cause. I recently re-established my presence on Facebook and Instagram, (simply waiting for someone on a minimum wage salary to shut off my account for too much butt cleavage), hoping I might reinvigorate my web/blog presence to keep spreading the word that naked is not as weird as some have made it out to be.

But I have to say, forging the shark-infested waters of social media can be daunting! I’m less than a week into a new Facebook profile, and I can’t even count the number of “friend requests” from “beautiful women” who all have the same bio and no profile, or even more bizarre (to me!) private messages that routinely follow this same script:

Them: Hi. How r u

Me: Well, thank you. Trying to get a lot of morning stuff done.

Them: r u naked?

Me: Ummm… (In fact, I probably am.)

Them: Full body shot focused on genitalia appears in thread.

Me: Wow. Nice work there. Gotta go, Have an 8 o’clock meeting!

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

I’m a blogger. And a middle aged white guy who spends a lot of time at the computer. You’re going to have to go a long country mile to even begin to register on my shock value meter, but really? Isn’t there a better place to show your wares than finding Facebook friends who call themselves nudists? There has to be a more direct route than that to finding what you’re looking for. Actually, what are you looking for?

But back to the point. Sometime ago, I wrote an entire blog post about Philip Carr-Gomm’s book, A Brief History of Nakedness; a book I would strongly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves fascinated with naturism, nudism, or simply shedding one’s clothes. I found the entire volume to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, in the best sort of way, but especially when he got to talking about the exhibitionist thing. My take-away from his assessment, and quite frankly, a belief that I’ve held for quite a long time is that that humans spend quite a lot of time, energy, and money trying to shape the way other people see us. You could begin with the fashion industry, and work your way down the ladder to how much you pay for a haircut, but truth be told – we care about how we are visually perceived by people me meet from one day to the next.

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

I think that Carr-Gomm would make the case that from that perspective alone, we are all exhibitionists. We present ourselves in a way that we’d like people to perceive us, implicit of all sorts of information about our religiosity, our political or sexual persuasion, our social status… you name it. The bizarre part of this conversation, however, is how people see us when we’re naked?! I made quite a rant in a previous blog post called The Demographics of Nakedness suggesting that nudity is not quite the equalizer that we like to think it is, but that not withstanding, a person without clothing will be perceived someplace on a scale of vulnerable to seductive, with so many variations in between, that it is simply too simplistic to say that nudity is genuine, real, and forthright. Nudity has a full palette of social cues that are no less complex than those in the textile world, especially in front of the lens of the camera.

My personal sense of purpose on this front is quite clear. In a perfect world, I come home from work, feel constrained by clothing, remove said clothing, then seek the nearest warm spot that provides the necessary conditions for nakedness, such as the chair in front of the wood-burning stove or immersed in the hot tub in the winter, or simply walking out into the Mid-Atlantic balmy heat in the summer.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

But tomorrow, we’ll load the dog into the car to spend the weekend at a naturist retreat some four hours from our home, (A long drive!) to spend a day or so with other naked people. I am fortunate. We have the space and the freedom to be naked at home, and to a large extent, behind our home. Our neighbors know about our proclivity for nudity, but we’ve made the appropriate adjustments to “protect them” from a chance encounter with our unclothed beings. But alas, we’ll make the long drive anyway to get naked, and be naked with other humans, who also have this strange affinity to be naked with us. I reiterate, we are a monogamous couple that is not on the prowl for new sexual conquests, and we are intentional in choosing places that uphold those values so there is no confusion as related to such personal boundaries.

But do we enjoy seeing other naked people? Well yes. In the same way, I suppose, that you enjoy seeing what the celebrities are wearing this year at the Academy Awards, or more aptly, the joys of simply people watching while sitting in a shopping mall or train station. “Hmm… that’s an attractive person. I bet s/he has an interesting story to tell.”

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Naturist or Exhibitionist?

Carr-Gomm says that humans are inherently voyeurs, and essentially implies that such is necessary simply to perpetuate the human race. That’s a dicey argument in this age of political correctness, but quite frankly, I think he’s right. Social nudity is validating in knowing that you’re with other people who like to be naked, but it would be a bit disingenuous to suggest that naked people don’t derive some level of “pleasure” in looking at other naked people, in the same way that humans take pleasure in simply looking at other humans – even when fully clothed. For many, especially when fully clothed!

I realize this is dangerous rhetoric amidst the super wholesome values and guidelines implicit of nudist club creeds, which seem particularly out of sync with the “so called nudist folks” who keep popping up on line that are all too eager to show me more than I asked for. But I think this is a critical part of the dialogue if we’re going to elevate naturism to a place beyond dumb jokes about nudist colonies and worn-out clichés about the people who frequent such places. Truth be told, a person who can find comfort in a social setting, bedecked only in his or her own skin, has found some sense of peace within themselves. I have to believe that’s really a thing.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

When I’m naked in a social setting, am I guilty of gazing upon the other naked humans around me to admire the artistry of the human form? Yes, of course I am. And am I at least a bit self-unconscious about the parts of my physicality that I wish were a bit more gaze-worthy? Of course I am. I am human. We are hard-wired to admire, and we wish to be admired in return. Not sure that’s shameful. It simply is what it is.

Sorry… I’ll get back to the travel reportage stuff soon, but I do think these are conversations that need to be had.

All images in this post were lifted from Tumblr under the search prompt of “nudist” or “naturist.” Suffice it to say, I left out the extremes on each end.

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Naturists or Exhibitionists?

GALLERY: Reminiscing on Greece 2018

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We have two naturist adventures this summer – the first being Gavdos and Crete (the second is yet to come) – each of which are stunning for naturists in very different ways. Where I live, the weather has been bleak, rainy, and humid, so I decided to binge a bit this morning while reminiscing about […]

Social Nudity and Social Media: Two great tastes…

So I’m a blogger.

As far as I can tell, there are two reasons to blog, both legitimate, but depending on who you are and where you are in life, maybe not of equal weight. 1) You blog to get your thoughts out into print. A sort of catharsis. An exercise to see if you can formulate your thoughts into a coherent sentence. If not, maybe your thoughts were actually… nothing. (Brian, Family Guy, c.2012).

Or 2) You actually have this delusional perception that maybe your thoughts, once committed to cyberspace, might actually sway the masses, or maybe even a few people on the fence, to consider for a moment the absurdity of the textile industry and how the entire human race has somehow decided that certain anatomical parts are dangerous, while others are simply… functional. A penis may get the credit for perpetuating the human species, but when I imagine life without elbows or opposable thumbs, I get pretty sad!

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To be sure, the airing of one’s thoughts in a public forum is cathartic, especially when it’s something you believe in, like naturism, for example! While some people can get a bit evangelical about this whole thing, I would be pretty happy if the “whole thing” wasn’t actually a thing. This blog is my third attempt to normalize the ideals of social nudity, so that people might even say, “That’s not for me, but there are things way more offensive than that to sit up and worry about!”

In the meantime, I had an awkward bout a couple months ago where I inadvertently linked my naturist Instagram account to my professional Facebook page. The implications of such a blunder are many and potentially severe, as one who works in an education-related field in an era where nude = lewd = sexual predator. I’ve pretty much come to grips with the “I go to nude beaches – I hope that doesn’t offend you” thing, but I’m not too keen on taking down my colleagues and institution on the basis of ill- conceived notions as to what social nudity is about, and why a rational person might find one’s proclivity for nakedness to be less abrasive than, say… anything coming out of the news channels in Washington D.C. these days.

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But more to the point… even the most humble of bloggers would like to think that when the tree fell in the forest, somebody said, “Did you hear that?” We should check that out!”

Today, I spent a good bit of time combing through the Instagram policies regarding nudity. Genitalia – check! Female nipples – check! But I have to say, the phrase “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” is something of a gray area! Exactly how close is “close-up?” And for that matter, how is a buttock more offensive than a female nipple. (Note that male nipples are not problematic, though I would submit that in some cases, one might have difficulty identifying an isolated male nipple from the female counterpart, let alone a supple male “moob” from that of a lesser endowed female.) I get it. The corporate dudes at the Facebook/Instagram corporate offices have been charged with shutting down anything that is even remotely titillating (an intentionally poor choice of words) and they are simply doing their job. But really? A buttock? A nipple?

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I have made this point several times through my years of blogging on this site, but I also realize that people who read blogs may or may not be serial readers, so I will offer this perspective yet again. HAVEN’T WE BETTER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT IN 2018 THAN THE RANDOM APPEARANCE OF A NIPPLE OR PUBIC HAIR?

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And then there’s Twitter and Tumblr, where I have a presence as well, where I typically seek out posters who are earnestly interested in normalizing social nudity, but quite by accident, stumble into threads of the most explicit sexual activity known to man or beast. I’m pretty open minded on such media, and rarely find such things particularly offensive, EXCEPT… when it falls under the nomenclature of nudism or naturism. Sex is good, and people should have some! Watch other people having sex on film should you so desire. But PLEASE… do not confuse the God-fearing public with images of intercourse and bestiality under the hashtag of nudism or naturism. Think about it! Everyone leaves disappointed, when some horny dude couldn’t find what he was looking for on a lonely Saturday night, while a would-be naturist couple resigns themselves to the fact that nudity does, in fact, equal sex. So once again, they wrap their selves in nylon and Lycra and find their way to the beach.

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In the meantime, like many of my naturist peers, I’ve been thrown off Facebook for the untoward display of buttocks, and I’ve gone through the painstaking process of isolating my Instagram account so that my colleague in the office next door doesn’t come asking for advice about the best naturist beach in New Jersey. Honestly, if that were the full extent of it all, I would welcome the inquiry and provide the information, but social media has essentially turned social nudity into a sex crime! A bizarre dichotomy, really. With the internet, people have greater access to naturist possibilities than they could have ever imagined a generation ago. But with that comes smartphones, Snapchat, and facial recognition software that pretty much negates any hope for anonymity even under the best of circumstances.

And so there it is. Social Media and Social Nudity… Two great tastes that don’t go so well together. I can find a remote naturist resort in a quiet corner or Europe, but I’d better make sure I have the location detector disabled on my smartphone when we arrive. And so it goes for naked people in 2018.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

Hello faithful blog followers.

Just on the back side of a pretty intense push at work, so I’ve fallen off the blogosphere for a few weeks. I hope to catch up in the coming days, leading out with this post from a guest blogger. Our twenty-something friend has taken quite a liking to the naturist thing, and I think her words are fresh, inspiring, and quite instructive to the novice naturist. An excellent testimony to the fact that naturism is not a generational thing, but just a “you gotta get it right” sort of thing.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

I found myself a naturist incidentally after I stripped off my clothes at 2 am and hopped into a hot tub under the heavy cloak of a sleepy happy that was made possible by a couple of glasses of wine. The next morning I remembered what happened only by virtue of the fact that I woke up completely naked and had to walk around and pick up my various articles of clothing that were strewn about the deck.

My next encounter with naturism lacked all forms of alcohol, without which I quickly realized that although I had been training all of my life to be polite and understand proper social etiquette, I was destined to become a rather clumsy nudist. As my naturist friends, who also happen to be a couple, casually seemed to emerge naked from various parts of the house, I felt as though every action of mine was destined to be awkward and incorrect. All social norms flew out the window, so to speak. For example, changing into your swimming outfit is most typically done in a bathroom-but as I found myself walking there (completely sober) to change out of my civilian clothes, and into…nothing…it seemed quite silly to be modest about that portion of the evening. I resolved, giving myself a silent pep talk, “Okay…so I’ll just take off my clothes here: in the middle of their living room.” With that settled, I undressed, only to wonder where nudists typically would leave their clothes strewn about. In the meantime, I’m simultaneously calculating when I shaved my legs last, if I should emerge from the house with a funny story as a distraction, and how I could possibly acquire more alcohol for the endeavor. In an effort to think all of this through, I suspect I looked a bit like some type of bug, stuck on its back, with its legs strewn about in the air, flailing in an attempt to join his fellow friends on their way to the promised land.

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I think my most poignant conversation took place with the same Naturist couple, who must have sensed my awkwardness from a mile away and asked me, “Where do people look when they are speaking to you?” After I responded with, “My eyes,” and they nodded and smiled, everything seemed to fall into place.

A recommendation for new naturists: Don’t get too comfortable before learning proper nudist etiquette. It’s a real thing. For example: chairs and other surfaces meant for sitting are not available to you unless you bring along a towel and lay it down before sitting down. It makes so much sense. I mean-who wants your remaining butt sweat on their own butt (or their chair)?

Yikes. Following this advice could mean avoiding a conversation like this one: “Hey, new naturist. You’re looking less and less like a flailing beetle every day, but we don’t want your butt sweat on our chair…so I’m going to politely hand you this towel, and if you could stand up and lay it down while we all silently judge you for your lack of naturist etiquette, that would really be great.”

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As soon as you’re feeling confident in your nudity and how one “blends in” and “plays it cool” as a naturist, it’s probably time to convince four of your friends to try out a naturist resort in Corsica. As far as I understand, the best ways to piss off people in a naturist resort are to be loud, take pictures of naked people, and to in fact, not be naked, especially at the pool (the only place in naturist resorts that really seem to require nudity). I’m guessing that you can already hypothesize that our chill day trip ended with friend #1 getting yelled at by a lifeguard to take off her swimsuit or get lost, girl #2 getting reprimanded by a different lifeguard for taking the perfect instagram photo of the naked people lounging at the pool that overlooked the ocean, and the rest of us getting shushed by virtually everyone because of our utter lack of self-awareness to realize that us trying to “get our shit together” was not something that EVERYONE at the entire resort needed to hear about. Point taken. Friends need to prep friends for naturist experiences with a laundry list of “do’s and do-nots.”

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I suspect by now, I’ve painted a rather dismal picture for blossoming naturists everywhere: there are bound to be awkward moments, you have to learn a new set of social standards, you have to remember where you put your clothes after you’ve discarded them, not to mention that some people simply think that social nudity, especially in certain company, is SUPER weird. Yet at this moment, here I am, lying on a beach filled with naked families and friends, all of various generations, just simply thinking, “does life get any more serene or better than this?” In this context, everyone is beautiful, and just about the only thing I can tell by looking at any one person, is that they too, feel super free and relaxed and simply happy to just “be.” There are no contextual clues from their clothing if they are well-off or struggling to make ends meet, and therefore, no indication of their jobs, careers or aspirations. It’s as though everyone’s simply a being, just like you or me, which simply could not be any more beautiful. Women with mastectomies, teenagers embracing their changing bodies, and children playing together in the water, oblivious of the social norms and pressures set by society that they will eventually (sooner rather than later) encounter.

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Whether I’m sappy about the whole thing (i.e. humanity is beautiful…see last paragraph) or practical, (Why cover your sandy, salt-covered body with a t-shirt after swimming if you don’t have to? Do you reallyyy want sand in your swimsuit bottoms? Really??! Isn’t that sweaty t-shirt of yours just making you so uncomfortable?! Wouldn’t you rather feel the warmth from this fireplace everywhere, not just on your hands and toes?) I find myself coming to the same conclusion: Life is better experienced without boundaries set by those in modern-day society. I mean, if you’re going to be like the cavemen/women/people with your Paleo diet, why not look like them too, and take off your shirt?

I’m definitely no expert, but as my other budding naturist friend captured so eloquently, “Is there really anything better than your nips blowing in the wind?”

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