I’ve been absent from the blogosphere as of late. In fact, my last post dates back to early September, before life became a bit overwhelming, and blogging about nakations seemed a little less urgent than everyday life.
Among other challenges, this has been a time of loss with the passing of relatives and friends – some timely and expected, others less so. All that, along with having to face up to a pretty strong dose of dissolution in the workplace, has made for an intense period of self-reflection. NEWS FLASH: Sometimes things just don’t go the way they should – or at least not the way you want them to! Turns out that’s not news at all. At least, not according to my therapist.
I’d never seen a therapist on a regular basis before, but this seemed like the right time. Turns out the old adage is true… The one that suggests that as people age, they simply become a decidedly more vivid caricature of themselves. I’m willing to own up to that, but not without a bit of discomfort along the way.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you probably know that I’m quite passionate about naturism. In fact, as it turns out, I’m pretty passionate about everything I do! It just so happens that naturism ended up near the very top of my life priority short list. Followers of this blog may have also read my various rants and raves about our – my wife and I – naturist journey and maybe even a few of my opinion pieces about social nudity such as The Demographics of Nakedness, the quirky unevenness of naturism in America, or a more recent piece about my own personal obsession with naturism. If you’re not up for digging back through my personal archives, I can summarize the entire story with one sentence: “My college girlfriend went to a nude beach as part of a class experiment, wrote a paper about it, piqued my interest, and I took up the cause with a fervor that most dudes in my age bracket have for football or golf.” Thirty-five years later, that girlfriend is my wife, and naturist exploration remains an integral part of our relationship.
For readers who have pursued therapy or counseling, I would love to see your comments about how you went about explaining naturism to your therapist. How did you roll out the topic? What parts were difficult to contextualize without feeling awkward or apologetic? And how did you gauge the raised eyebrows when you tried to explain the difference between social nudity and sexual deviance? Surely, any seasoned therapist has heard it all, but context (and empathy!) is absolutely critical when you’re trying to rationalize something that matters to you. I suspect the average therapist deals with all kinds of deviant behaviors – that’s part of their job. I simply can’t help but wonder if my therapist is sitting there indexing my meandering thoughts to that lecture in graduate school about “people who run around naked.” Ugh!
You’ve probably realized by now, the title of this post is misleading. I have not gotten naked with my therapist. At least, not in a literal sense of the phrase. Though my affinity for naturism has been a constant thread throughout our many discussions about how I perceive the world, and how I perceive the world’s perception of me. Not surprisingly, the naturist thing represents a multi-faceted existence for me, which has led to a few “ah-ha” moments alongside a few more, “Well, of course!” revelations along the way.
The most obvious part of my affinity for naturism is likely congruous with nearly every other naturist on the planet. I felt insecure about my body until I went to a nude beach and realized that essentially nobody is pleased with their God-given proportions. Funny that you have to go to a naked place to come to grips with that, but it’s the recurring theme in pretty much every interview following a person’s first experience with social nudity.
But here’s the one I’m still musing over when I drive home from my therapy appointments…
Is there a correlation between social nudity and one’s desire to be real? To be present? Or in the language in my generation, is nakedness a necessary part of the process of total self realization? (Cue the soundtrack from Aquarius here.)
Problem is that I’ve been a naturist long enough to know that there are all kinds of people who participate in all flavors of social nudity, each embracing a unique set of values, which all becomes very confusing when people try to make the argument that nudists/naturists are more forthright, genuine, or altruistic than those who hide behind a shield of garments. That argument simply doesn’t hold up. One’s ability to disrobe in public doth not a statistically valid personality assessment make.
But the part that keeps me in head scratching mode is my own affinity for nakedness, even if I’m home alone. I can’t figure out if it’s simply the counter-culture sense of it all, or the heightened sensory of so much exposed skin, or simply the fact that nakedness represents the extreme opposite aesthetic of my otherwise frenetic and public life.
I’m pretty sure that despite her requisite open-mindedness that fuels so many open-ended questions, my therapist still doesn’t know quite what to make of the naturism thing, or perhaps more presciently, hasn’t experienced it herself. How do you explain such a phenomenon to someone who’s never been there themselves? And how do you adequately explain the difference between a sexually charged atmosphere like Cap d’Adge (See my latest rant about that!) as compared to a place where naturism is as family friendly as Disneyland? (Let’s hear it for La Jenny and French family naturism.) To the uninitiated, I suspect the very notion of social nudity lies someplace between nudist camp jokes and the poorly researched top ten lists for naked places that appear each summer in USA Today – an exercise that routinely fails to convey that Cap d’Agde is nothing like Disneyland.
All that said, the most fascinating part of this process for me is how we arrive at our own personal perceptions that define each of our social norms. For those of us who have embraced naturism for some time, it’s all but impossible to grasp how or why anyone could, would, or should be anxious about seeing a woman breastfeed in public. How could that possibly be offensive to anyone? But here in 2019, to many, it most certainly is.
I put up an article a few days ago on my other nudist blog called “Nudity Increases in America.” It’s a repost of a piece first published in 1974 in the New York Times. It’s a thought-provoking read, if only to realize that while we live in an age where there is so much emphasis on accepting people for who they are, as they are, the adherence to social norms has become more polarizing than ever. Be it based on religious convictions, political ideology, or simply a fight to maintain one’s personal identity, I don’t think this decade will go down in history as the age of open-mindedness and acceptance.
My therapist suggests our preoccupation with all that may well be an exercise in futility. (And yes, I recognize the irony that I’m preoccupied with what she might be thinking about my involvement in naturism. An endless loop!) If anything, the Digital Age has resulted in a time when we are more concerned with how people perceive us than ever before in the history of mankind. Maybe that’s why I so value the freedom to go home at the end of the day, drop my clothing near the front door, and sit by the wood-stove wearing nothing but the glow of the fire. In my estimation, that’s about a good as life gets.
How strange that anyone would think something so simple and so real is anything other than genuinely human, innocent, and innocuous. Hard to believe that living in one’s own skin is actually controversial at all.
But indeed, that is simply the perception of a meandering naturist, and to be sure, one’s sense of perception defines the game.