Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post last winter, just before COVID-19, and following a trip to an amazing naturist resort in South Africa. We’ve had a lot of new encounters with social nudity in America since then, but I hope the post remains relevant, and helpful to those trying to figure out the whole “naturist thing.”
About two weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times called The Joys of Cooking Naked that literally set the naturist community all a Twitter as links flooded social media and messaging feeds. As best as I can tell, confirmed naturists mostly applauded the “positive PR,” while comments from the textile community drew upon the tired canon of nudist puns, “I simply don’t think I could bare to dine naked!” … Ugh.
I posed the question on my own Twitter feed as to whether a media splash like this actually helps or hurts the naturist cause, as I, personally, was quite disappointed in this particular article. The New York Times has recently published a few very thoughtful pieces in recent months. (See A Once in a Lifetime Dilemma or The Naked Truth About Germans). But in this case, I found myself wondering what the author was driving for: A history of nudism in America? An advert for a nudist resort/retirement community in Florida? Or perhaps just an admonition to would-be nudists to beware of the evils of splattering bacon grease! Isn’t that common sense, whether naked or not?
I had wished, instead, that the reporter might have taken a different tack, broadening the topic a bit to something like… the The Joys of Living Naked. And for that matter, was it really necessary to get on a plane and visit a nudist resort in Florida to find a person who cooks, eats, or lives naked? I know there are several progressive young naturists living in and around New York City who embrace the clothing-optional lifestyle, but not just on vacation or in retirement, but on a typical Sunday morning when the apartment is warm enough to be naked at home, even in December, and clothing is simply an option that isn’t necessary. How about an article on Window Treatments for the Discreet Naturist, or Talking to Your Neighbors about Casual Nudity. I suspect there are any number of city dwellers across the country who could really benefit from those articles.
I don’t wish to downgrade the seemingly growing trend amidst the general public as related to the tolerance of social nudity, and would even go as far as to celebrate that fact that a major U.S. newspaper published a photo of a fully nude woman – from the backside – working in the kitchen. Apparently, we’ve all finally agreed that the nation’s children will not be harmed by the incidental sighting of unadorned buttocks. (News flash! Everyone has a pair!)
But I think naturism will really turn the corner in America when we can speak freely about one’s neighbor who has a penchant for being be naked at home, just doing normal things on the day-to-day basis, without the urge to make some goofy pun, or quietly wonder if you’re living next to some kind of sexual deviant. Which takes me full circle – Does an article like this help or hurt that cause?
One curious element of all this is the evolution and self-perception of naturist places in the United States that are, at least inadvertently, self-deprecating if not outright ridiculing themselves. In this particular article, the author mentions the resort restaurant (where the research for said article had taken place) – the Bare Buns Café, and adjoining bar, the Butt Hutt! While all under the guise of fun and laughter, (“Hey Naturist Dan! Lighten up a little!“) American nudist places simply can’t seem to resist nomenclature, sign-posts, and newsletter headlines that actually perpetuate the idea that “You naked people are all a little crazy!” or at the very least, you’re hopelessly addicted to second tier dad jokes. (I’m a dad. I love dad jokes. But in this case, doesn’t this kind of thing make us naked people all look a bit silly?) I don’t think I fully recognized the subversive impact of all that until visiting naturist places in Europe, especially in France and Croatia, where you would never find that kind of word play.
Truth be told, if the social media (e.g. Twitter and Instagram) confessions of many a closeted naturist have any validity, it seems that The Joys of Living Naked is probably embraced by hundreds of thousands of people who would never think of dining at a place called the Bare Buns Café, but routinely find ways to avoid getting dressed in the morning until the last possible moment before stepping out into the “real world.” That has certainly been my strategy, and I most definitely do not live in a warm place, and we most definitely have neighbors. To that end, I thought I might offer a few tips on how to realize to joys of living naked, whether you’re into cooking or not.
A GUIDE TO THE JOYS OF LIVING NAKED
- TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS: Obviously, this depends on whether your neighbors reside through the 14th floor window in the adjacent apartment building, or just across the fence. But if you’re making an effort to be discrete, chances are good they might be more chill than you expect. The neighbors on each side of our home know about our naked tendencies, (Especially mine!) but neither seem to have an issue with it, even though the teenage daughter on one side once let herself into our backyard – unannounced – to tell us her family was leaving on vacation, only to find me reading naked on the porch. The moment was a bit awkward, but the residual effect was null.
- BE AN ADVOCATE: Seasoned naturists find ways to work potential nudity into the conversation to test the waters as to anticipated reactions. Try “Come over any time, but you’d better call first in case I need to put clothes on!”… and see how they react. You might be surprised when they respond with, “Yup. We know that about you.”
- UNDERSTAND YOUR WINDOWS: My wife is more likely to get naked on “nakation” than she is around the house. (It’s simply not pragmatic to bother with throwing something on to empty the recycling bin.) But I finally got her to do the “window test” a few years ago to demonstrate just what people can and cannot see when looking in from the outside. The tint of the glass, the angle of the sun, and simply the sight-line from the ground to the window often makes it impossible to see whether a person is naked or not, especially during the daytime. And there are a myriad of window treatments that react differently to light. Some let the light in while making it impossible to see in from the outside. Talk to your friends at Home Depot to figure that out.
- LANDSCAPING AND SIGHT-LINES: A clever rhododendron here, and a leafy lilac there, can help with those windows that provide outside exposure below the neck. And fast-growing plants like privet hedges, forsythia, or Leland Cypress can create a better barrier than any fence in just a year or two.
- THE WOOD BURNING STOVE: We have a house with vinyl siding in the northeast US that was never warm in the winter – at least certainly never warm enough for naked. Our wood-burning stove changed all that, making our family room (and adjoining office space) naturist friendly 365 days a year. A real wood burning stove may be more trouble and expense than you want, but there are a lot of second-bests these days, some of which run on pellets, gas, propane, or even electricity for no trouble or mess. But the intense heat source in your living space makes wearing clothes unnecessary at least; maybe even a bother. Almost as good as direct sunlight on your bare skin!
- PAREO or SAUNA TOWEL: The ubiquitous pareo (or sarong) is the go-to cover up for many a beachgoer, but an absolute necessity for the confirmed naturist. A single piece of cloth that can cover the controversial body parts in a matter of seconds, which is particularly useful for women who, in most places, are required to conceal their breasts. For men, a quick Google search will lead you to the sauna towel with Velcro binding common in European spas, so you can move from awkward to appropriate in a matter of seconds. Pareos work for guys too. All a matter of preference and choice.
- DISPLAY NUDE ARTWORK: We’ve become increasingly brazen with decor that reveals small hints that we’re less than offended by nudity. Maybe a simple line drawing? A fridge magnet, or a simple wooden sign that admonishes: “Life is Short. Run Naked.” All good conversation starters when inviting friends over for dinner or cocktails. You never know when you’re going to run into another closet naturist.
- NAKED GOURMET DINING: The author of the NYT article claims “the nudist movement has historically been connected to food.” I thought that was a particularly peculiar statement that attempted to draw a connection between the health obsessive virtues of the nudist pioneers a hundred years back, and the “astonishing” truth that people at today’s nudist resorts still… eat. (But they’re very careful when frying bacon!) I would counter that with a story of two couples we met years ago at Club Orient in St. Maarten. They happened to be from our greater metropolitan area. Though it requires a bit of travel, we get together at least a couple times a year for naturist gourmet nights, sometimes on the patio, sometimes by the fire – season dependent. Here again, if I were a reporter in New York City, I’m guessing a bit of digging would have led me to one of the groups that stage evenings like that on a regular basis. One such group is Just Naked NYC that is leading the way in helping would-be naturists find one another and even planning events like these. My hunch is this trend will continue to grow in cities across the nation.
- AND WHAT ABOUT THE WNBR? The World Naked Bike Ride events that are popping up all over, well… the world! I’ve not had an opportunity to participate in one of these events yet, but as the numbers are growing steadily all over the planet, it seems that would be an excellent place to meet other people who might be open to the idea of “living naked.” Personally, it’s on my bucket list for 2020. Wanna meet people who embrace social nudity? Go hang out with them for a day.
To the point… While I’m always delighted to see ANY positive reference to social nudity in the mainstream media, I think the author of The Joys of Cooking Naked overshot the assignment, and in doing so, sort of missed the point altogether. Naturism is not just for retired people living in Florida nudists resort! And in fact, I suspect there are people living naked within blocks of the author’s apartment. But perhaps most presciently, there’s a good bit of evidence that a good number of Millennials are ready to doff their clothes, turn up the heat, live naked in the suburbs, and take the appropriate precautions when cooking bacon.
As a recent guest on the Naturist Living Show recently stated, we’ll know we’re making progress on this front when people react to naturism the same way they react to skydiving. “Would never care to do that myself, but I have a quiet admiration for those who find that exhilarating.”
THAT… would be a good article in the New York Times.