A few weeks ago, I received a random email from a journalist for the Wall Street Journal named Jennifer Levitz, curious about how nudists (naturists) were dealing with the pandemic. In particular, she was curious about the recent mandates to adorn our naked bodies with face masks when visiting nudist places.
She had apparently stumbled onto my blog through a web search and clicked through to the “contact me” page. After a brief email exchange, we agreed on a time for a phone call, as that seemed more conducive to answering her questions in any sort of meaningful way. It took us several days to coordinate a common time, and unfortunately, when the call finally came through, I found myself in the car, driving through a massive summer rainstorm. Between trying to hear her, while avoiding the tendency to hydroplane, I fear I wasn’t quite on the edge of my interview game.
In the end, I’m not sure that was of any great consequence. As I recall, she led out by informing me that despite its lofty reputation, the Wall Street Journal does publish occasional features “of entertainment value” [DANGER! DANGER!] which immediately set me a bit on edge, hoping I was not going to end up as a reference for yet another meandering thread of nudist colony puns. That’s fair game for the usual suspects consisting of tabloids and third tier press operations, but the WSJ?
We chatted for perhaps ten minutes as I was struggling a bit to keep the car on the road, while pushing past her apparent fixation on the single-story point in her research. “Are you really naked if you’re wearing a face mask? And aren’t you mortified that you’re going to end up with embarrassing tan lines on your face?”
I told her about a couple recent visits to nudist places in the greater eastern United States, including a visit two weeks prior to Solair Recreation League, and our experiences there. I think I literally said that I didn’t have much to contribute to her story that would be more interesting than my most recent visit to Home Depot.
“Well, the pool area was closed, since it would be difficult to control social distancing there, but the beach area was quite expansive, and not particularly crowded.” I said. “People were regimented about donning face masks when necessary to go indoors to use the restroom, but otherwise, the sandy lake shore provided plenty of space for people to isolate from one another, mostly without face masks, as such seemed completely unnecessary at distances of 30’ or greater.”
“Huh, really!? So, you weren’t worried about tan lines? Aren’t you all supposed to be naked?”
I think I rattled off some glib reply to the effect of, “Well… if you’re lying out, and you’re in close proximity to anyone, it’s probably the person you came there with… you know? Maybe you should reach out to Nick and Lins. They’re the international nude travel experts. Maybe they’ll have something more substantive for your research.”
Turns out that neither I, nor Nick and Lins, made the final cut for the article once it went to press (behind a paywall) on July 2, 2020. Though interestingly enough, the aforementioned Connecticut resort, Solair, got top billing, along with a group photo of carefully positioned naked people, adorned in face masks, as well as the typical array of hats, flip-flops, and heaven forbid – sunglasses! Yet another tan line debacle in the making!
Since that early season visit to Solair, we’ve made it to four or five other naked places this summer in an effort to work through my self proclaimed Naked in America assignment in absence of European naturist travel. This actually loops back to the title of this blog post… Hey American Nudists? How are you doing with this nudist social distancing thing?
Herein lies the dichotomy! We are fortunate enough to have a naturist friendly home with plenty of space and privacy to create our own mini-resort in our backyard, and have even done social distanced naturist evenings with trusted friends, having clear guidelines in place. (Just for the record, I’m calling “face masks in the hot tub” as a mitigated fail, but that was the only way we could meet our agreed upon standards for mutual safety – and better than nothing at all.)
What’s been interesting, however, has been the difference between advertised guidelines, and the reality on the ground at various nudist venues, ranging from Florida, to Virginia, to West Virginia, to New Jersey, to Connecticut. We encountered a particularly convivial crowd at a nudist resort in Virginia where lounge chairs were carefully spaced at least six feet apart, but patrons were literally right in each other’s faces as they played petanque, socialized in the pool, or hung out to chat over tasty beverages crowded around poolside tables. The tables were certainly well-spaced, but the humans around them were most certainly not.
While I’m more inclined to make small-talk in the pool than my wife is, we are both comfortable with the notion of finding our own little corner, under a shady tree, to embrace a naked picnic and a good book. But in several instances, simply getting into the pool for a quick, refreshing dip has become something of a party game in itself. It’s something like real-life Frogger, working strategically to maintain a distance of six feet or more, as nobody is wearing masks in the pool. NOBODY! (And truthfully, why would you want to?) There’s almost a sense that “We’re all here standing in a chlorinated body of water. Certainly, the aerosols from the virus couldn’t survive in an environment like this!
I’ve heard a few folks make a case for the fact that, to some extent, a nudist place is inherently an isolation bubble, particularly in those venues with large residential communities where people remain on the grounds for the entire summer, if not the entire year. But how, exactly, does that work when random visitors, like ourselves, happen onto the property, even a bit more awkward when we are seen huddling nervously near the edge of the pool, averting glances that might cause someone to float over and strike up a conversation with us.
The WSJ piece painted something of a different picture, as Ms. Levitz apparently reached out to several nudist resorts scattered all over the country to find out how each was dealing with these onerous face mask regulations. Apparently, the facts in her article were largely based on self-reportage that mimics what one finds on various websites where resorts report how they are adhering closely to state mandates while putting the health and safety of clients and residents as the top priority. Levitz even reports on a Pennsylvania resort (that we have not visited) where one of the employees remarks on the ironic inconvenience of patrons needing to carry around their face masks with them when not in use, lacking pockets or handbags in which to store them. (We have not witnessed this inconvenient trend, as it has seemed of little concern where we’ve been.) Interestingly, that same resort has been advertising a new policy on their website that provides red wristbands to visitors who feel adamant about social distancing with others – suggesting that perhaps that’s not been the default operation procedure for the majority of their visitors.
As a side note, while the author attempts to keep a serious tone in her naked reportage, the 122 comments (at this writing) that follow the article are loaded with mocking puns and ill-informed – if not outright judgey – insults and disparaging remarks, many of which incessantly harp on the well-worn trope, “Why do people go to these places? These people do not have bodies anybody wants to see naked!” Nearly as many readers commended Ms. Levitz on providing a good laugh in this humorous read – a welcome relief from the steady stream of bad news found elsewhere in the publication. Ugh.
The take away? Well, I guess there are two…
- I wouldn’t rely on the Wall Street Journal to provide up to the minute information on safety measures at nudist resorts in the United States before planning your next nakation, and
- It turns out that nudist are, indeed pretty much like their textile-friendly counterparts: Some are judicious in their efforts to contain the pandemic so we can all get on with our lives sooner than later, while others have seemingly dismissed the threat of the virus altogether, and are simply living their lives with varying measures for personal safety.
Huh. I guess it turns out that nudists are more similar to the population-at-large than most WSJ readers might assume, even if we’re wearing face masks and nothing else.