I try to steer clear of politics and religion in my blog, but this has become increasingly difficult since I began a series of posts called NAKED IN AMERICA, a project intended to document our visits to nude and clothing-optional resorts in the Eastern United States.
I already knew there was a lot of confusion about social nudity in the United States, but I thought the most perplexing part of the equation was going to be about the perceptions people hold related to the inherently sexual nature of nudism. (Despite the ongoing nudist mantra that the two are not inextricably linked.) That’s a thing, for sure, but that’s not the main theme that has emerged during our visits to about a dozen different resorts between Florida and Vermont. To be blunt… I had never realized before how eager naked people are to Make America Great Again!
Before I lose roughly 50% of my readers, I should try to provide a bit of perspective. While I’m most certainly the liberal university professor type, I really consider myself a moderate, capitalist, would-even-vote-for-a-thoughtful-Republican-if-the-timing-were-right, kind of guy. My father was the epitome of the American rags-to-riches story, growing up in the Depression, served in World War II, and eventually established his own small business where he struggled with all the things that keep small business owners up at night. He voted for Ronald Reagan for President, and supported Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bid for the Governator. My dad was pragmatic, and wise, in a common-sense sort of way. A true role model!
I haven’t a clue what my father would do were he alive today. One thing I know though, he wouldn’t be caught dead at a nudist resort! In fact, I have vivid memories of him ranting at the dinner table over those damn hippies who had taken over an old camp on the Russian River in California. He never knew that his own son – me – became an avowed nudist in his early twenties and raised his children to run around naked, just like those crazy long-hairs at the river. In fact, I think he would have gone so far as to say that such behavior is… well… un-American!
My parents were also enthusiastic RVers, though they could never afford one of those super-fancy rigs you see on the road today. But their 28-foot trailer looked like any number of those we’ve seen in nudist parks all up and down the East Coast, except for one thing. No political banners or adverts!
Perhaps that’s the moderate part of me. I have some deeply rooted thoughts and concerns about the upcoming presidential election, (while I continue to reflect upon the last one) but there are no signs on my front lawn. No stickers on the back of my car. And I don’t have a baseball cap with “I’m Riden with Biden” stitched on the front. Like my dad, I’m a lead by example kind of guy who will wait for someone else to change the topic to politics, and maybe still, push off to another subject before things get dicey. It was different back in the day when you thought somebody from either side could cause another person to reconsider their beliefs, alliances, and ideals… but today? It seems most people know which side of the fence they live on, and aren’t so keen about the grass on the other side.
But back to our research project. Apparently, most of the people who enjoy social nudity, at least in this part of the country, live on the red side of the fence, proudly displaying huge banners and flags waving above their RVs adorned with elaborate decks and cactus gardens, fervently supporting the campaign to Make America Great Again. I mean, not just a little cardboard sign on the lawn, or a sticker near the doorbell, but enormous banners blowing in the naked wind.
The funny thing is that I keep reading impassioned philosophical statements based on that “deep-seated truth about social nudity” – that is, it’s impossible to have a pre-conceived opinion when meeting a naked person. But I guess that assumes you didn’t drive through the camping area first to see the wide array of RVs flying their glorious banners. While every now and again we’ll notice a small rainbow flag hanging over the door of a residential Park Model, I don’t believe we’ve seen a single thread of support for “the Blue team.” Does that mean Democrats are simply more private about their political opinions? Maybe they’re just not excited about the current election ticket? Or maybe… they’re someplace else… with clothes on.
I have another blog post spinning in my head about the evolution of AANR and TNSF, the two major advocacy organizations for clothes-free recreation in the United States. Decades ago it seems these two entities were almost feudal in their rivalry, as the former was an outgrowth of the rigidly rule-bound American Sunbathing Association that dated back to the 1930s, while the latter rolled out in the 1970s, advocating for the right to get naked outside the walls of the nudist colony: free beaches; in the forest; at isolated hot springs. If I have the story right, TNSF sought to rebel against the establishment of which AANR was most certainly a part. I’m guessing if my father had been a nudist, he would have belonged to an AANR club, ranting to his friends about the naked hippies on the beach that just won’t get with the real movement.
So now, my question is, “Where did all those naked hippies go when they came home from the nude beach?” Were they lured into a boardwalk clothing store where you could buy two graphic tees and get a “MAGA t-shirt” for free?
But here’s the part that really baffles my wife. Given our extensive travels through naturist Europe where taking your children on vacation to a naturist resort is as wholesome as a trip to Disneyland, she has continued to grapple with the proclivity of lingerie dances and the Friday night Foam Parties advertised on resort bulletin boards. Not all of them, for sure, but as many as not, which is significant given our tendency to avoid places that market to the “sexy and adventurous” crowd.
I suppose that is simply a microcosm of my inability to understand the implications associated with being a liberal or a conservative in 21st-century America. I can’t seem to get past the prejudices of my youth that Liberals adore getting naked with friends, smoking pot, and free love for all. Conversely, I thought Conservatives were God fearing, hard-working folk that disdained pre-marital and extra-marital sex, let alone, getting a little down and dirty in your see-through thingy on the dance floor after a day of fruity cocktails by the pool.
I know this all sounds pretty judgmental, if not outright eccentric, and maybe I’m missing the point altogether. That is, that “America at its greatest is when you’re naked, at least mildly inebriated, and getting frisky with your half-naked lover on the dance floor.” Truthfully, I can’t say that doesn’t sound like a fun night on the town, but it really doesn’t do much to help your average moderate American guy on the street – if there is such a thing – to distinguish social nudity from sex. And strangely enough, it seems that my liberal, open-minded, “I voted for gay rights” friends have decided to avoid such tawdry behavior altogether. As best I can tell, most of those folks chose the prudish resort down the road where swimsuits are required in the pool and the big excitement for Saturday night is a huge bonfire.
I am well aware this piece is full of sweeping generalizations, and loaded with assumptions about people who vote Republican and drive big RVs. But remember, my own dad fit that profile, albeit years ago, and I still remember him as one of the wisest and most thoughtful humans I have ever known. Even though he would have never understood my affinity for removing all my clothes whenever the opportunity would present itself.
But I think the phenomenon is thought-provoking, at the very least. We hope to travel west soon and check out some other naturist places outside of this heavily-populated bubble called the Northeast Corridor, though I suspect the trend will retain a similar trajectory as we head toward the Pacific Ocean. Maybe I’ll be surprised and find a commune of naked Democrats hiding in the hills of New Mexico or camping on the Arizona desert, but unless we stumble into Burning Man, I sort of doubt it.