Are you still weirded out by my naked arse?
No worries – you don’t have to see it!
Simply CLICK HERE!
Actually, we much prefer the term “naturists.” But I’ll get to that later.
If this post ever finds its way online, that will be the result of taking my blog of the last ten years – The Meandering Naturist – back onto the airwaves. A move I have contemplated at length since I flipped off the switch about six months ago.
For long-time followers, you may recall the kerfuffle about a colleague losing their cool over the discovery of my naked ass on the internet. Allegedly, a student was “deeply concerned” about said anatomical discovery and it was strongly suggested by my administrator that I simply “make it go away” – which I did with haste. Mine is a very public life once I get up in the morning and put clothes on, and while I was all about fighting for a cause I believe in with all my being – that being naturism – that was not the time nor the place to take on that crusade. In the wake of all that, I spawned a second blog called the Cantankerous Naturist where you can read the blow-by-blow account of what turned out to be something between a ginormous annoyance and a direct invasion of privacy. Even my Dean (my boss’s boss!) called me days later to assure me that what I do in my personal life is my own business, and there are plenty of faculty who commit significantly more egregious sins than swimming naked in Europe! (Joke’s on him. I’m a terrible swimmer. I mainly float!)
The thing is, I remain passionate about naturism, and I love writing about things that are not part and parcel of my professional life. But it’s no wonder there are so many misconceptions about a middle-aged guy and his wife with a penchant for running around Europe in the altogether. As I write this, we are staying at the stunningly beautiful La Chiappa on the southern shores of Corsica alongside a convivial crowd of French, German, and Italian families who apparently share our ethos that Lycra and tan lines are neither flattering nor necessary. But truthfully, how would the average American even begin to conceptualize what that’s all about?
I have tried to avoid entangling my blog about naturism into my political predilections, though that’s become increasingly difficult with the events of the past five years in these Divided States of America. We were never fans of George “W,” feeling at the time that his actions in the White House were reckless and likely to provoke irreparable damage on the world stage, but looking back, that all seems remarkably tame by comparison to more recent developments. Was Obama too progressive? Was Trump fit to be President? Is Biden capable of steering the ship? In this context, that’s hardly relevant in what has become a nation that is deeply divided, and resultantly, wildly intolerant of that which seems the least bit foreign or peculiar. The far Left and far Right are equally guilty of their unwillingness to see things with any level of objectivity, which is a serious liability for the likes of people like us who find the best moments in travel to be those that crush our (unknowingly) narrow perspectives as to how we view the world, or perhaps more importantly, how the world views us!
In the midst of an unprecedented heatwave gripping the entire European region right now, I read yesterday that despite Europe’s track record to reduce carbon emissions and seek out alternative energies, climate change does not recognize international borders! What happens in Asia, South America, or the US of A has a direct impact on humans all over the planet, regardless of their sensibilities and awareness.
What’s the point, you may ask? Perhaps we’re just a bit paranoid after several years of pandemic solitary confinement, but we seem to get the same bemused look when meeting people abroad as to who we are and where we come from as we do from people at home when they find out about our proclivity for social nudity. If a European even cares to engage in discussion, they express their befuddlement about our blatant disregard for the planet, our apparent tolerance for random mass shootings, and a genuine sense of disillusionment in a country that was once believed to be a world thought leader. That’s exactly the same facial expression I’ve experienced with colleagues who stammered through the words, “You be you, but getting naked is certainly not worth wrecking your career over, is it?” I suspect Europeans imagine us storming the Capitol with a crude weapon in hand, while that colleague must have envisioned us at some tawdry bacchanalia on a French beach on the Mediterranean Sea. The absence of context and real information has become the fodder for misunderstanding and disgust, well beyond the parameters of naturist ideals.
But alas, I don’t need to fly across an ocean to encounter a lack of empathy and understanding, as those seem to have become the main operatives in a place we used to call the Melting Pot. My initial reticence about sharing our naturist doings with my colleagues and students was primarily an effort not to stir the pot, particularly when it came to honoring people’s religious beliefs and value systems derived thereof. As a professor of the arts, I have always thought it my place to present my subject matter in the most objective way possible. If a student can’t get past my political orientation, religious beliefs, or my propensity for swimming (or floating) naked, they might shut down their own ability to be objective in pursuing artistry in an academic setting under my guidance.
This has all changed in recent years. Digital photography and the internet have altered the way everyone goes about their daily lives, not the least of which is the desire of so many to share their most intimate thoughts through the unfiltered megaphone of social media. And it’s difficult to imagine anyone who has spent more than a hot second on Twitter who hasn’t inadvertently stumbled into the most graphic pornography simply as the result of searching for a term with a little-known double-entendre. It’s ironic that the algorithms that Mark Zuckerberg purports to protect us from such graphic images seem to fail at that, but have at the same time proven wildly successful at detecting a nipple or a buttock which inevitably leads to the exile of so many naturist social media accounts, maligning so many people eager to speak to the altruistic values of non-sexual social nudity.
Since we have “come clean” in a more public way about our naturist doings, that has left the door open to more casual conversation about naturism – particularly as it exists in Europe – including that with former students who seem intrigued with our stories of body acceptance and less fazed than their parents by the premise of social nudity in general. A few have been brave enough to add a visit to a German Spa or a French naturist beach during their travels, only to come away with the quiet revelation that all the fuss had been much ado about nothing. Why would you want to sweat ten-percent of your body weight into a clingy swimsuit? And what does that bathing costume (British term. I love that!) do to actually obscure those parts of the body that one feels most insecure about.
Invariably, that naturist epiphany inherently leads to a line of questioning as to “Where can we find this in the United States?” To which we sadly reply – “Pretty much nowhere.”
It’s true that there are places here and there in the US that embrace naturist ideals as we’ve come to know them in Europe. A couple of resorts in Florida and Palm Springs. Historic campgrounds in New Jersey and Connecticut. Even a decent nude beach near San Diego. But for the uninitiated, chances are better than not that you’re going to wander into a situation that will simply confirm everything you suspected to be awkward or tawdry that perpetuates the very misconceptions that most Americans have about nudism in the first place. How many times have we driven into an American “nudist resort” ablaze with political banners celebrating Trump and all the conspiracy theories that come with? Hang around that place until Saturday night and chances are better than not there’ll be a gathering of the inebriated by the pool that, while not overtly sexual, is not a place where people would typically bring their children. And how many times have we heard the trope, “We found our true selves once the kids left home, and now, we’re ready to live our best naked adult lives!” How incredibly at odds that is with the family naturist environment here on the southern shores of Corsica, where young families are the predominant clientele? How could a prudish American even contextualize such a thing without jumping to some twisted or perverse conclusion?
It’s the peak of the school holidays here in the South of France, and La Chiappa appears to be near full capacity. At the beach and at the pool, families of all ages are plentiful and joyful as they do all the things you might expect at a Disney water park; fighting over floaties, chasing one another with water toys, and interacting with parents and grandparents in a manner we’ve seldom seen in the US. (Family is most certainly a thing in Europe!) Come evening, at least at this resort, people dress in simple but elegant pareos (sarongs) and shorts and t-shirts while the band plays and children stay up until midnight to dance the night away in a familial environment that just feels right. That’s not just a naturist resort thing. We saw that again last evening in the nearby village of Bonifacio where families spilled into the street to dance to the live band singing covers of American rock tunes.
Try to explain this to someone in America who hasn’t experienced it and you risk association with the [imagined] super-liberal cabal that runs a child-trafficking ring out of the non-existent basement in a D.C. pizza place. (See Pizzagate, 2016) Families? Dancing? Beaches? Nudity? OMFG! Who are you and what the hell are you doing?
Ironically, Americans are inclined to refer to clothes-free recreation as nudism. In France, there is an unspoken association with the term “nudist” that implies that perhaps you’re not a family naturist, but more closely aligned with those seeking sexual pleasure as well. That most certainly exists in France (See our blog post about Cap d’Agde) and I don’t wish to pass judgment on that one way or the other. That simply isn’t our scene, nor is nudity inherently sexual to those who take their summer holidays at naturist resorts in France. If we had not discovered this some three decades ago, we would have given up on family naturism altogether. But instead, some of our fondest memories – as a family – with our now adult children occurred at places like La Jenny, Belezy, Montalivet, and La Chiappa. We’ll never know what we missed by not renting that expensive beach house on the Outer Banks each summer, but we doubt it was anything like this.
How reassuring that the French sensibility for naturism is still alive and thriving with so many young families crowding the pool that you have to plan your day strategically to work in your pool time. How frustrating that at home, where we – as a nation – like to think of ourselves as tolerant and open-minded, feel the need to look over our collective shoulder in an effort to protect ourselves from being labeled as “nudists.” If you do you equates to living a life where people value time with their children while seeking to enjoy nature while protecting the environment, all while placing a priority on conviviality, good food, and a nice, red wine, then yes – we’re guilty as charged.
Are you still weirded out by my naked arse? No worries – you don’t have to see it. We’ll simply buy a plane ticket to Europe and celebrate naturism in the company of the like-minded… open-minded… humans. While we are eager to share the joys and adventures we’ve experienced over nearly four decades of naturist exploration, you won’t stumble into either of our naked arses unless you explicitly go searching for them!
As always, I (we) welcome comments and reflections, but better spoken to my face than behind my arse – naked or otherwise. 🙂