In response to a writing prompt on Medium, I’ve been working on a piece about a road trip I took last summer from New Jersey to California, then back again, with stops at naturist places along the way. I’ve recently been added as a writer for a publication called Globetrotters, where people write about their travel experiences all over the world.
Not terribly surprising, then, that the Meandering Naturist likes to write about clothes-free travel. To me, the keyword is travel. But I sometimes wonder if a potential reader is put off by the implication that at least at some point in the story, they’re going to encounter nudity! If only in plain black and white print.
Despite the fact that social mores have shifted so dramatically over the course of my lifetime, people continue to stigmatize the idea that ordinary people would want to go to a place where they would swim and chill out by the pool without a bathing suit. WHY does that freak people out? We all see nudity, real or implied, in television and advertising every day. Is it a hygiene thing? For the record, naturists tend to be the cleanest and most respectful people we’ve ever known in that regard. Not only are they fastidious about sitting on towels, but they even wash their hands in the public restroom!
Maybe it’s the sexuality piece as if exposing one’s genitalia could lead to one, and one thing only – some wild bacchanalia next to the pool. Those places certainly exist, but that’s not our cup of tea. But even if it were, WHY do people even care about that? People make all sorts of decisions as to how they live their lives, in the bedroom and beyond. I wrote a long post a couple of years ago about my consternation regarding the irony of people who get hung up about non-sexual nudity when most young adults are very much at ease with casual sex. So, what, then is all the stigma about?
As I write this, we’re staying at a lovely resort on the island of Mallorca that caters to clients in our exact demographic. Adult couples, nearing or maybe just beyond middle age, all of whom share a propensity to enjoy poolside time devoid of swimwear, in a non-sexual environment.
(TL;DR – We’re at a naturist resort!)
As my wife and I were out on our morning (clothed) trek through the adjoining farmland, we got to talking about the story we hear again and again from people we’ve met here – and other naturist places – over the years. As we lead out, the conversation typically goes something like this…
“Do your children know you’re here?” We ask.
“Well… they know we’re on a Spanish Island,” or “They know we’re on Mallorca, but they don’t know everyone is naked.”
“How about your friends.”
“Oh a few of them know, but this is simply a part of our lives we don’t care to share with the folks at home. ‘Just not sure they’ll understand.”
It might be worthwhile to note that at least this time, at this place, we’re the only ones here from North America. There are several folks from Denmark, a couple from Germany, another from Belgium, and quite a few Brits. Statistically, we should be the prudish ones. Scandinavians are especially well known for their nonchalant attitudes about nudity, but when it comes to telling your grown children and colleagues you go on nakation, everyone gets a bit squeamish.
Our children most definitely know where we are. We had a video call with one of them yesterday, and his sister has stayed with us here in the past. And all three kids used to go on annual nakations with us in France and Croatia when they were young. They loved it.
That piece, alone, seems to be a significant part of the puzzle. Many people don’t take the leap into social nudity until later in life when the kids are grown and gone. Maybe it happens by chance at a nude beach in France or an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. Then they realize they like it and start seeking out opportunities to re-create the sensation and freedom that is inherent of naturism.
But as time goes on, now you’ve amassed several nakations that you weren’t completely forthright about when sharing with your friends and relatives – and you’re stuck. If you’re going to tell the entire story, – the whole naked truth – you may have to back up five, or ten, or twenty years.
“Mom!!!??!! Why didn’t you tell me that you and dad run around Europe in the buff??!!”
The stigma becomes more about not coming clean in the first place than it does the nudity, itself.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may have followed the story of how my wife and I officially came out to my colleagues and students about six months ago after rumors started spinning around the workplace about our preferences for summer travel. Ironically, most everybody already knew that we go on clothes-free vacations, but the real news story turned out to be that we hadn’t addressed it with candor in a forthright manner. As one of my students would later say, “It was one of the worst-kept secrets everyone knew about you.”
There are two recurring themes I find intriguing in this discussion, if not outright frightening.
- Why are people so hell-bent on passing judgment about other people’s personal lives? From the unsettling debates about the SCOTUS overturn of Roe vs. Wade, to the fiery arguments at school board meetings all over the country about what goes in a textbook, I don’t recall a time when people have been so eager to make moral and ethical decisions about what’s good for humans other than themselves.
- And exactly what are people who don’t hold my particular value system afraid of? Said another way, why on earth should anybody care whether I go to nude beaches or not? Is it simply that you think all nudists are exhibitionists, and you’ve reduced us in your mind to being some kind of sexual predators? I’ve met a lot of creepy people over my lifespan, and per capita, I’m here to tell you, very few of them were naturists.
Which brings us to the frightening part. With the rise of populist movements over deeply divisive issues, it has become less and less en vogue for people to see things from an opposing perspective. Instead, we just jump to conclusions that these kind of people vote for those kind of politicians. People who are religious support certain kinds of social reform. People who live in cities think such-and-such about people who live on farms. The list goes on and on, but at the end of the day, it’s reflective of an ideology where people have grown intolerant of individual differences while doubling down on gross generalizations as to another person’s values and identity. That’s dangerous stuff.
So, I repeat. What is it about nudity that scares the hell out of people?
Impassioned advocates just lost a battle over a topless beach in Maryland where children might have been exposed to women’s breasts. And the imminent damage in the wake of breast exposure would be… ?
Or how about this? Those little cubicles turning up in major airports where women can “hide” to breastfeed a child? Is feeding your child really perpetuating the collapse of morality and decency as we know it?
Don’t we have more serious things to worry about? Like guns? And schools? And civil rights?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Wow. Do we though?
I’m hoping this post may elicit some comments from readers who can help me, and other readers, understand where we fell off the rails in the journey toward Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I’ll be waiting by the pool. Naked.