Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

Hello faithful blog followers.

Just on the back side of a pretty intense push at work, so I’ve fallen off the blogosphere for a few weeks. I hope to catch up in the coming days, leading out with this post from a guest blogger. Our twenty-something friend has taken quite a liking to the naturist thing, and I think her words are fresh, inspiring, and quite instructive to the novice naturist. An excellent testimony to the fact that naturism is not a generational thing, but just a “you gotta get it right” sort of thing.

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Vignettes of a Blossoming Naturist

I found myself a naturist incidentally after I stripped off my clothes at 2 am and hopped into a hot tub under the heavy cloak of a sleepy happy that was made possible by a couple of glasses of wine. The next morning I remembered what happened only by virtue of the fact that I woke up completely naked and had to walk around and pick up my various articles of clothing that were strewn about the deck.

My next encounter with naturism lacked all forms of alcohol, without which I quickly realized that although I had been training all of my life to be polite and understand proper social etiquette, I was destined to become a rather clumsy nudist. As my naturist friends, who also happen to be a couple, casually seemed to emerge naked from various parts of the house, I felt as though every action of mine was destined to be awkward and incorrect. All social norms flew out the window, so to speak. For example, changing into your swimming outfit is most typically done in a bathroom-but as I found myself walking there (completely sober) to change out of my civilian clothes, and into…nothing…it seemed quite silly to be modest about that portion of the evening. I resolved, giving myself a silent pep talk, “Okay…so I’ll just take off my clothes here: in the middle of their living room.” With that settled, I undressed, only to wonder where nudists typically would leave their clothes strewn about. In the meantime, I’m simultaneously calculating when I shaved my legs last, if I should emerge from the house with a funny story as a distraction, and how I could possibly acquire more alcohol for the endeavor. In an effort to think all of this through, I suspect I looked a bit like some type of bug, stuck on its back, with its legs strewn about in the air, flailing in an attempt to join his fellow friends on their way to the promised land.

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I think my most poignant conversation took place with the same Naturist couple, who must have sensed my awkwardness from a mile away and asked me, “Where do people look when they are speaking to you?” After I responded with, “My eyes,” and they nodded and smiled, everything seemed to fall into place.

A recommendation for new naturists: Don’t get too comfortable before learning proper nudist etiquette. It’s a real thing. For example: chairs and other surfaces meant for sitting are not available to you unless you bring along a towel and lay it down before sitting down. It makes so much sense. I mean-who wants your remaining butt sweat on their own butt (or their chair)?

Yikes. Following this advice could mean avoiding a conversation like this one: “Hey, new naturist. You’re looking less and less like a flailing beetle every day, but we don’t want your butt sweat on our chair…so I’m going to politely hand you this towel, and if you could stand up and lay it down while we all silently judge you for your lack of naturist etiquette, that would really be great.”

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As soon as you’re feeling confident in your nudity and how one “blends in” and “plays it cool” as a naturist, it’s probably time to convince four of your friends to try out a naturist resort in Corsica. As far as I understand, the best ways to piss off people in a naturist resort are to be loud, take pictures of naked people, and to in fact, not be naked, especially at the pool (the only place in naturist resorts that really seem to require nudity). I’m guessing that you can already hypothesize that our chill day trip ended with friend #1 getting yelled at by a lifeguard to take off her swimsuit or get lost, girl #2 getting reprimanded by a different lifeguard for taking the perfect instagram photo of the naked people lounging at the pool that overlooked the ocean, and the rest of us getting shushed by virtually everyone because of our utter lack of self-awareness to realize that us trying to “get our shit together” was not something that EVERYONE at the entire resort needed to hear about. Point taken. Friends need to prep friends for naturist experiences with a laundry list of “do’s and do-nots.”

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I suspect by now, I’ve painted a rather dismal picture for blossoming naturists everywhere: there are bound to be awkward moments, you have to learn a new set of social standards, you have to remember where you put your clothes after you’ve discarded them, not to mention that some people simply think that social nudity, especially in certain company, is SUPER weird. Yet at this moment, here I am, lying on a beach filled with naked families and friends, all of various generations, just simply thinking, “does life get any more serene or better than this?” In this context, everyone is beautiful, and just about the only thing I can tell by looking at any one person, is that they too, feel super free and relaxed and simply happy to just “be.” There are no contextual clues from their clothing if they are well-off or struggling to make ends meet, and therefore, no indication of their jobs, careers or aspirations. It’s as though everyone’s simply a being, just like you or me, which simply could not be any more beautiful. Women with mastectomies, teenagers embracing their changing bodies, and children playing together in the water, oblivious of the social norms and pressures set by society that they will eventually (sooner rather than later) encounter.

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Whether I’m sappy about the whole thing (i.e. humanity is beautiful…see last paragraph) or practical, (Why cover your sandy, salt-covered body with a t-shirt after swimming if you don’t have to? Do you reallyyy want sand in your swimsuit bottoms? Really??! Isn’t that sweaty t-shirt of yours just making you so uncomfortable?! Wouldn’t you rather feel the warmth from this fireplace everywhere, not just on your hands and toes?) I find myself coming to the same conclusion: Life is better experienced without boundaries set by those in modern-day society. I mean, if you’re going to be like the cavemen/women/people with your Paleo diet, why not look like them too, and take off your shirt?

I’m definitely no expert, but as my other budding naturist friend captured so eloquently, “Is there really anything better than your nips blowing in the wind?”

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Actually… things are getting better for naked people

On the beach at Cap d'Agde

On the beach at Cap d’Agde

It’s easy to reminisce about the good ol’ days, when local nudist clubs were thriving in America, when naturist ethical mores were higher, and people were just more laid back about the naked people on the beach. You know, back before the internet.

As a 50-something male, I have pined over the fact that I was born a bit too late to enjoy the “golden days of naturism.” We like to believe that things were better before people became so uptight and paranoid with a desire to legislate every possibly questionable behavior out of existence. While there’s some truth in that, (another rant for another day) I would have to say that things are getting significantly better for naked people. More complicated, perhaps, but better.

From Ile du Levant, c. 1961

From Ile du Levant, c. 1961

My inspiration for making such a bold statement is largely a reaction to having read Stephen L. Harp’s recent book, Au Naturel: Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France. I fear he won’t get much press outside of academic circles, as even the Kindle edition is really expensive. But given the fact that I’ve spent so much energy over the years touting the naturist glories of France, I thought this would be well worth the investment. And it was.

Harp spends a lot of time setting up the story as he traces the roots of naturism back to early twentieth-century Germany and France. In short, it was a radical movement, embraced by only a few, and held in contempt by most. The early leaders worked tirelessly to convince the government (and the masses) that, along with a diet that restricts meat, alcohol, tobacco, and anything else that tastes good, that direct exposure to the sun will be make you healthy.

A vintage postcard from Cap d'Agde

A vintage postcard from Cap d’Agde

There were various coalitions in those early naturist movements, including a few pioneers in the US, but it’s worth noting that much of what they were fighting for back then would be considered more conservative than the average swimwear you see on just about any beach today. (Especially European beaches – home of the Speedo!) The requirement of le minimum was typical, meaning that while breasts and chests might be exposed, genitalia still needed to be concealed. Of course, there were those who would push the boundaries for full nudity, but they were the daring ones. It would be the early 1960s before people really started getting naked on French beaches. That’s scarcely fifty years ago.

The early days on Ile du Levant

The early days on Ile du Levant

What changed the narrow minds of the masses? Two things; tourism and sex!

My followers know that we’re very keen on Ile du Levant, as we try to make even a brief visit during our annual naturist pilgrimage to France. And I have carefully avoided mentioning that we have twice visited the famous naked city, Cap d’Agde, as the reputation among naturists in the know is dicey at best. “Oh, you’re those kind of naked people!?!”

No. Actually, we’re not. But interestingly enough, when I tell somebody from the US that we enjoy naturist vacations in France, if they know anything about the topic at all, their first question is, “Oh, do you go to that big naked city on the Mediterranean? What’s the name?” And if they’re really in the know, “Aren’t there swingers there?”

What I found most informative about Harp’s history of French naturism was that there has been a consistent pattern over the past hundred years when it comes to humans getting naked. In very general terms, it goes something like this:

  • People were looking for a place to get naked and they found Ile du Levant. The tradition grew until it was no longer possible to mandate, let alone enforce “acceptable behavior,” until eventually, some of the naked people decided to push the boundaries of sexuality. Between nudity and sex, tourism exploded, and this little island became an international destination until the authorities cracked down and a better option materialized.
  • REPEAT: but fill in Cap d’Agde
  • REPEAT: but fill in Florida
  • REPEAT: but fill in any number of “naturist places” that begin with the best of intentions, but at the end of the day, people come to spend their naked dollars (euros, francs) or they don’t. Money speaks louder than an imposed sense of morality.

The “AH HA” moment for me was not that naturism caught on in Europe simply because Europeans are more open minded and free-spirited, but in nearly every case, the right to get naked followed some initiative of commercial development. “Turn these marsh wetlands into a place to get naked, and people will come by the thousands!” Simple supply and demand.

A sea of nakedness at Cap d'Agde

A sea of nakedness at Cap d’Agde

And sure enough, we are seeing similar trends today, even in the US, with offerings like the The Big Nude Boat and some of the Florida resorts that have simply abandoned the guise of what so many of us hold dear as holistic naturism to cater to those with more hedonistic tendencies. The assumption is that if we let people believe that sex might be related to nudity, that the public at large will completely flip out. But if this article in the Huffington Post (What Really Goes On Inside Nudist Resorts) isn’t enough evidence, the only people who are not connecting those dots – at least in the US of A, are the naked people. By and large, the average guy on the street has already made up his mind.

Am I condoning places that advertise themselves as naturist/nudist destinations only as a guise for the crazy sex dens everyone is leering and jeering about? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Am I shunning my commitment to holistic, non-sexual naturism as a truly meaningful way to enjoy life? Again, I say no. But as a fellow blogger put it so succinctly, (Sex and the Conservative Nudist) we are doing a disservice to our own credibility if we refuse to view nude recreation through the eyes of the public at large.

Naked luxury at Cap d'Agde

Naked (concrete) luxury at Cap d’Agde

And to be sure, the Millennials and their younger cousins are growing up in a different world than the pioneers of naturism, with different ideals about sex, nudity, religion, marriage; all salted with a sense of paranoia instilled by a generation of helicopter parents. But amidst it all, I’m sitting naked on the porch of a Hawaiian yurt bantering about nudity. While some of the old nudist camps have quietly disappeared, there is a greater variety of opportunity for people to get naked than ever before… all over the world. And on the day of this writing, people are taking to the streets with the #freethenipple campaign – a war that’s already been won in New York City. That’s a long country mile from requiring le minimum on a beach in the South of France just a few decades ago.

Maybe the Millennials will help us all sort out some of the sexual hang-ups of the past. My guess is that, as in the past, supply and demand will even things out. As long as there are people who embrace holistic nudity, – whatever that means – there will be places to do that. As long as there are people who want to push that boundary, there will be a market for that as well.

How is that different than anything else that’s trending in the world right now?

A POST SCRIPT to my readers in France: Harp goes on to talk about CHM Montilivet and the other resorts on the Aquitaine as well as those in Provence and in the Ardèche, noting that these places have largely held true to the early naturist core values, while at the same time, benefiting from the local government’s desire to increase tourism. As long time patrons at La Jenny, we are most grateful for that. No such phenomenon has yet to occur in the US.

Photos for this post were found on the internet. If I used your photo without permission, let me know and I’ll change it out.

The Boob Conundrum – Can’t we all just get along?

Ad from a NY Subway Car

Ad from a NY Subway Car

So we visited our daughter in New York City a couple weeks ago. She was raised with naturist parents, so not much phases her. But I, her father, was immediately drawn to an advertisement in the New York Subway. For a very good price (about $4k, I think) you could have your tomatoes (Are those tangerines or tomatoes?) turned into extraordinary grapefruits. What a deal!

Before and after ad for breast augmentation. Just wow!

Before and after ad for breast augmentation. Just wow!

Before I continue, it’s only fair to confess that I am a heterosexual male, who happens to have an affinity for firm, small breasts. It’s not that large breasts are offensive – but let’s face it. Given the test of time, not only are small breasts perky and fun in the youthful phase, but more often than not, they hold their own a bit longer as gravity takes its toll. Just bein’ a guy here, but it is what it is.

But what struck me was the very essence of this advert on the NY subway. Really? Turn your tomatoes into grapefruits? Why?

A survey of breasts.

A survey of breasts.

If you follow my blog, you know we travel a lot; and we’ve found the naturist experience in Europe to be unparalleled in so many ways – but one of the most significant ways would have to do with breast augmentation. I would stop short of saying it’s simply not a European thing, but at the naturist places we have visited abroad, a breast is a breast – and that is all.

Lovely moons. Man breasts!

Lovely “moobs.” Man breasts!

And in fact, (as a guy who truly appreciates small breasts,) European women tend to be a bit more svelte, with breasts that match the proportions of the rest of the body. Particularly inspiring is the occasional sighting of a woman who has survived a mastectomy, but walks confidently amidst the naturists at the pool with one natural breast,l like everything is normal and natural – which, in fact, it is.

Seems to me that if the puritanical folks wanted to take on a cause worth fighting, it wouldn’t involve boobs, but MOOBS! Male breasts that frequently are more dramatic than those of their female counterparts.

Funny. Put up a picture of “moobs” on Facebook shrouded in body hair, and all is good. But put up a photo of a small breasted woman (lacking chest hair) and you risk getting booted off the network.

Attractive small breasts

Attractive small breasts

We are a complicated species…