Naked With My Therapist

The meandering naturist stops to ponder…

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere as of late. In fact, my last post dates back to early September, before life became a bit overwhelming, and blogging about nakations seemed a little less urgent than everyday life.

Among other challenges, this has been a time of loss with the passing of relatives and friends – some timely and expected, others less so. All that, along with having to face up to a pretty strong dose of dissolution in the workplace, has made for an intense period of self-reflection. NEWS FLASH: Sometimes things just don’t go the way they should – or at least not the way you want them to! Turns out that’s not news at all. At least, not according to my therapist.

I’d never seen a therapist on a regular basis before, but this seemed like the right time. Turns out the old adage is true… The one that suggests that as people age, they simply become a decidedly more vivid caricature of themselves. I’m willing to own up to that, but not without a bit of discomfort along the way.

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you probably know that I’m quite passionate about naturism. In fact, as it turns out, I’m pretty passionate about everything I do! It just so happens that naturism ended up near the very top of my life priority short list. Followers of this blog may have also read my various rants and raves about our – my wife and I – naturist journey and maybe even a few of my opinion pieces about social nudity such as The Demographics of Nakedness, the quirky unevenness of naturism in America, or a more recent piece about my own personal obsession with naturism. If you’re not up for digging back through my personal archives, I can summarize the entire story with one sentence: “My college girlfriend went to a nude beach as part of a class experiment, wrote a paper about it, piqued my interest, and I took up the cause with a fervor that most dudes in my age bracket have for football or golf.” Thirty-five years later, that girlfriend is my wife, and naturist exploration remains an integral part of our relationship.

For readers who have pursued therapy or counseling, I would love to see your comments about how you went about explaining naturism to your therapist. How did you roll out the topic? What parts were difficult to contextualize without feeling awkward or apologetic? And how did you gauge the raised eyebrows when you tried to explain the difference between social nudity and sexual deviance? Surely, any seasoned therapist has heard it all, but context (and empathy!) is absolutely critical when you’re trying to rationalize something that matters to you. I suspect the average therapist deals with all kinds of deviant behaviors – that’s part of their job. I simply can’t help but wonder if my therapist is sitting there indexing my meandering thoughts to that lecture in graduate school about “people who run around naked.” Ugh!

You’ve probably realized by now, the title of this post is misleading. I have not gotten naked with my therapist. At least, not in a literal sense of the phrase. Though my affinity for naturism has been a constant thread throughout our many discussions about how I perceive the world, and how I perceive the world’s perception of me. Not surprisingly, the naturist thing represents a multi-faceted existence for me, which has led to a few “ah-ha” moments alongside a few more, “Well, of course!” revelations along the way.

The most obvious part of my affinity for naturism is likely congruous with nearly every other naturist on the planet. I felt insecure about my body until I went to a nude beach and realized that essentially nobody is pleased with their God-given proportions. Funny that you have to go to a naked place to come to grips with that, but it’s the recurring theme in pretty much every interview following a person’s first experience with social nudity.

But here’s the one I’m still musing over when I drive home from my therapy appointments…

Is there a correlation between social nudity and one’s desire to be real? To be present? Or in the language in my generation, is nakedness a necessary part of the process of total self realization? (Cue the soundtrack from Aquarius here.)

Problem is that I’ve been a naturist long enough to know that there are all kinds of people who participate in all flavors of social nudity, each embracing a unique set of values, which all becomes very confusing when people try to make the argument that nudists/naturists are more forthright, genuine, or altruistic than those who hide behind a shield of garments. That argument simply doesn’t hold up. One’s ability to disrobe in public doth not a statistically valid personality assessment make.

But the part that keeps me in head scratching mode is my own affinity for nakedness, even if I’m home alone. I can’t figure out if it’s simply the counter-culture sense of it all, or the heightened sensory of so much exposed skin, or simply the fact that nakedness represents the extreme opposite aesthetic of my otherwise frenetic and public life.

I’m pretty sure that despite her requisite open-mindedness that fuels so many open-ended questions, my therapist still doesn’t know quite what to make of the naturism thing, or perhaps more presciently, hasn’t experienced it herself. How do you explain such a phenomenon to someone who’s never been there themselves? And how do you adequately explain the difference between a sexually charged atmosphere like Cap d’Adge (See my latest rant about that!) as compared to a place where naturism is as family friendly as Disneyland? (Let’s hear it for La Jenny and French family naturism.) To the uninitiated, I suspect the very notion of social nudity lies someplace between nudist camp jokes and the poorly researched top ten lists for naked places that appear each summer in USA Today – an exercise that routinely fails to convey that Cap d’Agde is nothing like Disneyland.

All that said, the most fascinating part of this process for me is how we arrive at our own personal perceptions that define each of our social norms. For those of us who have embraced naturism for some time, it’s all but impossible to grasp how or why anyone could, would, or should be anxious about seeing a woman breastfeed in public. How could that possibly be offensive to anyone? But here in 2019, to many, it most certainly is.

I put up an article a few days ago on my other nudist blog called “Nudity Increases in America.” It’s a repost of a piece first published in 1974 in the New York Times. It’s a thought-provoking read, if only to realize that while we live in an age where there is so much emphasis on accepting people for who they are, as they are, the adherence to social norms has become more polarizing than ever. Be it based on religious convictions, political ideology, or simply a fight to maintain one’s personal identity, I don’t think this decade will go down in history as the age of open-mindedness and acceptance.

My therapist suggests our preoccupation with all that may well be an exercise in futility. (And yes, I recognize the irony that I’m preoccupied with what she might be thinking about my involvement in naturism. An endless loop!) If anything, the Digital Age has resulted in a time when we are more concerned with how people perceive us than ever before in the history of mankind. Maybe that’s why I so value the freedom to go home at the end of the day, drop my clothing near the front door, and sit by the wood-stove wearing nothing but the glow of the fire. In my estimation, that’s about a good as life gets.

How strange that anyone would think something so simple and so real is anything other than genuinely human, innocent, and innocuous. Hard to believe that living in one’s own skin is actually controversial at all.

But indeed, that is simply the perception of a meandering naturist, and to be sure, one’s sense of perception defines the game.

Reflections on a Naturist Life: La Jenny, France 2019

After an absence of five years, we finally made it back to La Jenny this summer, the place I’ve often cited as the best naturist place in the world. [See previous post here] As it goes with the best of anything, such classifications are highly subjective, and even in this case, we’ve wavered a good bit on that assessment over the years, depending on the weather during our most recent visit. A rainy week at La Jenny doth not a fabulous nakation make.

You can read the long version of our naturist saga here, which highlights our first visit to La Jenny in 1997 as a pivotal event in our naked lives. That first time, we only stayed for four nights, but we were immediately smitten with the place, and with the concept of French family naturism in general. (Check out this recent post by Nick and Lins about family naturism in France. Compelling, at least!) We returned for two weeks in 1999 with our pre-adolescent kids, at which point it became a perennial project to figure out how we could manage the airline tickets for a family of five to get back for subsequent nakations. By this time, we had tried several naturist places in America with our children in tow, but they were quickly moving into the “This is really awkward and dumb” state of mind about going on vacation with parents, let alone taking your clothes off. La Jenny was an immediate game changer, and our summers there still live among our most cherished family memories – nudity notwithstanding.

We would return to La Jenny at least a dozen times over the ensuing years, sometimes with kids, then as they were out on their own, sometimes as a couple. In 2014, we even “coerced” some of our naturist friends from home to join us a weeklong visit, but alas, it was one of those iffy weather weeks which left the lasting impression, “This place would be perfect if the sun shone a bit more.” After that, summers got busy with other things to do and  places to be, and La Jenny fell off our travel itinerary… until this year.

La Jenny, 1999

Though our adult children don’t really consider themselves naturists, they don’t bat an eye at getting naked for a family vacation, especially if it turns out to be an all-inclusive sort of deal where they get room, board, and a free plane ticket. Two of the three took the bait this summer, so we found ourselves – naked – on the porch of our chalet near the La Jenny golf course, playing Uno into the wee hours of the morning again. It felt reminiscent to be back in this charming naturist village, sitting near the pool, watching an entirely new generation of naturist families, providing evidence – in the flesh – that family naturism is a booming business in France. 

As a blogger and avid advocate of family naturism, it has occurred to me on many occasion that our naturist travelogue probably seems someplace between irrelevant and unreachable to many a would-be American naturist. I suspect that many feel just like we did back in 1997, saddled with three small children and barely enough money to buy shoes and lunch makings for the coming school week. “Nakation in France? Never gonna happen.” [There’s a whole separate story that goes here about my friend David who taught me how to earn airline miles with a credit card, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole right now.] And I also remember the “Ah-Ha” moment when we realized that a short week in a Disney park carries roughly the same price tag as three weeks in Europe, if we could figure out how to get everybody from this continent to that one. 

La Jenny, 2003

But as I read so many blog posts, tweets, and reddit musings from frustrated husbands and fathers who simply can’t find a way to sell naturism to their spouses and families, I can’t help but think, “That’s because you simply can’t find a place in close proximity to where you live to replicate the everyday normal naturist experience in France… or Croatia…or Spain.” Family naturism will never feel normal when you’re in an environment where it simply isn’t… NORMAL!” Where the people you see at the pool and the beach and at the restaurant that evening are the same people you would encounter at Disneyland, or Six Flags, or even at the local grocery store or restaurant. 

La Jenny, 2005

I’ve ranted a good bit in these pages over the years about the “nudist colony” feel of naturist places in the US. Indeed, there are a few places in North America that have broken that boundary, but making a quick weekend jaunt to Toronto or Palm Springs may even be more cost prohibitive than going to Europe. And then there are the family naturism casualties in the US, like Caliente in Florida, which finally gave up on their business plan for family naturism when they realized that catering to those seeking a sexual adventure became a necessity for keeping the cash flow in the positive. Or Desert Sun (formerly Desert Shadows) in Palm Springs, which first opened as a family naturist destination, where many units sold under the banner of “my grandkids can come visit me here,” only later to have children banned from the premises altogether as the potential of aiding and abetting a child predator outweighed the prospects of attracting clients who would pay for a family nakation. We Americans like to think we’re really progressive, but when it comes to intergenerational nudity, we simply can’t seem to figure it out.

La Jenny, 2007

Like Nick and Lins say in their piece, the French have totally figured out the formula for making family nakation acceptable, even to those who would rather vacation with their clothes on. (Imagine that! Telling your friends you went with your family on naked vacation without worrying about getting reported to Child Protective Services!?) France has also learned to embrace mainstream and social media in a way that doesn’t just sexualize or poke fun at social nudity, but portrays it as a viable recreational option for everyday people who simply want to de-stress, snooze by the pool, and walk on the beach, then come home without tan lines. 

La Jenny 2013

So now it’s 2019. As I rode my bike (naked) down to the village for croissants and a baguette from the market (also naked), before spending the rest of the day (naked) with my wife, friends, and adult children, I couldn’t help but get a bit nostalgic about that first visit to naturist France some 20+ years ago. I remember thinking, as we were in our thirties back then, “Why did it take us so long to discover this magical place? And how will I ever go on another vacation, anyplace, where clothing is required by the pool or on the beach? Why is that even a thing?”

So I guess that’s the point. Despite the best efforts of the most ardent proponents of social nudity in the US of A, it seems unlikely we’ll ever catch up with our European friends when it comes to creating a place where family naturism not only seems normal, but is in demand! Are there safe places to get naked with your family in the United States to enjoy social nudity with your family? A few, scattered across the country. Do any of them measure up, even to the mid grade places in France? Well… not from what we’ve seen, and we’ve been looking for a long time.

So if you’ve made it this far in these wandering musings from a meandering naturist, and you’re still living in the confines of naked and alone at home, I simply encourage you to find a cheap plane ticket, do a bit of careful research, then go get naked in France. It doesn’t have to be La Jenny; there are over 300 options in France alone. But if you get it right, you might end up wrecked… and naked… for life!