Late Summer Nights with Naturist Friends: My Humble Attempt at Writing a How-To Guide

Following a busy summer of European Travel – a few weeks for business, then a few for vacation travel – it was pretty jarring to return home to the oppressively humid days of the northeastern USA where my administrative job awaited me with an insurmountable to-do list. The previous weeks had scarcely required me to bother with clothing at any time of the day as we found refuge at naturist resorts in the South of France and Catalonia. In that region, the summer air is warm and dry, sunny more often than not. At home, adorned in the requisite button-down shirt and dress shoes, each day vacillates between the sweltering heat of late August, countered by the abrasive gale force winds of office air conditioning systems. Regardless, in either situation, clothing seems a nuisance and a hindrance to regulating body temperature – all of which  routinely landed on the family room floor the minute I walked through the door at the end of each day. 

Fortunately, we have cultivated a naturist friendly refuge in our home located a few miles beyond the suburbs of the northeast corridor, and time has worked on our side with the careful addition of fast-growing hedges and shrubs that has resulted in what I affectionately call my “naturist man cave.” While it seems that most man caves are found in windowless basements featuring an overstuffed couch, a widescreen TV, and a fridge full of beer, mine looks quite different. Imagine a screened porch, a deck extending to the hot tub, and even a fire pit for the late summer nights when the chill starts to set in. After years in the making, it’s been a long time since I’ve needed to worry about clothing in my back yard. While our neighbors on each side are rarely inclined to wander into our backyard unannounced, they are all aware that doing so may well result in the sighting of a middle-aged guy sitting buck-naked with a glass of wine, reading his kindle on the porch. It’s happened once or twice, and guess what? Nobody much cared.

But the serendipity of the past year has been the increasing success rate of creating clothing-optional evenings with others who have been amazingly willing to bare all, when the conditions are right. At the urging of one such friend, I offer a few common-sensical thoughts about how you might facilitate a naked gathering in your home. Granted, it has taken us a while to put the necessary amenities in place, but for most of us hell-bent on the virtues of social nudity, it doesn’t hurt to work out a plan for the long game.

  • LANDSCAPING: Creative landscaping can do what fences never will. For us, that involves a robust barrier of forsythia on one side, a brawny forest of Leland Cypress on the other, and a strategic row of privet hedges which are now in excess of twelve feet (four meters) in height. Aesthetically, it creates a park-like environment, but pragmatically, someone has to work pretty hard to see a naked person in the backyard. 
  • THE HOT TUB: Hot tubs are tricky, and earlier ploys to invite people over with the express purpose of getting naked in the spa have been mostly met with blushing resistance and stuttering responses. (Seems that might have worked a bit better back in the swinging 70s. But we’re not interested in swingers, and the stigma of free love seems to have left an indelible legacy embedded in nude recreation.) BUT… Inviting friends to bring along swimsuits and towels on a chilly night, along with a bit of banter about our naturist travels, has resulted in a few surprises where we have actually under-estimated someone’s willingness to drop their towel and jump in. Unlike those who enforce a “strictly no swimsuits” rule, offering to wear one at first is often just exactly the option some people need to realize that clothing optional is actually the rule, thereby providing a choice to get naked. Think you can’t afford a hot tub, by the way? Check out home improvement stores or Craig’s List. Or watch for a moving sale. When people need to get rid of a spa, sometimes they’ll literally give it away.
  • THE SCREENED PORCH & PROPANE HEATER: A winning combination. The screened porch is not really inside (That feels weird to some people), but not really outside (Oh, that’s too exposed!). And the propane heater helps extend the season on both ends of summer. That and an ample supply of beach towels helps the newbie naturist feel more at ease as they’re figuring out the decorum of being naked around others. (If I’m wrapped in a towel, I’m not really dressed, but I’m not really naked. The gateway drug!) 
  • THE WOOD-BURNING STOVE: We made the investment several years ago to install a wood-burning stove in our family room in an effort to actually create a toasty living environment in our otherwise drafty, east-coast, vinyl siding house. I’ve been following a young couple from NYC that has been quite successful in connecting with other naturist-curious humans on social media while sponsoring a series of modest home-based naked gatherings. That all sounds good, but then suddenly not so much when the ambient temperature hovers around “annoyingly chilly.” By contrast, a glass of red wine in front of the wood burning stove is an enticement even when dressed. Couple that with a dash in from the hot tub on a snowy winter evening and you have your own little European spa. This is the stuff converts are made of!
  • Perhaps most importantly, you have to find a way to identify other would be naturist friends, which is always better if you’re already friends in the first place. (See The Demographics of Nakedness) Simply volunteer that you’re a nudist as a one-off at a cocktail party and you’re more likely than not to get an awkwardly blank stare as the conversation comes unraveled right in front of your eyes. But mention your summer trip to Florida, San Diego, or France with a quick aside that you have a thing for seeking out idyllic nude beaches, and you might pique just enough curiosity to entice someone into a chain of follow-up questions. “Really? You do that? Don’t know if I’d ever do that. How did you get into that?” In one such conversation of recent years, that thread led to the discovery that a professional colleague and her husband vacation at a naturist place (CHM Montalivet) just up the coast from our favorite naturist place (La Jenny) in France. Now they have become regular guests for naturist BBQ evenings on our back porch. You simply never know who’s out there, just waiting for a chance for a staycation-nakation.

The good news? While social nudity remains taboo for many, the very concept is becoming more and more common in the mainstream news. (See Things Are Getting Better for Naked People) To be sure, people are still confused about the sexuality piece of the whole equation, but as it happens, that’s precisely why I started this blog. Every time we – the collective naturist community – get another article or blog post out there about non-sexual social nudity, there is one more invaluable resource for the naked-curious out there that might help them figure the whole thing out. And thus… I’m hoping THIS blog will become a participatory exercise…


Have you been successful in introducing your friends to home naturism? COMMENT BELOW. This blog typically gets about 1500 hits a day. Share a good idea and you might even liberate a new naturist from the oppression of their restrictive clothing!

Talk to us, my naked friends!

All images were taken from a Google search and are believed to be in the public domain. If you find an image that belongs to you, and you’d like to have it removed, just let me know.

Nudity and Friendship: Does it matter?

It’s the first day of the new year. 2019! My feelings about 2018 are decidedly mixed – not just because of my tendency to worry about how things are going in Washington DC, but to be blunt, it was a tumultuous year with a lot of unanticipated change. Some good. Some challenging. Almost all of it someplace between disorienting and disquieting.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.com

Last evening, on New Year’s Eve, we had friends over who have grown accustomed to going naked in the hot tub with us. They would never call themselves naturists, and in fact, the “she” of the couple wasn’t too crazy about sitting in the hot tub in the rain and so she abstained. Meanwhile, another friend stopped by – the one who has been the subject of a few of my previous blog posts, including the recent guide to exploring German spas – and she was naked and in the tub in a flash. I think she would tell you social nudity has provided her with a new sense of identity and self-expression – part counter-culture, part self discovery, as she is facing a lot of difficult questions in her life right now. She’s a natural born naturist!

In the meantime, while our non-naturist couple friends are inclined to quickly wrap in a towel the minute they step out of the spa, our younger companion never seems quite sure just how naked to be once making her way inside the house. Is this a wear your towel zone? Cover your mid-riff area? Funny – we seasoned naturists like to tout the simplicity of it all, but in fact, knowing when to be naked and just how naked to be can be little confusing, especially when you’re not at a naked place like a naturist beach or resort.

Interesting also, when I put my wife into this mix. She loves our nakations! She has no aversion to getting naked at home except for one – It’s not practical! “I need to take out the recycling. Or the kitchen is chilly. Or it simply hadn’t occurred to me to get naked right now.” Not a statement, per se, just an extra chore that adds one more step to the mix. “Pull on a shirt to go get something out of my car? Meh… I’ll just keep my clothes on.”

We have some friends from work who, quite by accident, we came to know of their affinity for Montalivet, a popular naturist destination in France. They’ve been going for years while we’ve been visiting a similar resort just an hour down the road. He is French and was raised with naturist vacations, and they have taken their children on nakation nearly every summer. We had them over for a naturist evening on the porch a few months ago on the coattails of summer, but as it turns out, they confessed they had never been naked at a friend’s home before, especially here in the US where they’re sure their neighbors would call the police were they ever to set foot in their backyard wearing anything less than modest swimsuit.

Then we have these friends we used to go to St. Martin with – every year for quite a stretch. One of the couples has a particularly naturist friendly backyard that is something like a private naturist resort on a warm summer day. In the winter, we’ve had a fair number of naked holiday dinners as well. But as is wont to happen, the complexities in each of our lives have made that more difficult in recent years. All said, it takes a good bit of planning to facilitate an evening of social nudity. It’s not just like, “Hey friend! Come on over and we’ll all take our clothes off!” At least in our circles, it almost never happens that way.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.com/

Other than rambling along in a reminiscent sort of way as one often does at the demarcation of a new year – and I am the meandering naturist for God’s sake – I’m really not sure what point I’m driving for here, except that I found myself strangely intrigued with a blog post I reposted on my other blog a few days ago called I Socialize Naked. The young, female author made a rather compelling case for calling out social nudity for what it really is. “I would like to not be wearing clothes right now, and I would also like to be with my friends. No protest to mount. No fitness agenda. No underlying implication of inner healing or truth. I just like being naked, and it’s more fun to be naked with other people around.”

Her words really resonated with me, particularly in my shared affinity for the simple act of nudity itself, immediately complicated by the fact that unless you have made an intentional effort to go someplace where getting naked together is the primary objective, then in fact, the nuances of when and how to get naked can be quite confusing, if not overwhelming! “Do you mind that I’m not wearing pants right now?” I might say to my fully clothed, or even towel draped friend. Even as you say it, you sort of wonder if you should be phoning the authorities to turn yourself in.

And finally, to further complicate things, I think there is a train of thought that seems to empower the most ardent naturists to believe those who get naked together are destined for more intimate and meaningful relationships. (Speaking of the platonic flavor here.) They would say our nakedness itself is a statement of vulnerability and freedom from the constructs of religiosity, narrow-mindedness, and decidedly in the face ideological norms that have made it clear that hands, faces, elbows, and knees represent normalcy, while the exposure of a breast or a penis represents abhorrent behavior. The most altruistic will make a case for full self realization that is beyond the consciousness of the average work-a-day mortal.

I actually spent a good bit of time musing over these ideas in a previous post called The Demographics of Nakedness, where I essentially put my opinion out there that the only thing naked people truly have in common is… well… nudity. I don’t happen to belong to the camp that posits that nudity is the great equalizer, nor do I believe that naked people are categorically more or less genuine or vulnerable than the clothed. It occurs to me that some people simply think it feels good to be naked – and sometimes it’s fun to hang out with other people. Nice when those two elements coincide in some manner that feels organic – or at least, less than contrived. My wife and I are vowing to make 2019 less frenetic than the last year or two, which is a tall order given the demands of family, workplace, and society. To me, that automatically implies that there will be more more naked time in 2019, as the shedding of my worldly cloaks immediately represents a step-back from my everyday existence in the chaotic and noisy existence of my professional circles. For my wife, that would mean slowing the pace of our collective lifestyle so that it’s actually worth the time to get naked and stay naked when there are a bazillion other things to do around the house – most of which are much more pragmatic with clothing. We’ll see how that goes.

Photo credit: http://clothesfree.co

In the meantime, I’ll be eager to see who responds to this post. If it finds its way into the retweeting blogosphere, or even spawns an engaging discussion on reddit. I suspect there are others, like me, who find a certain (and apparently, somewhat bizarre) pleasure in the simplicity of wearing no clothing, and feel all the more validated when they find there are others who not only enjoy doing the same, but find it strangely validating to conduct normal social interactions – watching a movie, chatting over a bottle of wine, playing cards – with no clothes on. Are we freaks, us naked people? Maybe. But no doubt, whether we’re more genuine and vulnerable or not, it’s most definitely more fun to be freakish with others than by one’s self.

On a side note, since I mentioned reddit, and I will likely repost this chronicle to those forums as well, I will call myself out for the use of images in this post which I have pulled from a collection of naturist sources over the years. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve been less than proactive about capturing social gatherings with naked friends in my digital image archive, and while most of my travel blogs feature, almost exclusively, photos of me and my wife, I come up in short supply of graphics for my posts of a more philosophical nature. This is quite upsetting to my reddit colleague, as the use of any image without permission and confirmed attribution is a breach of social contract at best, flat out stealing at least. With that, I will close with the disclaimer that if you find any image in this, or any of my other posts, lacking appropriate attribution or used in an otherwise exploitative manner, I trust you will let me know, and I will remove that image at once.

Ultimate social nudity – The Big Nude Boat

Here again… I keep thinking that embracing nakedness is supposed to represent a step toward simplicity and clarity of mind. Neither of those ideals are easily defined on this first day of 2019. Maybe I’ll just take my clothes off, pour a glass of wine and give that some thought. If you were here, I’d invite you to shed your clothes and join me.

“Naked Truths” Raw Perceptions

[Images for this post were acquired from a Google Image Search. Please advise if I have used an image without appropriate permission.]

By the time I went home, I’d seen a hundred soft dicks…

Such is the opening line of a recent piece in RACKED, an online fashion magazine, for which the author was sent on special assignment to experience a week at a typical naturist gathering, intended to provide fodder for an article about how clothing defines who we are. Does it though?

Not surprisingly, Naked Truths: Who Are We Without Our Clothes by young freelance writer Jamie Lauren Keiles could easily be the sequel to David Sedaris’s final essay from his 1998 book, Naked. In each case, the writing style is someplace between unabashed and irreverent. And in each case, the author grapples with the awkward dichotomy of something (nakedness, that is) that should be natural and empowering, while drawing attention to the bizarre customs that have shifted the emphasis of the ideal from rejuvenating to weird!

After dinner, I walked to the lake, down an isolated trail in a thicket of trees. The sun was not scheduled to set for two more hours. The light came green and filtered through the leaves as I stopped midway to pull off my shirt, then continued down the trail, fully nude except my shoes. A breeze off the lake took stock of every fine mammalian hair on my body. Walking naked in the woods makes you feel like a real goddamn Homo sapiens. My posture looked stupid, like it had been formed in a time before women were dainty. My brain was a mass of electrical signals; I wanted to kill an animal, or maybe be killed by one.

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Not the author pointed out in the photo. Don’t know who that is!

Ms. Keiles takes us through her week-long stay at the TNS Eastern Naturist Gathering one step at a time; at times with a sense of admiration for the genuine nature of the people she meets, at other times, sardonic and cutting in her realization of so much irony.

The following morning was cold and rainy. Most people at breakfast were wearing at least one article of clothing — a silk kimono or a terry-cloth bathrobe or a souvenir sweatshirt from a regional nude beach. One couple stepped out in matching tie-dye Snuggies. Only two well-insulated men remained nude, one very hairy and one very fat. The scene felt like the relief effort following a tragic YMCA locker room fire.

Or later, when she reflects on the ritual square dancing lessons…

Square dancing is an elaborate coupled dance with lots of touching and changing of partners. My partner was a shy man in black tube socks and a Casio watch. I did not feel eager to have him hold my naked body, but soon he proved a dependable dancer. Our first song was a wife-swapping routine called “Push Ol’ Pa, Push Ol’ Ma.” It opened with a jaunty fiddle and a move called “grand left and right” that involved shaking hands with different partners around a circle. As the ladies traveled clockwise and the men counterclockwise, I took extreme care to connect with each outstretched hand. I shook the hand of a 7-foot-tall man with black hair. I shook the hand of a gay man in pearls. When the song was over, everyone agreed that I was a really good square dancer. It is easy to learn quickly when the risk of failure is grabbing a stranger’s penis.

First of all, square dancing lessons? Can you think of anyplace else you might go for a week-long retreat wherein one of the main events might be square dancing lessons? (Author’s note: My parents were life-long square dancers, albeit, most definitely not naturists. Square dancing is an important part of the American tradition, and I suspect, still a wonderful pastime for many people in our midst. But really? This is a headliner event at a naturist gathering?)

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Pudding toss at a naturist event. Awkward.

The reason Keiles’s article resonated with me so deeply – as well as that of David Sedaris before – is this thing that has clearly become an obsession of mine to somehow normalize perceptions related to social nudity amidst even a few “on-the-fencers” here in the United States of America. I am sometimes criticized regarding the content of my blog, as so much of my reportage suggests that you have to travel to Europe to experience naturism in any altruistic sort of way. The longer I’m at this though, and the more I read pieces by unsuspecting journalists like Jamie Lauren Keiles, the more I succumb to the fact that, this may indeed be true.

There is some irony, I suppose, that I’ve been a member of TNS (The Naturist Society) since about 1990. Keiles talks a bit about this organization in her essay, noting that it was born out of the nude beach groupies of Northern California (my homeland), in what I always perceived to be a push back against some of the politics and weirdness of the AANR. (American Association for Nude Recreation) It may be that I’m a bit bent out of shape that TNS has never been willing to accept an article submission under a pseudonym, despite repeated requests and explanations that since I am a published author in academia, it might not the best idea to entangle my naturist writings with those about education and pedagogy.

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A genuine perception of naturists. Sigh.

I digress, but not really! The TNS policy on pseudonyms – and square-dancing for that matter – reflects a distorted reality as to just how the average American perceives the naturist idea.

Another excerpt, this time about the grand finale talent show at the end of the week,

Curtain down, curtain up: A woman played a beat on a gong and a drum as her pendulous breasts hit the twos and fours. A man with a 12-gauge ring through his dick read an original poem about his sisters.

Really? Like that of Sedaris, this essay in a fashion magazine will reach more people in a week’s time than all the positive PR about American naturism could possibly find in a year! But let me be clear. The author is merely reporting – with flair, to be sure – what she saw and how she experienced it as a 20-something female on assignment. To that end, I found her impressions from the stretching workshop (pseudo-yoga) to be really intriguing as well…

I looked around the group and watched the other people stretch. An eightysomething man and wife reached for their toes on towels in the corner. The room was a showcase of strange and gnarled postures. Spines curved over in improbable ways. Everyone else had at least a few liver spots. In your 20s, there’s a cognitive fail-safe that makes it impossible to imagine your body becoming an old person’s body. Our access to the symptoms of aging seems to be meted out according to market potential. (I know about wrinkles, only because I know I should buy a cream to prevent them.)

And there it is! Perhaps the thing we have most admired about naturist travel in Europe is the way Europeans perceive themselves, naked or otherwise. Not only do we see that in the European naturist resorts, but in every small village as well, where one finds an abundance of 90-something humans making their way through the streets to the village market, on foot (!), acknowledging that aging is part of the life cycle, and at least “I have all day to get to the market.”

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Supposedly real naturists dining together, but alas, nobody is sitting on a towel.

In the meantime, the naturist scene in American seems to be as polarized as the country itself. (Little political jab there!) In fact, we have something of an imperfect trifecta!

  • The constituencies of TNS and AANR that continue to host events reminiscent of a 1950s “covered-dish dinner,” (Click through to the definition. It’s worth it!) despite the fact that as Keiles noted, the attendance of a contingency of under-60s hasn’t “proved true in any statistically significant way.”
  • The places where nudity does equal sex! Though Keiles’s piece was published three days ago, I found the two comments on the publication website informative in a sad sort of way. The first comment was from some guy who was advocating for his right to sport an erection when naked in public. The second post was committed to shutting the first guy down. Go to the wrong naturist place in Florida, and you’ve signed up for lingerie dances and hocus pocus in the pool. All very confusing, and most definitely not helping the social nudity cause.
  • And finally, the no-nudity, unless it sells skin products culture. I could write volumes on the puritanical implications of an age in when sexuality sells so many movies, beauty products, and even swimwear lines at the expense of simple immodesty that says, “I’m OK with who I am, with or without clothing.”

Remember, Keiles writes for a fashion magazine, which is why she set out to do this piece in the first place. She says right in the title of the essay that this was intended to explain, “what we accomplish when we choose to wear clothes.” Given all the rhetoric to we are all the same people when we’re naked, Keiles makes a fairly compelling case that that’s not really true at all. We are the people that we are – naked or not.

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