Naked and Alone – on a nudist island…

I have yet to really comprehend the complexities of the blogosphere. You never really know who your audience is, especially when you include words like nudist and naked in your meta tags and post descriptions. I think bloggers – or at least this blogger – would like to think that people find The Meandering Naturist, bookmark the site, then meticulously dig through the archives to see what has been said in the past, and how one’s story continues to unfold over the years. Though having said that, I have several blogs that I’m quite fond of, and despite the best of intentions, I rarely work my way back beyond the the last two or three posts. I guess this is all a precursor to offering an apology of sorts if my musings about a certain place (say Ile du Levant) or particular topics (like the bizarre social construct of the naturist ideal) seem like the very same topic of ninety percent of my previous entries. If you are the fastidious reader who has combed through the depths of my naturist diary, I offer my sincere apologies from the Department of Redundancy Department.

As is so often the impetus of a new blog entry, today’s inspiration finds its source in the confluence of several concurrent events that have caused me to take a moment, scratch my head, and utter a thoughtful and curious, “Hmmm….”

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The most immediate and visceral of these is my first visit as a single male to the French naturist island, Ile du Levant – a mere 30 minute ferry ride off the Côte d’Azur near St. Tropez. Fear not faithful readers! It’s not that I’m suddenly single, nor has my naturist wife has given up the crusade for social nudity, but in this case, I had business to take care of in the South of France following a holiday weekend, and thus, my schedule allowed a two night stay on this idyllic little slice of heaven before taking care of business on the mainland. I’ve read a lot about the intricacies of traveling as a naked single male, and I think it’s quite a lot easier in France than in America, but it’s a different perspective all the same.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a Kindle book called Nudist Cruise, authored by a young woman named Hailey McPherson who moved to Asia with her boyfriend a few years ago to try and make it as musicians and performers. As it would happen, they ended up separated by job leads that took one to Hong Kong and the other to Mainland China. A possible reunion arose when the boyfriend got a substitute gig playing in a show on a cruise ship, which provided the opportunity to bring his girlfriend turned blogger/author along for the ride. What she didn’t know until the 11th hour was that this would be a nudist cruise! The result is a bloggy recounting of a young couple trying to figure out the whole nudist/naturist phenomenon, For an academic such as myself, I find the writing to a bit casual and unrefined, but the big takeaway is the author’s perspective in her efforts to grasp social nudity amidst the inevitable pressures of so many social norms and – by her portrayal – an incessantly horny boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand that people get naked for reasons other than sex. I have yet to finish the book, but I’m thinking that in the 9th inning she will deliver the message something to the effect of – “So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?”

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So you like to be naked. What’s the big deal?

I could search for a few more catchy one liners that would help contextualize such a question, but yet another blogger has done it much better than I. I don’t know his name, but he apparently is about my age and lives in the Northwest, and I have to say… his assessment of social nudity is about as grounded and forthright as any I’ve ever read. He has several posts related to naturism, but this post called “Out of the closet and into the frying pan” pretty much drives it home. I was so taken by his post that I actually lifted a few quotes:

On the topic of naked doesn’t equate to sex…

Nudity isn’t asexual. It is just as sexual as clothing – no more, no less. People will still get just as excited about a possible mate whether they are clothed or nude. The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden.

On the topic of live and let live…

I don’t care if you are a nudist. I am not about to try to convert someone or even raise my own children to be nudists. All I care about is that you don’t care if I’m one.

On the topic of causing irreparable damage to your children with nudity…

Even children who have spent their formative years in a nudist environment may push back, if not when they realize that this isn’t what their peer group is doing, then when they hit puberty and things start going out of control. I think parents are duty bound to place their child’s need to fit in with their peer group above the more abstract benefits of nudism. If they reject the lifestyle, then so be it. They may well return to it as adults. Even though my own children sometimes ran around naked and went skinny dipping with me, once they went to school, fitting in was more important.

But my favorite part of the piece – his remarks on why people are afraid to get naked….

Clothing is one way of denying the aging process and all the other “faults” we imagine in ourselves. (Along with plastic surgery, Botox and Photoshop.) Sagging breasts, small breasts, missing breasts, graying or too much body hair, stretch marks and wrinkles, large moles, birthmarks, extra weight around the middle or butt, jiggly thighs, man boobs, shrinking musculature, small penis, operation scars. Yup, a cover-up for all these things, a way to pretend we are not all bound by entropy.

Thank you nameless dude on the internet who made the simple, but poignant, realization that clothing creates as many (or more) conundrums than it solves. The real conundrum is facing up to the fact that if climate permits, better to bare all and check the psychological baggage at the front door.

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I know. There are a bazillion entanglements in this argument, but for me, where it all gets stuck is WHY are humans so hung up on the dimensions of the male penis or the female breast? I had a conversation with a young colleague a few years ago in which we agreed that if you really want to know someone, you focus on one specific body part – the eyes! Beyond that – talking to humans like they’re really human – in a day and age where one can find any visual stimulation they might be looking for on the internet, wouldn’t it be to the benefit of the naturist ideal that the human form is simply what it is? No more, no less. Why must it be so complicated?

So back to the title of this post. This may well be my tenth visit to Ile du Levant, but the very first time I’ve not been here with my female companion. I had a couple days to kill, the weather was good; a perfect time to exploit the opportunity to get naked.

It was a nice stay. But it was a bit lonely without my travel buddy, which makes me all the more empathetic to those who experience naturism without a companion.

But that aside, Ile du Levant is an interesting place. Sometimes people are naked. Sometimes people are clothed. There is a “libertin” (swinger) culture here, but you have to look for it to find it. There is a gay culture here, a bit more evident, but why should one care one way or the other? How did we get to this place where other people’s preferences are offensive, one way or the other? Even if you’re deeply religious, the prevalent message there is to love one another and turn the other cheek. (No pun intended.)

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My personal opinion is that if we all invested a bit more energy in contributing to the greater good, and a good bit less energy into the business of wondering what others thought of our bodies, our values, our intentions, we might have a better shot at getting along with one another on a planet that has a finite capacity for humans.

Let people be naked, and alone, or with loved ones, on an island… and be good with that. Need it be more complicated than that?

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Talking to your children about the POTUS and porn-stars, school shootings, and the dangers of seeing a nude person on the beach.

What on earth is going on?

So first the first time ever, I felt badly for Donald Trump Jr. yesterday when I came across a news-feed that says he’s taking a lot of heat for letting his 3-year-old daughter play at home without a shirt on. Really? Are you kidding me?

So let me see if I can grasp where things are at here in 2018…

  • Whether you read the New York Times, or watch Fox and Friends, you can scarcely get through a single day without hearing the name Stormy Daniels, and at least some diffused reference to Russian prostitutes peeing in a Moscow hotel room. (Just to be non-partisan here, do we remember all the sordid details of how Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman!) In either case, the suggestion that these things didn’t actually happen simply ramp up the imagination to warp speed, causing one to wonder, “Huh! What would that have looked like?”
  • I remember the utter horror while the Columbine Shooting was unfolding on TV, some 20 years ago – simply unfathomable that such a thing could happen in what should be a known safe-haven for our children. Today, an event of that magnitude barely makes the evening news.
  • In the meantime, Netflix and Amazon Prime have all but replaced network television, completely changing the norm for (sexual!) nudity if you choose to watch anything other than the Disney Channel. Let me clarify the rules – It’s OK to see naked people on TV as long as they’re locked in a sweaty embrace, undulating in passion.
  • But turn to page two of the local newspaper and you’ll likely find some wacky story about a person who held up a 7-11 Store in the nude, or heaven forbid, exposed her breasts at the seashore or dared to breastfeed a child in a shopping mall.
  • Dare I even mention the ritual of “sexting” as that now appears to be part of the normal courtship routine for your average middle-school kid? Thank you Snapchat for creating a tool that (supposedly) destroys the evidence after 10 seconds.

I suspect my point is self-evident by now, especially to those open-minded enough to read a naturist blog. What on earth is going on with our collective sense of values? And beyond that, how do you have a candid conversation with your 13-year-old when he comes home and asks whether you think the porn-star payoff was actually drawn from campaign contributions? “My U.S. history teacher says it’s Watergate all over again.”

Our children are now in their late twenties. They grew up with the internet, and while we took to the normal parental precautions of having computers in public spaces, monitoring browser use, etc., smart phones didn’t become common until our youngest was a senior in high school. They had to discover the joys and perils of phone sex on their own time and their own dime.

We had (have) a very frank relationship with our children, ascribing to simple advice offered to us shortly after our first daughter was born. “When your kids ask difficult questions, answer the question directly with age-appropriate, but real information” But only answer the question, then stop talking. If they need to know more, they’ll ask more questions. Of course, we had also been taking them to naturist places from the time they were old enough to go to Disneyland, which pretty much negated the need for them to ask questions about body parts and pubic hair, not to mention the natural process of aging. They did, however, have some awkward questions about the old naked drunk guy who ran his golf-cart into a tree at a local nudist resort. That was when we decided American nudist resorts were difficult for families, and moved our naturist endeavors to France.

But honestly, I just don’t understand how children or adults are supposed to sort any of this out in relation to any kind of value system. Our most conservative friends will cite – chapter and verse – religious principals that provide a clear framework to establish right and wrong, but seem to have no reservations whatsoever about a President who does not appear to be contesting that he partook in intimate activities with porn stars and prostitutes, but whether such activities constitute collusion or fiduciary impropriety! Don’t even get me started on the people who attack teenagers who rally for gun control. Spend that time instead gathering up a few statistics about how many children have died after seeing a penis or a breast at the beach, then compare those numbers to how many have lost their lives as a result of going to school when a shooter cut loose.

I suppose critics of this argument would say, “You’re talking apples and oranges, dude! What’s your point?”

My point is that the most adamant critics of Donald Trump Jr. about letting his daughter run around without a shirt on, chastised him for “not teaching his daughter a proper sense of modesty.” Funny, our children never once got confused about when and where they could/should be naked. We never got a call from the principal telling us our son forgot to wear pants today. Nor did they ever get a French naturist resort confused with a textile campground or the pool complex at Disney World. “Hey! You can’t go to the mall naked” we said to our teenage daughters exactly never.

They were, however, of age about the time we had to explain the stains on Monica’s blue dress, while rationalizing whether oral activities did or did not constitute having “sex with that woman.” And having grown up during the the evolution of the various Nintendo systems, my children have a much higher threshold (or I should say, are completely desensitized) for violence in movies, video games, and on TV. Post a video from a European naturist resort on Facebook or YouTube and get your account shut-down. Put up a clip from the latest feature film with 90 minutes of death and destruction and your worst case is having the clip removed for copyright infraction.

I understand that not everyone was born to be a naturist. Some people don’t like going to the beach at all, with or without a swimsuit. And we all have our own issues with looking in the mirror each morning, and to what degree we can stand to look at ourselves in the altogether. That’s all fair.

But if we had to make a list of the top ten – top twenty? top ONE-HUNDRED? – things that are contributing to the moral decay of humanity, does seeing a naked person lying on the beach really make that list? Here’s a research study for an eager doctoral student someplace: “Compare the number of people who have fallen victim to a naked person, including fatalities, severe injury, or even lasting psychological damage, to the number of people who are completely adrift right now from other social phenomena.” Adrift because they struggle with porn addiction in an era where Stormy Daniels is a household name. Adrift because they are utterly confused about fake news and why lying is the new truth. Adrift because they lost a loved one in a school shooting, and nobody seems the least bit concerned about the prospect of giving guns to teachers.

Perhaps we should sell bumper stickers:

What’s more dangerous? A naked person or a teacher with a gun?

Good luck parents of the Class of 2036! Be sure to unplug the TV, home-school your children, don’t read fake news, and for heaven’s sake, don’t take them to a beach or a campground where they might see body parts similar to their own.

So many rules!

OMG! You’ve Seen me Naked!

I just clicked through on a quirky piece on a Second Life blog with a series of naturist photos and a compelling case about the normalcy of nudity – or at least, how that should be the case.

I’m not a Second Life guy, so I have only a vague understanding of that culture, but I find it particularly intriguing when people who “live” in an entire world of alternate identities speak to the inherent truth and honestly of social nudity. (Even a bit more peculiar when people take on the identity of a nude avatar, which to me, has always seemed a bit too close to animated pornography – but that’s another topic for another day.)

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A few months ago, my blog crossed the threshold of a 500,000 hits. At the time, I considered writing some goofy post to the effect of, “A Half-Million Views of My Naked Ass,” but other than simply stating that some sort of strange “rite of passage” had occurred, I finally decided what’s the point?

Just to complete the loop, I also got a comment in response to one of my recent blog posts requesting – rather politely I will admit – that I offer “more male frontal nudity please.” I thought that to be particularly intriguing (and a bit irritating to be truthful) as there are a bazillion places on the internet these days where one can find full frontal nudity in all states of arousal or not. To be more specific, I have over 4000 followers through the various channels of my blog, and the realization that some of my readers are simply holding out for the opportunity to view my genitalia is flattering at best, but pretty creepy in reality.

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And so it goes in a day and age where we can go to the cinema and see sex and violence in copious quantities, but full frontal nudity puts a film in a different class, creating a parallel universe in the naturist community that sends a clear message that female breasts and male genitalia are not for the weak of heart! (If someone would like to explain to me to mystery of female genitalia as obscured by pubic hair, have at it!) The bizarre part of the entire equation to me is the fact that devoid of imagination, nudity has little or no allure. None! Most of us feel more self conscious (e.g. less alluring) when we lack a protective layer of cotton or nylon, and even fewer of us feel we have the bodily characteristics to qualify as internet worthy in the category of sexual stimulation.

How did we… as a species (!)… get to this place? My dog runs around naked all the time, and he seems totally oblivious to the entire phenomenon!

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I have often wondered where we would be with the social nudity thing without the overwhelmingly prudish aftermath of the Christian missionary conquest. Don’t get me wrong. I was raised in the Christian church, and I understand they mores they seek to espouse. Find a mate. Procreate. Don’t mess with genetics by making babies with your cousins. But in 2018??? With HBO, Pay-per-view, and Tommy Wiseau? Are you serious?

So after I finish this post, I’ll comb through my Twitter feed and block followers with auspicious names that are searching for God knows what, and I’ll look over the various blog posts I’ve published to date with one eye toward promoting body-positive advocacy and the other toward the “What on earth are you thinking?” crowd, knowing full well what they’re thinking, and wondering why they’re wasting time on the pages of my blog.

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And so it goes. We live in an age where acceptance and tolerance is fully embraced by everyone, except by those who are neither tolerant nor accepting. I have often wondered about the pioneers who brought nudism to America, so fastidious to the merits of high fences and private mailings. Today, you can have just about anything you want delivered to your mailbox or your computer, but set foot in your backyard donning a flaccid penis or an uncovered breast and you might find yourself in the Municipal Court defending your “right to bare arms.” Crazy.

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Perhaps I have grown tiresome in reiterating this in recent blog posts, but I’ll say it again here…  Social nudity is a liberating and rejuvenating experience to those who are able to get beyond the dogma of it all, which is all pretty bizarre when you consider that very few humans look better wrapped in nylon or Lycra than they do wrapped in skin.

So there we are then. Naked and afraid. Yet I will continue to rally for the naturist cause in the most altruistic way I know how. Hoping that one more person out there might read this blog and say, “Why the hell not?” Life is too short to spend our days wrapped in wet nylon!

[Images in this post are believed, by the blogger, to be in the public domain. If you wish to have an image removed, please contact me and I will respond accordingly.]

Dad!?! What the Hell are you Doing?

We made some new friends today at lunch during our first day (second visit) at Skinny Dippers Resort on Mallorca. As was the case during our stay last year, the typical introductory visit follows a fairly predictable script; Where else have you done the naturist thing? How did you get into nude recreation? And, if the pre-screening test goes well, the inevitable, “Do your kids know you’re here?”

As it happens, our kids do know we’re at a naturist place. We had a FaceTime session with our 29-year-old daughter today (appropriately undressed for the occasion) and her 27-year-old sister will join us (here at Skinny Dippers) for a few days in the coming week. As I have mentioned before, each of our daughters are naturist-friendly, or more directly, “we will undress for a free vacation.”

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Turns out that we are the exception to the rule by way more than a country mile! In fact, in our informal survey of other parents we have met at naturist places over the past ten years, there are approximately zero subjects who have told their children, “Yeah, we’re going to lie in the sun naked for two weeks – come join us if you’d like.” Which leads to an amusing story our new friend told us at (naked) lunch today…

Seems he and his wife were visiting a clothing-optional beach in Great Britain when their (now-adult) daughter was about six years old. Having completed a rejuvenating swim, the father came ashore with swim-trunks in hand, surrounded by naked people,  wringing out the seaweed and salt-water and enjoying a brief dose of fresh-air-all-over. To which the daughter replied in horror, [insert charming British accent here,] DAD!?! What the HELL are you doing?

What the hell, indeed!?!

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I find myself more introspective than usual during our world travels, with an unusual amount of time to read, and even a few minutes to catch-up on a few reliable news-feeds by the likes of John Oliver and Seth Meyers. (Sorry friends – if you’re an avid Trump fan, you may want to X out of this page now and get on with your day. Don’t let my little rant here diminish your appreciation for my blog.) Today’s confluence of events, besides this delightful story delivered with passion from my Brexit disdaining comrade, also included time on a floaty in the pool – naked, of course – while reading Bassem Youssef’s Revolution for Dummies, and the discovery of this handy little flow-chart that attempts to explain the terms of engagement for the President of the United States and the first lady of France.

Donald! What the hell are you doing?!?

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Thank you for setting the bar for us, President Trump.

In the case of the Youssef book, he walks his readers through the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution, step-by-step, so that westerners might have some insight into the rise of radical Islam, and just how that aligns with the other religious-gone-political campaigns the world over. Today’s lesson was, “Liberal thinking leads to discussion, which leads to democracy, which leads to freedom of thought, which leads to women baring skin (and driving cars!), which leads to… wait for it… mass orgies in the streets in every city and town the world over. You would think these observations to be ridiculous until you realize that Youssef struck such a nerve with his ironic humor that he was forced into exile, and now resides in asylum in the United States of America. (Don’t tell Donald.)

So let’s be clear. I’m one of those professor types that works pretty hard to draw conclusions out of non-sequitur ideas, but I have to say, we live in a bizarre age when the leader [sic] of the free world can essentially make a pass at another diplomat’s wife, when women of the Arab world are banished to a life of physical (fabric) and psychological (everything else!) imprisonment, and a six-year-old child is shocked by the appearance of her father’s penis at the distance of fifty meters on a clothing-optional beach.

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And for that matter, we are only frank with our adult children about our naturist doings because we had the audacity and resource to be naturists with them while they were children, though we had to travel all the way to France to make that seem normal and acceptable for them.

My point exactly? Well really, I just wanted to tell that humorous story from lunch today. But that aside, my desire to create a blog in the first place was to create a place on the internet where social nudity assumes its rightful place in this bizarre and chaotic world in which we live. In America, we even have children’s books that help us teach our children that “this is an elbow, this is a toe, and this is a penis.” If you’re really progressive parents, maybe you have those books in your house that help explain to your children that at a certain age you grow hair on your body and things start to protrude.

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But really? How does a child understand the oppression of women in the Middle-east, let alone the behavior of an American president, if they can’t see a penis or a breast without reeling in horror and disbelief? Especially in this day and age when they are simply a Google search away from the most extraordinary elements of sexual deviance, and god knows what else.

Clearly, my mind is warped in favor of nakedness, along with body acceptance, truthfulness, and a realization that humans have a finite number of body parts that make them human. If there are, indeed, orgies on the street, I don’t think you can ascribe those to the nudists. Truth be told, anecdotal evidence suggests people who are into sexual deviance (orgies, et al…) are quite shy about total nakedness. Too vulnerable. Too real.

“Dad? What the Hell are you Doing?”

“I’m being human, dear one. Go back to playing in the sand.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Demographics of Nakedness

[Photo credit to Spencer Tunick for the featured image]

Hello naturist followers and friends,

Dare I even write this post?

I’ve fallen behind again on my blog. I never got back to finishing my travelogue for our trip through naked Australia, with reviews yet to be completed of the luxurious BB at Byron Bay, or our final stop at the famed little resort near Tambourine known to loyal followers as BoBrene. And since then, I had a brief stay in Thailand that afforded a visit to a new resort in Phuket called Lemon Tree Resort – a very sweet little naturist retreat just a short drive from the waterfront, including a boat trip out to a makeshift naturist beach on a small mostly deserted island.


But alas, I feel a sudden urge to trump – if you’ll pardon the expression – my typical agenda of travel writing with a brief outburst of a philosophical nature, spawned in large part by some lovely people I’ve met in recent days during our first visit to a bucolic little resort in Honduras called Paya Bay. (Yet another review to be written!)

As is usually the case in making new acquaintances with naked people, the first topic of conversation was something of a naturist travel roll call. “Have you been to that little place near the Mexican border? How about one of those Big Nude Boat sailings? You were on the Royal Clipper to Venice when? Hey! I think we were on that boat!”

Then comes that awkward silence. We both prefer naked travel. We’ve been to many of the same places. You have a penis. I have a penis. (No gender neutral confusion there!)  Let’s see… what else?

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My wife and I have been naturists since about 1986 when we made our first visit to a nude beach near Santa Cruz, California. We are among the lucky ones as this was not a late-in-life discovery for us, but instead, a unique attribute of our relationship that has evolved as everything else does in a marriage of 32+ years. And the achievement of getting our kids through college and out of the house has afforded us many more choices for seeing the world – with clothes or without. Which leads to this somewhat meandering post that will attempt to take on a few myths about naturism that have long challenged my curiosities, most frequently leading to a final assessment of… “Huh!”

Alleged Myth #1: People at naturist resorts are much more social and friendly than those at typical (textile) resorts.

I think this is largely true, if for no other reason, you have a non-verbal starter right out of the box. “You’re naked. I’m naked. Let’s talk about how cool that is for a few minutes.” Talk about an ice-breaker! And truth be told, if you go to a Westin resort on Maui and invite yourself to join another couple at their table on the veranda with the opening line, “Hey, is this your first time wearing that ill-fitting bathing suit to a posh, overpriced resort – MINE TOO!,” you’re likely to get something between a stink-eye and a sudden escort from the resort bouncer.

Nudity is most certainly an immediate common denominator, and those who have been at it for a while understand the almost (?) competitive business of amassing destination pins in the naturist world map. “Oh, well if you like that place, you’ve got to try this other place with the naked zip line course.”

In all fairness, this is, all at once, an opportunity to boast about one’s naked accomplishments, while at the same time, conducting all so important naturist reconnaissance. Hours of digging through Trip Advisor Reviews will never compare to the candor and nuance of a travel conversation with a seasoned naturist, much of which involves a certain flavor of non-verbal communication that provides context for said reconnaissance data. But more about that later.

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Alleged Myth #2: The nice thing about being naked is that you are stripped of all the artificial barriers that put people at odds with one another in normal life. “A naked doctor and a naked plumber are on a level playing field while sipping a fruity drink on a nude beach.

It’s later!

I have heard this argument on the beach, in the hot tub, at the restaurant, in the pool, and on the veranda of a cruise ship. “The great thing about nudity is that it makes us all equal! We are all the same once stripped of our uniforms that provide cues about social status, income, education, and personal ideologies regarding motorcycles and the human qualities of cats.”

False.

Well, even if I could completely embrace the initial premise, this all changes pretty quickly once the first person breaks the ice with, “Is this your first time at a naturalist [sic] place? The wife and I never [sic] done this before.”

If you’re still reading and haven’t simply deleted the link to my blog as you dismiss me for being a pompous ass with an intolerance for people from varied walks of life, then you have tapped into the very essence of my point.

In fact, if you really think this myth to be a truth, try visiting the teachers’ lounge at Any School USA to see how those birds of a feather flock together. (Or not!) We are not all the same, even when most of our life choices regarding career, church, and family would indicate that we are, and the lack of clothing actually does very little to hide those differences which really matter.

I truly wish this wasn’t the case. When we first began our naturist explorations, we were much more optimistic about meeting people at naturist venues who would share our interests, values, and ideals. But in reality, I would put the odds someplace in the same ballpark as on-line dating. Once you’ve finished the obligatory conversation about “Isn’t it great to be naked and free?” You’ve got to have something else to talk about.

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Alleged Myth #3: Naturists are more open minded and accepting of alternative lifestyles, political and religious perspectives, and a general sense of live and let live.

In an effort to figure out what the hell is going on in the world right now, I’m reading two interesting books, each of an autobiographical nature, by political comedians who felt it timely to share their stories. Trevor Noah is the late night talk show host who replaced Jon Stewart, and Bassem Youssef was the Egyptian equivalent of Jon Stewart, until he was forced into exile after his rants about the complexities of the Arab Spring, albeit in a humorous manner. (And now you know something about me… I really like Jon Stewart!) Their stories are largely the same, each having found the absurdity of living under intense oppression, Noah growing up as a mixed race child in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, Youssef narrowly escaping his homeland when the government elevated his humor to a threat to Arab civilization. Their writing is all at once poignant and laugh inducing, in each case providing abounding evidence of how people fall short of relating to one another in a thoughtful and compassionate way, even when it would be in their best interest to do so.

Here at Paya Bay, this is the first time I’ve been naked in public since the United States of America decided we are far from united when it comes to what we think are the inalienable rights that bond us together. And perhaps I can evoke a bit more drama in suggesting (recognizing ?!?) that the motivations of one side of the political discourse is deeply intertwined with a particular religious perspective that suggests that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten resources to the US of A, so that he who was not born here shall suffer and perish.” Youssef and Noah drive that point home with stirring anecdotal evidence that compassion, while considered a virtue, is a country-mile stretch for the average human being.

So there it is. My political opinions – neatly packaged for consumption – that would die a sudden and violent death in a typical room full of naked people. From my perspective, it really should go like this. “Hey! Look at all of us! We all have essentially the same body parts, so we can put that part of the conversation to rest! So what say we tussle a bit about the other things that make us uniquely human, like the ability to reason, engage in thoughtful discourse, and simply agree to disagree in the spirit of tolerance and a commonality in the reverence for life, and living it to its fullest. (You are, after all, standing here naked! Isn’t that living life to the margin?)

But like everyplace I have gone since late November 2016, new acquaintances are regulated by a delicate pas-de-deux of feeling out one’s personal convictions before you blunder into a Cold War of philosophical dissension, or maybe even alienation and ridicule. But probably not. Better to play it safe and stay on script, “So this is your first time at a naked place?”

My point? Some naturists are liberal. Some naturists are conservatives. Some are quite tolerant, and others are not. It turns out that one’s desire to walk around without clothing has surprising little to do with any of those other factors. Each human is a complex organism influenced by the social environment in which s/he he lives his or her daily life.

For me, that was a “Huh!”
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Alleged Myth #4: Naturists are simply 21st century hippies who simply can’t let go of the good ol’ days in the Haight-Asbury, with all the accompanying affinities for weed, free love, and communal living.

Don’t I wish! As the youngest of four, my older siblings brought up the rear of that generation. In fact, my brother even went to Janice Joplin concerts at the Filmore, though I’m pretty sure he stopped short of free love in Golden Gate Park.

But it seems to me that a part of America died when the hippies grew up and got jobs in corporate America. Ironically enough, the free love thing sort of morphed into a swinger thing, (which the Millennials seem to have repackaged as friends with benefits. Just wow!) and this has become the very antithesis of what us high-minded naked people like to call naturist values. But the other piece that seemed to go under the bus was tolerance. Though one could make the argument that hippies and non-hippies may have spent a lot more time and energy talking about tolerance than actually being tolerant themselves.

Here again, so much rhetoric in the naturist community is given to body acceptance, though in my estimation, that’s pretty hit and miss as well. It amazes me how much humans obsess over another one’s piercings, tattoos, or distribution of body weight. Isn’t the point, “Here I am! Naked and unafraid! You don’t even have to love me, but is it so much to ask you to simply co-exist?

We have made several visits over the years to the infamous Cap d’Agde in the South of France, which might be best described as a place where, if you can imagine it, you will find it – and then a bit more. I find it to be an intriguing show where you can sit for hours at a sidewalk cafe watching the world go by; a man on a studded leash, a woman adorned in sparkly string that accentuates her crotch, or any number of genital piercings that would never make it through a metal detector. (Not to mention the amorous couples at the hotel pool who are less than subtle in their public displays of affection.) For my wife, it’s a good bit over the line. She couldn’t even tell you why, exactly, as we have never been approached by others to “come out and play,” nor have we had any reason to feel threatened by behaviors we would never engage in. But in the end, it’s beyond our daily repertoire of acceptable behavior, as if they’ve crossed that line, you wonder where the next one will be drawn.

I suppose that’s the very essence of society’s suspicious about naked people in general. Allow them to walk naked on the beach, and the next thing you know they’ll be naked in the streets, and the movie theaters, and maybe even at Disneyland. (I could launch off onto an entirely new tangent about yoga pants at this juncture, but maybe that’s for another day.)

If we’ve learned anything about people in recent decades, it’s that despite all of our insurance plans, extended warranties, and declaratory promises from various politicians, we are a fearful people, largely fearing those things which we don’t quite understand. You can see naked people undulating on the big screen entranced in the most intimate of human experiences, and maybe even get a glimpse of full frontal nudity, but catch a naked couple walking hand in hand on the beach, and clearly we’ve gone off the rail. That was the stuff the hippies were made of, and we see what happened to them!
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Alleged Myth #5: Given the assertion that at least 75% of the above assertions are true, any naturist community is a convivial community, where values are largely the same, and potential soulmates are just standing around naked, waiting to bond!

So at this point, this seems a bit redundant. Naked people really only have one thing in common. Nudity. And no doubt, if you’ve arrived at that point of life where you’d rather have a root canal before wearing nylon in a swimming pool, and you find yourself looking for a new soulmate, you are faced with an onerous task indeed.

Many have responded to my blog seeking advice as to how they might coax a naturist unfriendly spouse to give naturism a whirl. Seems bizarre. Most everything in their lives has aligned; they may have “connected” two human bodies to make more human bodies,  and they undoubtedly (but not always!) have seen one another naked, but making that step into the arena of public nudity simply violates too many social norms. Now with the proliferation of random photography and cameras hidden everywhere “for security purposes,” it seems a significant change to those social norms is not on the immediate horizon.

That said, getting yourself a ticket for a ride on a big boat with 1000 other naked people must increase one’s chances of finding others who at least are willing to embrace the naked part of the equation. But beyond that, it seems to me it’s just about like everything else. Each human is wired uniquely. It’s what makes us so interesting. It’s also what makes us so complicated. Turns out that so many of us are apparently just wolves – in no clothing!

Dogs seem pretty comfortable naked. Maybe we could learn a few things from them.

Huh!


Dedicated, with gratitude and affection, to Randy, Greg, Judy and Ann; two lovely couples we met at Paya Bay this past weekend who weren’t afraid to say, “We like to be naked… with people we like to be with!”

Wow. Thought provoking!