Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 2

This story originally appeared here: Young Naturists America, thanks to co-founders Felicity Jones and Jordan Blum, two of the most awesome people on the Internet! Please go visit their site!

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The god Poseidon’s penis

My father was born into poverty, having to sometimes go without shoes to school, and steal money for books. He crossed the Atlantic from Greece as an immigrant in 1952 and worked his way to owning a series of award-winning restaurants. The small fortune he amassed was spent on two things: statues from the Classical and Renaissance era and yearly trips to Greece, both of which served to confuse me. When it came to nudity, I was constantly bombarded by mixed messages. While my mother obsessed over making her family look like the Brady Bunch, Poseidon’s bronze penis stared at me from the living room, as did Achilles’ penis and the goddess Artemis’ one breast. Visiting the homeland for a Bible-thumped boy like me was equally bewildering. Boobs were everywhere you looked. Boobs on postcards, boobs on billboards, boobs in magazines; you couldn’t get away from boobs if you tried. Magazines advertised skin on every street corner and it wasn’t even porn, just your typical Greek version of Cosmo. While in America, I Dream of Jeannie’s genie could never dream of showing her bellybutton, in Greece, girls too hot for bras sold ice cream on TV. But it was on the beaches of the Cyclades where you simply could not escape the assault of boobs. I was nine years old and hated it.

It was during one of these island trips that my life took a dark turn. A close male relative had a habit of grabbing my crotch, and not just in private. He did it all the damn time, but nobody seemed to notice or care. Everyone knew he was a little crazy; I guess they saw him as a harmless, albeit perverted prankster, but it never felt right to me. Once, after a great day of playing in the sand while trying to avoid boobs, we went back to our hotel for a shower. I went about my usual routine, double checking that the door was locked and covering myself, but somehow he got in. He knew of my extreme shyness and used it as a weapon. I could have escaped him by running out into the lobby; I was quick and slippery, but the towels were out of reach. Paralyzed by shame, he groped and fondled me, but what hurt the most was feeling vulnerable and powerless, like a plaything. He forced me to say that I loved him, more than God, more than my parents, more than my sister for whom I had a special connection. And I hated him. To this day, I won’t let my kids near him.

Being molested only worsened my sense of shame. In the shower I was more paranoid than ever, always listening for intruders, determined to never feel violated again. But fate had other plans.

At about ten or eleven, I was taken to a special doctor. My parents talked about me for a long time, but it made little sense, and nobody would tell me what was going on. My only concern, however, was needles, so I was completely unprepared for when the doctor, with my parents looking on, told me to sit on the mat and remove my drawers. I was shocked but couldn’t say no. She started poking and prodding me “down there” and it was like being in that hotel shower all over again. Telling my mother, a week later, that I’d felt abused was no help. She didn’t take me seriously because she never took me seriously. Things only went downhill after that. Unbeknownst to me, I was being readied for surgery, and what had once been my “privates” became public domain for the entire hospital. I was like a frog being dissected in a science lab. For the most part, I was angry, but understood the necessity of it, that sometimes doctors needed to check you “down there.” What if, later on in life, I developed some cancerous tumor? Eventually, my anger turned from my parents to society. Nakedness, I had been taught, is offensive and immoral. Genitals are private, disgusting things, despite somehow being created by a loving God, except when showering after P.E. or doctor visits. It made no sense. How could something so shocking in one instance become acceptable, even necessary, in another? Unless society had been lying to me. Lying to me since birth.

I never fully realized my disillusionment, how different two societies can perceive the same thing, until my twelfth summer. That was when I first saw a unicorn. O.K., it wasn’t exactly a unicorn, but the experience was just as magical. We were making our way to the beach when we saw this girl, who seemed to have misplaced her bikini, taking a shower. Not a “beach” shower, but a regular one, with shampoo and soap running down her entire exposed body. Everyone could see her. Me. My family. People sunning down below. Boobs were such a common sight that they didn’t faze me, but this was top and bottom. While I knew these kinds of people existed, for me they were creatures of myth, who always kept out of sight at the far reaches of the beach. For boys my age, this would have been very arousing, and there was that, but what I also felt was ten times more powerful.

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Awe.

She couldn’t have cared less who was watching or what anyone was thinking. For all I knew, she’d never heard of clothes. What’s more, this was Greece, so nobody seemed to care.

This strange tourist girl played in my mind for months (she’s still there, actually) but it wasn’t her appearance that mattered, only her attitude, her confidence. Nobody could violate her by forcing her to remove her clothes. It was the most beautiful, powerful thing I’d ever seen, and I was jealous.

I wanted to be just like her.

Back home in the U.S. of A, I started neglecting my ritual, no longer warning my family when taking showers, or jamming a chair under the doorknob. And having one hand free for the soap was incredibly liberating.


This concludes Part 2. Go back to Part 1 or continue on to Part 3 here, or search “Least Likely to Become a Nudist”

Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 1

Forward: Naturism is an important part of who I am. I believe it plays a role in feminism and environmentalism, and that the opposing view—body shame—is harmful to society. In Islamic countries, body shame promotes sexual violence, while in the West, it is used to objectify women. It also hurts children who are often too ashamed to report abuse. If all of this sounds preachy, it’s because, for too long, nudists/naturists have had to deal with misconceptions and misrepresentation, accused of everything from insanity to sex crimes. As one woman told me, “Do what you want but leave the children out of it!”

We need stories to humanize us, to help share our perspectives, because if it’s one thing I know as a lifelong lover of words, there is no greater force for change than story. And this is mine, my memoir, in which I grow out of years’ repression and low self-esteem to adulthood, confident and uniquely aware of my humanity.

I would like to thank Jordan Blum and Felicity Jones, founders of Young Naturists America, who were generous enough to post this story first on their site! Be sure to check them out: Young Naturists America!


Anyone who knew me as a kid would never imagine my writing this memoir. Without a doubt, I would have been voted “least likely to become a nudist” if such a category existed in my third grade yearbook.

Me and my mom.

You have to start with my mother, who was the polar opposite of hippie on the human spectrum of personalities. She suffered from a very real case of OCD, and among her many obsessions was how her children should dress. I sometimes felt like her doll. Shorts were a rarity in our household, except for use at the beach, and sandals made you look “low class.” Going barefoot on anything but carpet, according to my mother, caused arthritis pain later in life. My closet was filled with button-down Polos, and even in bed, I had to look like I was off to the queen’s ball. Honestly, if I ever meet the guy who invented long sleeve, button pajamas, I’ll smack him. And for some reason my mother preferred clothing two sizes bigger than was necessary for me, so I seemed to be floating in a bag of clothes, like I was preparing for a wing suit dive. If the temperature hovered anywhere below 75 degrees, my ensemble included jacket and sweater. None of this helped my too skinny to be 3-dimensional appearance, but my ego didn’t matter to her. Worst of all, for the longest time, I was under the impression that shoes were designed to cause the maximum amount of pain. Being of Greek descent, my parents were devoted to visiting the motherland in the summer, and of course, new shoes were required for every damn trip, so my mom could prove to my aunts and uncles how upper-class we were. Walking through JFK airport was absolute torture.

But from kindergarten to eighth grade, the Baptist Christian school I attended was far stricter. At all times we were required to wear light blue button shirts, navy blue slacks and, wait for it . . . TIES! Is there any piece of clothing more heinous than a tie? It’s basically a choking hazard that cuts off circulation to the brain. I cannot imagine showing up at the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter reprimanding me for my lack of neck-wear. No Bible verse I’ve ever found states, “Thou shalt wear ties on Wednesdays or when attending church.” Our teachers adhered to the dress code with a Nazi-like zeal. Once, when my mother couldn’t find my tie, I sat for hours in the principal’s office, just staring at walls, as my classmates learned division and when to use adverbs. God forbid I be allowed to learn anything that day sans my oxygen-depriving tie!

By now you might think I would have learned to hate clothes, that I rebelled and became a nudist, right? No way! Despite my baggy Polos and shoes made for geishas and ties suitable for auto-asphyxiation, I hated attention much more. Clothed or otherwise, I was extremely shy, and introverted to the point that people in high school just assumed I was using drugs (never did), which is why I dreaded “physical education.” The year was 1983 and this was private school, and it was still O.K. to hit kids’ with wooden paddles and embarrass them through forced nudity. Our locker room didn’t have curtains or private little stalls like you find at a water park. No, it was one big square, with lockers on one side and nozzles on the other. There was nowhere to hide! Nowhere to be discreet!

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Nobody was ever this buff

Showering became such a problem for me that I cried about it to my mother, until Coach So-and-So announced to every third grade boy, “O.K. now, nobody make fun of Nick when he takes a shower.” This, as anyone who went to elementary school can tell you, had the exact opposite effect. In short, there was no escape for me. Full Monty showering was as mandatory as ties on Wednesdays. Oddly enough, no one had any problem exposing their penis but me. I eventually came up with ways around the system, like showering in my underwear, which gave me a damp daylong wedgie; or waiting until I was alone, which made me late to every class following P.E. and dripping wet in my now sticky button-down shirt.

Nakedness at home was no less terrifying. Heck, I didn’t even look at myself, so bathing in my own bathroom became a ridiculous, obsessive-compulsive ritual. It started with informing my family, “O.K., I am taking a shower now! Whatever you do, don’t come in!” then barricading my sister’s bedroom door (the room we shared), double-checking that the door leading to the bathroom was also locked, and as if that wasn’t enough, keeping a hand over my crotch at all times, which made soaping and using the shower head difficult.

Me? Become a nudist? Never in a million years! But then, of course, I became one.


How? Why? Go to Part 2 to find out, or get the whole story here at “Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir”

The Naked Heroes

The Greek hero, Perseus

The idea of nude heroes is nothing new. In Ancient Greece, nearly every hero went without a loin cloth, whether depicted on canvas, pottery or marble. Among these were Heracles, Perseus, Theseus and Achilles. After the Renaissance, some Biblical heroes also went nude, as portrayed by Michelangelo’s David. By the 19th century, exposing the genitals fell out of fashion, likely due to religious pressure, with its emphasis on the “heavenly kingdom.” And yet, even to this day, we see remnants of the heroic nude in the way artists draw their superheroes. Superman and Batman are sketched as if naked, before their skin is colored in to resemble tights. But you could never see such muscle definition through a fabric, no matter how tight, which is why Hollywood struggles to bring these costumed characters to the big screen. The closest any director can get to mirroring the comic page is through use of body paint, and in the X-Men series, Byran Singer does just that, painting Rebecca Romijn blue, with strategically added fragments glued to her body, to portray Mystique. The beautiful and talented Jennifer Lawrence did the same for her role as Mystique in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
    

In the literary field, naked heroes are commonly found in works by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Both Tarzan and John Carter, despite decades of inaccurate film and TV adaptations, go without a stitch in the books. Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, from Jungle Book, doesn’t bother with a loin cloth, since he is raised by wolves. Disney, of course, would never dare show him as he was meant to be. In France, Philippe Sternis’ writes of a young female Mowgli named Pyrenee, who lives without the hassle of clothing, and is befriended by a bear. The nudity in the comic is tasteful and innocent, but don’t expect to find an English translation. People in America would likely consider it child pornography.

Laura Zerra

Other naked heroes are coming to light in the non-fiction arena, like the Muslim women in the Louvre in Paris, who protested for women’s rights, and Laura Zerra, three time survivor of Discovery’s hit show Naked and Afraid. 

I have been thinking about naked heroes for half of my life. As a teenager, I created the Greek demigod, Dynotus, for whom I have four ring-binders’ full of adventures. Only rarely does he wear any clothing. As I became more involved in nudism, the nude hero evolved in my mind. With a greater, more philosophical understanding of the movement, I was better able to bring Xandr and Thelana to life. Even still, when the characters made their debut in 2004 in The Dark Age of Enya, I remained apprehensive. I could not imagine a time when they might find acceptance, or an audience. But this was before Naked and Afraid, before Muslim women went nude in the streets, before the sex/bondage inspired novel Fifty Shades of Grey. So many naturist blogs, Twitter feeds, and organizations are popping up, I can no longer keep track of them. The real world seems ready for Xandr and Thelana, and so I have reflected this in their story, and in the fictional world in which they live. In Ages of Aenya, nude heroes save the world! How can the people of Aenya not accept them? If I cannot imagine a world where body taboos become a thing of the past, what good is fantasy?

Since my youth, I have wanted to embrace nudism in my fiction, and Xandr and Thelana are it, the first heroic nudes in modern times. Like Superman with his cape and tights, their skin is their costume. Already, I am planning the sequel to Ages of Aenya, where they will find acceptance, going without clothing entirely, in the cities, before kings and queens, for the entirety of the novel. Their time has arrived.

But Xandr and Thelana can’t do it alone! Even the toughest heroes need their fans! So, if you’re a nudist or naturist, or if you just love a good story about people who are a little different, please check out my Kickstarter page below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2122821931/naturist-fantasy-novel-ages-of-aenya/widget/card.html?v=2

How do the people of Aenya come to accept the naked heroes in their midst? Take a sneak peek below: