What is ‘Naked’?

Is she naked?

What does it mean to be naked? Western civilization seems to understand the concept, and most people will agree that, regardless of personal belief, public nudity is not the status-quo. But there is constant disagreement as to what constitutes nakedness, how to define a public place, and when or where and under what circumstances the human body should be regarded taboo.

The other day, I went with a friend of mine to the beach. His eight year old daughter was wearing a rather small bikini bottom that kept slipping off her butt. At one point, she was digging in the sand and you could clearly see a good four inches of plumber’s crack. It didn’t matter to me, being a nudist and all, but I jokingly remarked, “Your daughter is on the wrong kind of beach.” He turned to me, somewhat offended, and said, “She’s just a kid.” OK, I can understand if she was two, but eight? When and where does society draw the line? If she were nine would that kind of exposure be less acceptable? What about ten? Eleven? What if she were completely nude? It’s quite common to see a toddler running around without a bathing suit; most people don’t mind. But at what age does nudity become taboo? And who decides?

Things get more confusing as you add variables. For instance, we could agree that any and all adult nudity is unacceptable. But again, what constitutes nudity? Is a T-back bikini, which reveals part of the butt cheek, OK? What about a thong? How short do you cut your bathing suit? Years ago, thongs became illegal in Clearwater, Florida. Some lawyers actually drew up diagrams, which looked like a surgeon’s guide to liposuction, to help police determine the parts of the gluteus maximus that were legal. I have yet to hear of police pulling out a protractor and geometry book to arrest someone, but the whole thing is preposterous. It gets worse when you consider how differently bodies are shaped. One diagram doesn’t fit all. Skinny women with bony butts have less inches of cheek than obese women. Does this mean obese women are at a higher risk of breaking the law?

Now if we could come to an agreement as to what constitutes nudity for every kind of person and swimwear, things get hazy when we try to define a public place. Wearing a thong at the mall or at a restaurant may not go over well, of course, and unlike the beach, shoes and shirts are typically required. But what about public locker rooms? The other day, I needed to ride my bike eleven miles from the beach, but my bathing suit was soaked. I could have tried the hand dryer, but it was mounted too high, and the numerous changing stalls were intimidating. If men are too shy to undress in front of other men, they’re likely to be offended with my bottoms in my hand. OK, what about your own backyard? While technically private, laws regarding nudity even on private property depend on many factors, and differ from county to county. After all, I can’t strip on my driveway without getting arrested. Do I have a high enough fence or hedges? Do your neighbors, like mine, have a two story house with windows looking down on your property? What if the fence has a hole in it so that a child can look through it? According to Florida law, nudity is not illegal unless it is in a “lewd or lascivious manner,” but what the heck does that mean? Lewd and lascivious are even more ambiguous than nakedness, which is why I constantly worry about my neighbors calling the police. Who knows whether a judge deems my playing pool volleyball with the family lascivious. I am sure a lawyer could get the charges thrown out, but why go through the hassle? For all I know, my neighbors might be nudists themselves. Or they might be Bible thumping Baptists who believe the sight of genitalia damaging to their children. I suppose I could stick to nudity within the confines of my own house. But again, I have seen some scary news stories about people arrested after they were seen through their windows. There was even a story about a couple who lost their two kids for months to Child Protective Services after taking their bath time photos to Walmart.

Things get harrier when we consider specific body parts and their functions. What if you have to pee behind a bush and somebody sees you? Embarrassing, perhaps, but should it be illegal? Recently, Facebook changed their policies regarding breast feeding photos after a public outcry. Now here’s a switch, the general public coming to a consensus that showing naked breasts is OK, whereas a privately owned company disagreed. Whatever the reason, female nipples (but never male nipples) result in either mass hysteria or complete indifference. Since 1992, it has been perfectly legal for a woman to walk bare chested in New York City, and yet, all live television broadcasts are delayed seven seconds due to 2003’s Nipplegate, after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” revealed part of her nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show. It forces me to wonder: How can it be OK for a woman to show her breasts in public, even in church (according to Pope Francis), as long as she has a baby in her arms? Why do we assume that children are not harmed by the sight of (nipples + baby)? Do babies somehow nullify whatever psychological effects nipples have on youth? When I was in Morocco, my wife’s cousin pulled her breast out in mid-conversation to feed her child. Even for me, it was a bit of a shock. After all, Morocco is a Muslim country, where many women can be seen in burqas, a garment covering every part of the body from head to toe.

But let us assume, for argument’s sake, that nudity is unacceptable but for inside your own heavily fortified bathroom. What about depictions of the human body? Colleges throughout the country bring live nude models into the classroom. And these classes are not nearly as rare as you might think. The public recreation center next to my house, where my daughter studied drawing and sculpting, offered human figure study using live models. People also seem to accept the unclad body in Classical or Renaissance art, so while comic books are never allowed to show Wonder Woman’s nipples, nor can Disney ever hope to make an accurate Tarzan or Jungle Book film, not a single customer has ever complained to me about the topless mosaic mermaids in my restaurant.

How about this?

In X-Men: First Class, the character Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, decides that to be true to herself, she will stop hiding behind clothing. Even though her natural “body” is blue, with some scales added over her “naughty” bits, her closest friend, Charles Xavier, is shocked, remarking, “Why are you naked?” In the followup movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mystique uses her acrobatic skills to effortlessly take out her enemies, in nothing but her blue skin. Does this make Mystique a naturist mutant? Is she even really naked? Or does her mutated physiology make her like an animal, for whom clothing is extraneous? Perhaps the concept of nudity is limited to our own species, and that, not needing clothes, Mystique is exempt from the rules of our society.

All this confusion brings to mind the countless efforts by anthropologists to define the term race, which they eventually stopped trying to do, accepting that there is no such thing. We do not typically define a thing by its absence. We do not have words for people who do not wear hats or who do not have jobs, except to add a prefix or a suffix, to say “that man is hat-less” or “he is un-employed.” Using naked to describe a person implies some special characteristic in that person, when nakedness is our most basic state of being. It would be more accurate to say “that man is pantsless.” Like White, Black, Christian or Jew, terms like naked are inherently meaningless, deriving from the limited perspective of our time and place in history. This is why governments have such difficulty determining when or where the human body should be legal, because while we can all agree on the ethics of theft and murder, what is or isn’t offensive will always remain open to interpretation and prejudice.

Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 5: Paradise Found

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A naturist resort

Long before dreaming of nude beaches, when my afternoons were as a naked prisoner at home, I picked up the phone book and flipped to my favorite word in the English language. Well, my second favorite word, the first being naked. But since naked can mean just about anything, I searched under “nudist” and came up with Paradise Lakes Resort in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. I was around twelve at the time and the lady on the line must have thought me a crank caller. “Can you go naked there?” I asked her. “Really? Like . . . wherever you want? Really? The whole time? Awesome!” OK, maybe I didn’t say awesome, but that was how I felt. Only problem? I needed to be 18. Despite not being able to go, however, simply knowing that a place existed where people were free to go naked made me happy. But telling a twelve year old to wait six years is like telling an adult to wait 600.

Flash forward a decade, I am twenty-two, and I’ve just graduated from Saint Petersburg Junior College. Family life has drastically changed. My father, a workaholic since 1952, finally built his dream house. This, of course, had to resemble the Parthenon, with two story columns and an immense front door we could never open and a private backyard that looked like the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, my parents were old and tired and spent much more time at home. Other than sitting on my naked butt in front of my Amiga computer, the solitude I once enjoyed was no more. The only freedom I had to look forward to were summer trips to the islands.

If you would have seen my University of South Florida I.D. card, you would have thought I was trying to pass myself off as [insert dark skinned stereotype here]. Typically, I am more Germanic looking than Greek, but I’d spent about a month on the island of Mykonos risking skin cancer. I never cared for night clubs and there was nothing else to do on the island but go to the beach, so I sat under the sun from the morning until the afternoon, swimming and reading H.P. Lovecraft (an odd combination, I know).

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My two favorite things: nudism and books!

Free body tourism in Greece, however, was on the decline. Boobs became a rare sight and they even posted a “No Nudism” sign in Eos. All the while, I hated the constant secrecy, which became more of a burden than ties, church shoes or wet bathing suits. Returning stateside after so much sun where the “sun don’t shine” was depressing.

One night, while counting the months until summer, it occurred to me to type, “nudist resort, Florida” into my America Online web browser (anyone remember AOL?). Lo and behold, the resort I’d called ten years earlier popped up. Why I’d never thought to do this before is beyond me. I checked the address, assuming it must be located in some remote part of the Everglades, but God, it seems, really wanted me to remain a nudist. I commuted an hour to school every day, and the route was convoluted. What I hadn’t realized was that I was driving by the largest nudist resort in the country, for months, every damn day. A five mile detour and I was in Paradise Lakes Clothing Optional Resort.

The idea of joining a resort was a lot like taking that first shower without locking the door. For nearly a decade I considered myself a nudist, but never talked to anyone who could say the same. The people on the beaches spoke Swedish and German and were usually being intimate with their partners. What were other nudists like? I worried about this a lot. Were they all hippies? Rednecks? Or sex-crazed weirdos?

Driving up to the checkpoint, like those used in gated communities, a middle-aged woman checked me over like I was a spy. Without mentioning nudism, she asked, “Have you been here before?”

“No.”

“Do you know what this place is?”

“Yes, of course.”

“O.K. Drive on through. But you’ll need to take the day tour!”

I was once again interrogated by the keepers of Paradise, who were fully dressed for some reason. They reiterated the day tour rule and I was happy to agree. Basically, it involved sitting in a golf cart with a man who probably met Abraham Lincoln in person, to be driven around the resort, which I discovered was more like a neighborhood. He seemed distinctly suspicious of me, however, probably wondering why a young guy like me wanted to visit a place full of retirees, remarking at one point, “You know, there aren’t many single women here . . .”

I figured too many guys my age were looking for the Playboy Mansion, a place full of giggling girls with bouncing boobs, and after taking the tour and seeing none of that, college students like me would surely be high tailing it out of there. But roaming about as God intended, sans shirt and pants or even underwear—on sidewalks, in front of peoples’ homes and across freshly cut lawns, from the crappy restaurant to the crappy gymnasium—was exhilarating. It was as if I’d stepped through the portal on Sliders to a dimension where body taboos did not exist. I could be naked wherever and whenever I wanted and nobody would care! One of my favorite things in Paradise Lakes was their open air shower, where I could soap my naked self in sight of dozens of people. My old classmates would never have believed it!

The main hangout included an immense pool with a number of smaller pools and hot tubs. But most of the people looked too old to enjoy the facilities, and it made me a bit sad, not because I didn’t like old people (I do!) but because I could not understand why virtually nobody my age appreciated nudism. Was nudism “out of fashion” as my sister suggested? How could that be? What young person could prefer clothing if they were free to be without? Tattoos and body piercings are so common these days nobody bats an eye, but socializing in the body you were born into remains, inexplicably, the ultimate taboo. Ever since I was born, I’d felt like an outsider, and here again I was made to feel like the outsider. In my dreams the resort was divided in two: on one side there were college age students splashing around, all in bathing suits, and on the other, naked bodies deformed by age.

Outsider or no, I loved the place enough to buy a yearly membership, and came to discover a fundamental part of nudism: volleyball. As any true nudist will tell you, volleyball is a must! And the best part is, playing against people three times my age, I wasn’t too bad! That was until I met a twelve year old girl named Britney. Clothed or not, I would never trust my daughter with some twenty year old stranger, but I guess her parents saw an innocence in me. Britney thrashed me at every sport you can think of. Volleyball. Ping Pong. Shuffleboard. Hide & Seek. Once, another guy joined me at tennis, her against us, doubles vs. single. The outcome was embarrassing.

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A nudist’s favorite sport

Britney was born at the resort and I was happy to have met her. She was smart and well-adjusted, not to mention exceedingly athletic, and unlike my “Brady Bunch” family displayed no signs of neurosis, despite her nudist upbringing. But her problem was the same as mine. There were simply too few people her age. I tried starting a Nudist Club at USF, hanging fliers around campus and making a website, but nobody responded.

When summer rolled around, I discovered that, just as on the Greek beaches, the nudist bird was migratory. Younger people flocked in droves from all over the country and a few from as far as Germany. Even on the islands, I’d never seen such a parade of body types, and it made me realize how impoverished our society’s definitions of beauty were. Beauty, I could see, came in all shapes and sizes. I met people my age and even—despite what General Lee told me—a girl my age.

Nicole came to spend the week with her sister and husband, which seemed a bit odd, since Paradise Lakes is advertised as a romantic getaway. If not for me, she would have had no one her age to talk to. Remarkably, she’d never been to a nudist venue before, but couldn’t have looked more comfortable. We did everything together—even canoeing in an alligator-infested lake—then reluctantly put our clothes on for dinner and a movie, “There’s Something about Mary.” Our date was strangely opposite the norm, because we both knew how we looked naked, but not dressed! Naturally, I found her much more attractive in nothing but skin, as I tend to find most people. Returning to Paradise, we couldn’t wait to take our clothes off, so we could go back to her room and . . . play Scrabble. Yes. That’s all we did. Did sex cross our minds? I think so. But neither one of us wanted a meaningless fling. Sadly, she went back to New Jersey in the morning and I never saw her again.

Those early college days were the happiest of my life. I remember spending time at Paradise between classes, and once came late to Ancient History, my clothes sticking to my still-wet body. Ironic, considering how I used to come wet and late to class for not getting naked. But having a secret continued to gnaw at me. I knew that to be fully free, everyone needed to know, including my parents.

With my blessing, they learned about it from my sister, and being Greek, my mother really amped up the melodrama. I thought I could use my writing and argumentative skills to prove that nudism was an innocent thing, but she wouldn’t hear of it. In her mind, nudists were “deviants” like people with tattoos and piercings. A week later, I came home to hear my parents talking, and to my father saying, “I’ll take him out of the will!” Since money meant everything to my father, he assumed it meant everything to everyone else, and so he used the “inheritance threat” often. We went up to my room to discuss my “being naked” and I started my usual pro-nudism speech. His argument?

“You’ll turn gay!”

“Dad,” I said, “the Spartans were nudists! Our ancestors!”

“Yes!” he argued, “that’s why they all turned gay.”

Sadly, even my father had bought into the stereotype of Greek homosexuality. The truth is, my ancestors didn’t think in terms of gay or straight; it only mattered whether you were the “giver” or “receiver.” As long as you were giving it, it didn’t matter with what or to whom.

At some point during the discussion, I handed him a Paradise Lakes brochure, and he noticed something I hadn’t really bothered to mention. Girls.

“Wait, wait,” he said, “there are girls there?”

“Well, yeah, of course.”

For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to him that women would be allowed to frolic naked in front of men. I even told him about Nicole and after that he was sold. My father’s tolerant attitude eased my mother’s worries, and I am happy to say my inheritance is secure (not that it would have changed anything).

I have often dreamed of a people born into a world without clothing taboos. And dreaming is what fantasy writers do. In 2005, I sold eighteen copies of my novel at a signing at Caliente, an even bigger clothing-optional resort a few miles from Paradise. The people in my book are named after the Finnish hero, Ilmarinen, because the Finns are known for body acceptance and for inventing the family sauna, where bathing suits aren’t allowed. Of my Ilmarin characters, one is named Nicole. The other is Brittany.

____

 

Continue on to Part 6. Missed Parts 1 through 4? Search “Least Likely to Become a Nudist”

Special thanks to Felicity Jones and Jordan Blum for first posting this story on their blog!

Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 4

Just like to thank Felicity Jones and Jordan Blum for first posting this story on their blog! Be sure to check them out at Young Naturists America!

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Me

One good thing about being locked in my house, besides being naked all day, was having to find ways to entertain myself. There was no Facebook or PS3 or Cartoon Network in the 80’s, only He-Man and GI*Joe and Transformers, and when those were over, I turned to my own imagination, to writing fiction. My first characters were superhero knockoffs, like the Red Panther, but after discovering nudism, I had to wonder: if I was happier without underwear, why not He-Man? My first computer was a Commodore AMIGA 500, which had no hard drive, no modem and only five-hundred kilobytes (that’s KILO, not MEGA) of RAM. I used it for word processing and drawing naked men. Anyone seeing my artwork at the time would have just assumed I was gay, for despite sincere efforts, I simply could not draw women. My newest hero was the Greek demigod, Dynotus (a precursor to my current naked hero, Xandr), who, with the help of his lover, Chani (an early version of Thelana) went through four ring-binders of exotic lands fighting exotic monsters, all with genitals unsheathed. As a lonely, deeply repressed child, it was easy to project myself into this character free of inhibition and my mother’s OCD and the clothing I found so confining. Little could I imagine the real life adventures I would later embark upon.

I used to have the “whoops, I went to school and forgot my clothes” dream almost on a nightly basis, except for me, none of the teachers or students seemed to care. It happened so often I sometimes feel like my becoming a nudist was part of some Inception-like plot. In other dreams, I’d be lounging around the house, watching TV, when my sister would come home from work. She would see me, see that I was naked, and say “Hey, Nick” like nothing unusual was going on. Just to be clear, there was nothing incestuous about the dream, but the normalcy of nudity gave me a thrill. After all, I craved acceptance more than anything. But that could never happen, could it?

The summer following my sister’s honeymoon, she and her husband let me tag along on their tour of the Greek islands. This kind of trip was nothing new to me, except my parents weren’t around, and now I was harboring a secret naturist lifestyle. We took the ferry to Crete, the largest island in Greece, and from there visited Santorini, believed to have inspired Atlantis, with its volcanic black beach, sheer cliffs, and blue and white houses overlooking the Mediterranean. Far more beautiful than any landscape, however, was what I found on our third stop, on the island of Eos. We just unpacked our bags as the sun was setting, and I asked my sister if it was OK to run down to the beach. A ten minute stroll from our hotel, under an orange and red sky, and I could see the elegant lines of bare bodies on the sand.

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Inspiration!

The casual, shameless way these people went about the beach thrilled and inspired me, and I wanted so badly to join them, to cast off my clothes right then and there, but what would my sister say? How could I even begin to broach the subject? To be honest, I do not remember what I said, only that I somehow found the courage to “come out” to her. The great thing about my sister is that she’s a talker. Sometimes, when we’re on the phone, I can put the receiver down and go to the bathroom and not miss a thing. And when it comes to topic, no subject is taboo. But this was more than just talking. I told her how I’d wanted to visit a nude beach for years, not to see girls (as one might expect) but to be naked myself, before the entire beach going public. Her reaction? “Sure, why not.” What I didn’t know at the time, and what caught me entirely by surprise, was that her husband harbored the same interest.

The week that followed was utterly surreal. It was as if we’d stepped through a magic portal into my dreams, where bodily shame did not exist. I took to nudity in public like a born nudist, as shameless as unicorn girl, and the experience exceeded my expectations.

Now let me just take a moment to discuss swimwear. Remember my feelings for ties and church shoes? It does not compare to my loathing for bathing suits. I can’t imagine how stuffing a vagina into a bikini must feel, but whoever invented modern men’s swim trunks needs to be punched in the nuts. There are few worse sensations than walking around Adventure Island for eight straight hours with sopping wet genitals while the rest of your body is bone dry. These things hold water better than Pampers. I’ve forgotten swim trunks in my car for days only to discover they’re still wet! At the beach, sand gets sucked into your butt crack and in every crease and crevice of your testicles and pee hole. I avoid the beach just so I don’t have to wear the damn things. This was the only downside to my island experience. Regular beaches were ruined forever.

Every year I was determined to visit a nude beach, but there were many obstacles. Some islands cater solely to textiles and sometimes aunts and uncles went with us, but what was especially frustrating were the beaches known for nudism with no nudists! Even in Eos, I’d find nothing but timid tourists. It all seemed to change from month to month, since the time of year determined what nationality went on holiday. Greek and Italian tourists never go naked, for some reason, despite a long history of embracing the human form in sculpture, but Germans, Swedes and Norwegians often do. For reasons that continue to elude me, the greater the latitude, the more people seem willing to go au natural.

As the years went by, more people became complicit in my escapades. I traveled the islands with my other sister, her sons, and my best friend (and his friends) who lived in Athens, and was naked in front of them whenever possible: on the beach, in the hotel room, even in my parents’ summer home. Surprisingly, nobody seemed to mind, despite that they were too shy to try it themselves. Once, my nephew and I visited a remote beach on the island of Mykonos. There was no way back but by ferry, or so we were told, and we missed the last boat. We had to hike for miles through rugged hills and bush land. For him, it was an ordeal, but for me it was an adventure, a chance to live like Dynotus, like my ancient ancestors before things like bathing suits were invented.

By my late teens, I could travel the islands on my own, but naked people were like birds on the verge of extinction. Just pick up a copy of Summer Lovers, filmed in Santorini in the 80’s; everyone on the beach is naked. Even my best friend’s father told me that when he was my age, he was like “a Martian” in his bathing suit on the Greek islands. Not so today.

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Greek beaches circa 1960s~70s

But like a determined ornithologist, I went in search of this rare nudist-bird, to the most remote and hidden places on the islands. Now imagine this: you spend hours trekking uphill and downhill, cutting through thorny bushes and olive trees and goat pens, in a buck-twenty weather, until finally, finally finding that beach some bartender told you about the night before, and guess what? There’s a bunch of fucking people there! And not just any people . . . families, with kids! Are they naked? No! Not even topless. I mean, what the hell, people, didn’t you see the beautiful sandy beach four feet from your front door?

I eventually became so frustrated looking for nudists, I said “screw it” and just went naked wherever and whenever I wanted. And that’s how I discovered something remarkable; lots of people want to go nude, but are afraid to do so. Like the unicorn girl that inspired me, I inspired others. I would plant the nudist colony flag and people would gather around me to ditch their bathing suits. Even if no naked people showed up, I was undeterred. I went from the only kid showering in his underwear to the only naked guy on the beach. Sometimes the tourists would take pictures of me, as if I was some cultural novelty (I didn’t mind) and I also met some girls from Norway, who joined me in a game of volleyball, never seeming to mind my dangly bits. In fact, as I was walking to my hotel, one of these girls was passing me on her Vespa, and reached out her hand to smack me on the butt. I was flattered.

 

There was only one problem. Back home in the U.S., I was alone. My friends and family tolerated my nudism, but couldn’t understand it, and the wait for summer was agonizing. Again, I became painfully aware of the paradox of nudism. In private, I was free, but with the people closest to me, with my mother and father and coworkers and classmates, I was not free.


Go to Parts 1, 2 or 3, or continue on to Part 5 in “Least Likely to Become a Nudist”

Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 3

I would like to give a special thanks to Felicity Jones of Young Naturists America for originally posting this story on her blog!

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People talk about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder these days as if it were a joke. “Oh, I am so OCD!” you might say, when choosing what to wear or putting away the dishes. Even in movies and TV shows, they make light of it; see As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson or the TV show Monk. But for my mother, OCD was no laughing matter. She suffered through it, rarely getting even a few hours sleep per night. In my family, we simply referred to it as “mom’s problem.” At least, that was what I called it before high school. My psychology textbook chapter on OCD was a revelation. “Oh my God!” I thought, “that’s mom!” Her neurosis affected every aspect of our lives. Among her many hangups was how I was supposed to dress and comb my hair, but she obsessed mostly over doors. Only she and my father were allowed to have keys. My sister, who lived with us until she was thirty, never had a key of her own, calling my mother every day to unlock the front door. This wouldn’t have been so bad if my mom had been a housewife, but we were restaurant people, and our lives revolved around making pizza. After the school bus dropped me off, my mother made me a quick lunch as I watched He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and for four to six hours afterward, I became a solitary prisoner in my own home. Dad, brother, sister and mother were all at the restaurant, and every door in our house was locked from the inside. Thank God we never had a fire, or I would have been toasted alive. The downside to being trapped in my house was, of course, loneliness. I talked to myself incessantly and acted out the stories running rampant in my head. But after bathing unicorn girl, I discovered a surprising benefit to my solitary existence.

There was a certain excitement in showering without shame, which led me to spending naked time in the bedroom. And since my mother locked and unlocked and locked the door about fifty times before getting in her car, I knew when she away, and when I could be alone. Let me just say I’ve spent a lifetime trying to describe my initial feelings about stepping through my bedroom door sans underwear. Maybe it was the years of repression, the inhibitions impressed upon me by both my mother and Baptist school, but I felt like I’d lived my entire life in a cave and was now seeing a beautiful landscape, or that I was someone who’d never known music, and was hearing Mozart for the first time. Specifically, it was the world of touch that opened up to me, the feeling of air on my shoulders, the bristles of carpet under my feet, the varied textures of every chair and cushion. And it is still a mystery to me. It wasn’t like I’d never been barefoot before, but there was something about being entirely naked that made me acutely more aware. Of course, I was a teenager, and I’d be remiss not to mention arousal. But after the first hour or so, my brain figured intercourse wasn’t happening. There was also the thrill factor. When people say they climb mountains because they are afraid of heights, I understand what they mean, and I did flirt with the dark side of nudism – exhibitionism – at some point. But I never really cared for anyone to actually see me naked. All I really wanted was that sense of freedom, to be “one” with myself and my surroundings.

Over the next few years, whenever the family was away, the clothes came off. And I developed very good hearing. When a car door slammed shut, I had minutes to get dressed, and my shorts were always within reach. It was like having a fire drill, except it was a parents-arriving-unexpectedly drill, and anyway I couldn’t have had a fire drill because I was locked in my damn house.

Some days I worried I was suffering from some mental illness. My behavior wasn’t exactly “normal,” and the Internet was still years away, so I couldn’t just Google “being naked.” There was no way of knowing people like me existed. But that didn’t stop me from growing ever more bold. Places I secretly went naked: my dad’s orange grove, hotel locker rooms, hotel jacuzzis, and the woods behind our restaurant. That last part, I admit, was a little stupid. This wasn’t some idyllic, Middle Earth-type forest either; this was Florida swampland, more Naked and Afraid than anything else, with spiders, snakes, and a lake full of alligators. But none of that concerned me. There was also trash, from the homeless people who liked to camp out there, and maybe on-the-run pedophiles. Come to think of it, I was a pedophile’s ultimate fantasy: a boy in the woods, naked and alone. But my only real fear was someone stealing my clothes and having to return to my family, and a restaurant full of shocked customers and employees, without any explanation, wearing only a pizza box. Sure, it might have made for a good story, but I’d probably be suffering from embarrassment-PTSD now.

I’d finally decided I was a nudist. Though I couldn’t be sure what the lifestyle entailed, life just seemed better without clothes. Even algebra homework was more fun (or should I say bearable?) on my bare butt.

I.T #whizkid

Homework is better in the nude!

But my new-found freedom came coupled with anxiety. As a nudist, I was true to myself, and yet my true self had to remain hidden. Nudism was about being “open” yet also my biggest secret. Frustrated by these paradoxes and philosophically minded at a young age, I started to ask the difficult questions, like why shame existed to such a degree in our society, and why it was even necessary to wear clothes at all. Wouldn’t the world be better without? Sometimes, when my sister drove me to the library for school, I spent the whole time on the microfiche machine (Google it, kids!) looking up articles on nudism / naturism. But more than anything, I wanted to come “out of the closet,” to spend time around like-minded people so I could be myself and enjoy the elements of nature without fear. When boys my age started fantasizing about sex, I was thinking about the nude beaches of the Greek islands. But how could I ever manage to go there? How could I ever be free? I visited Greece every summer, but always with the family, and if my mother were to discover my nudism, with her clothing-related OCD, she’d likely die of a heart attack.


Missed Parts 1 and 2? Go back, or continue on to Part 4. Or search “Least Likely to Become a Nudist”