Can Nudism Save the World?

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Can nudism save the world …?

Not really. No. Thanks for stopping by.

OK, wait. There’s more! But you probably guessed that, right? Nudism/Naturism won’t save the world, but it can make the world a better place. Now, I am not going to go into the usual spiel about body acceptance and freedom. Too much nudist rhetoric is hyperbole, and its end-goals arbitrary. Like I wrote in my earlier post, Why Nudism is Wrong*, we don’t need to expose our genitals to see that humans come in all shapes and sizes. Rather, I intend to examine the concrete, practical effects of a world without clothing taboos, a world where public nakedness is not only accepted, but the norm, a world where words like ‘naked’ and ‘nudist’ are superfluous. What kind of world would that look like? And what benefits could we derive from such a world?

First and foremost, we should dismiss the idea that rape, or sexual violence, would increase in a naked world. Compare the rights of women in Scandinavia, where body freedom is more commonplace, to those in repressed states like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. We might instead end up with a more sexually liberated community, but this in itself isn’t a bad thing.

In the middle ages, much like today, there was the fear that nakedness could only lead to sex. More specifically, the patriarchal societies at the time feared wanton sexuality in women. As acts of rape were sanctioned by the Church during the Crusades, wives awaiting their husbands to return from war were said to be forced into chastity belts. Myth or no, the chastity belt emphasized the need to curb female sexuality, as an unwanted pregnancy was a great burden, and having a bastard childborn of a cuckoldwas a worser fate.

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But we are living in a post-Pill age. Moving into the future, newer contraceptive technologies are divorcing the age old connection between sex and childbirth. For women, this has had mostly positive effects. Women are no longer required to devote their lives to raising a dozen or so children. Like no other time in history, they are free to choose the life they want to live, whether that means earning a college degree or starting a career. And they can do this without giving up sex. More importantly, birth control leads to less children being born, which is a net benefit for the environment and on humanity as a whole.

Almost every problem we face today can be directly related to population. With more people comes a greater need for land, water and food. A shortage of these resources leads to poverty, starvation and war. An increased human population causes an increase in pollution, resulting in the devastation of our oceans, the razing of our forests, and the mass extinction of animal species. According to Seastewards.org, Americans generate 10.5 million tons of PLASTIC waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it. An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash–most of it plastic–is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Christine Dell’Amore, at the National Geographic, reports, extinction data revealed a rate of 100 to 1,000 species lost per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change. […] That analysis revealed that before humans evolved, less than a single species per million went extinct annually. The study authors suspect that the extinction rate will only increase if trends continue—possibly resulting in what scientists call the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. 

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I can foresee a future where children are born outside of the womb, in birthing pods. This would give women even greater freedom, from pain and the health complications associated with delivery. Birth defects could be detected earlier and more easily. DNA editing, enacted outside the body, could affectively eliminate diseases like diabetes and cancer. In this not-so-distant future, sex will exist purely as a social construct, for pleasure and ritual. It will become, for better or worse, what kissing is today. In such a world, fear of nudity leading to sex will not exist, because fear of sex will not exist.

Now, we might look at the above example as putting the cart before the horse. Certainly, we don’t need to be naked to become more sexually liberated, or to curb unwanted pregnancies. We should not confuse correlation with causation. However, there are other major benefits we can directly relate to a global nudist movement.

 

Clothing and Resources

There will never come and time when humans stop wearing clothes altogether, and no nudist or naturist I’ve ever spoken to has entertained the possibility. And yet the myth persists, that nudists want to do away with clothing in the same way textiles (that’s you non-nudists) enforce mandatory dress codes anywhere and everywhere. From a nudist’s perspective, the textile world is utterly obsessive. When you sleep, you wear pajamas, or underwear. When you wake up, you take a shower and immediately put on something casual, like an undershirt and shorts. You leave the house, you change again into a T-shirt and jeans. You visit the beach, the pool, or go camping, you need a bathing suit. It’s just clothes, clothes and more clothes!from the moment you are born to the moment you die. Even when you’re lying dead in your coffin, you’re in a tux. Nudists, on the other hand, dress when appropriate. You won’t find me in zero degree weather without a coat on. That being said, why do I need clothes on a perfect day? Every summer, I find myself sweltering under the Florida sun, my shirt and pants trapping all of the heat trying to escape my body. Why do I suffer? For no other reason but an outdated, cultural taboo.

Now imagine a beautiful spring day. It’s 74 degrees, without a cloud in sight, and there’s just the slightest breeze, and your body is simply begging to experience the sensations around you. In our post-textile world, boys and girls could run freely about the lawn, dashing through sprinklers, jumping in mud, perspiring, drinking Kool-Aid, without any concern for stains. If it rains, take a second to towel off, and you’re dry as a bone. All the while, dad can do yard work, wearing only gloves, without the hems of his clothes turning green. If the temperature pushes past a hundred, there’s no better way to adjust to the heat than allowing the body to regulate itself. Want to jump in the pool? Or into the lake? No need to run home for a bathing suit.

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As the sun melts into the horizon and the mosquitoes start to wake, the family gathers inside. Nobody needs to change. Everyone sits on their bare butts for dinner and, later on, a movie. Mom doesn’t need to do laundry, as she only ever washes for winter and the occasional formal outing. It’s a beautiful, practical world, although a bit 50’s inspired. The future is likely to be far stranger. But in our hypothetical nudist world, we could greatly help the environment by saving on water, and by using our land exclusively for crops. We would also eliminate the pollution that comes from clothing production.

The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” Eileen Fisher, industry magnate, told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. Fisher was honored by Riverkeeper for her commitment to environmental causes.

When we think of pollution, we envision coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintops and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think of the shirts on our backs. But the overall impact the apparel industry has on our planet is quite grim. Fashion is a complicated business involving long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment.”

While Fisher’s assessment that fashion is the second largest polluter is likely impossible to know, what is certain is that the fashion carbon footprint is tremendous. Determining that footprint is an overwhelming challenge due to the immense variety from one garment to the next. A general assessment must take into account not only obvious pollutants — the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the great amount of waste discarded clothing creates — but also the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping. While cotton, especially organic cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Synthetic, man-made fibers, while not as water-intensive, often have issues with manufacturing pollution and sustainability. And across all textiles, the manufacturing and dyeing of fabrics is chemically intensive. Globalization means that your shirt likely traveled halfway around the world in a container ship fueled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels. A current trend in fashion retail is creating an extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes and it is a huge problem. Your clothes continue to impact the environment after purchase; washing and final disposal when you’re finished with your shirt may cause more harm to the planet than you realize.

As a nudist, it seems utterly absurd to me to waste so much energy and resources, when a lack of energy and resources is fast becoming the greatest challenge to human survival. There are certainly times when clothing is necessary, for comfort and survival, but those times are far and few. Mostly, we dress because society expects us to.

 

Our Warming World

Most of the electricity we use goes to lowering the temperature in our homes. But if cultural norms did not dictate that we remain clothed even indoors, we could greatly diminish our dependence on air conditioning, saving energy, and reducing our carbon footprint. According to the Department of Energy: Three-quarters of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year. This is an awful waste, just to maintain a taboo from the middle ages.

The irony here is that, as the carbon in our atmosphere increases, the global temperature continually rises, necessitating a greater need for AC, requiring more and more energy. 2017 was the hottest year on record, followed by 2016, which held the previous record, as did 2015 before that.

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We are seeing a definite, upward trend toward a hotter, muggier world. Clothing was largely developed during the Ice Age, when most of Europe and North America was covered by glaciers. Today, the glaciers are receding, as other icy landmasses, like Antarctica and the Arctic circle, are disappearing. Perhaps, in our inevitable future of hotter temperatures, communal nakedness will become the only practical solution.

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Security and Safety

OK, you may be thinking that the environment isn’t all that important, or that changing the culture to lessen the effects of global warming is a long shot. How can nudism help me today, you may be asking? This is an inherent problem when dealing with global issues. Having lost jobs in coal, many Trump supporters care little for rising sea levels. We haven’t yet evolved to consider the impact of our actions on the people who live furthest from us.

That being said, there are still everyday, practical benefits to a clothes-free world. Imagine a gunman trying to shoot up a school, where the only permitted uniform is bare skin? Forget taking your shoes off at the airport, if everyone were to simply board the plane naked, terrorists would have nowhere to hide their guns, knives or bombs. This may seem ridiculous, at first, until you discover how lax airport security really is. According to Fortune magazine, Just a few days after the busy summer travel season started—a time when inexperienced and nervous air travelers clog the nation’s airports—word leaked that the TSA screeners missed 95 percent of mock explosives and banned weapons smuggled through checkpoints by screeners testing the system. This means that if a terrorist were to try and sneak a weapon onto a plane, airport security would only catch the guy 5% of the time! Now, if we were to ban both carry-on luggage and clothing, that percentage could only go up. Heck, I can’t imagine anything short of 100%. Even if we were to contemplate a man fitting a bomb up into his anus, it’s unlikely anyone of the Islamic faith would attempt it. For one thing, nudity is forbidden in Islam, and secondly, any member of ISIS posing as a nudist could only recoil at the sight of hundreds of naked women. Again, boarding a plane in the buff may seem absurd, until you ask, why do we think so? Many things were considered absurd before becoming commonplace. More importantly, planes will be hijacked, no matter how much money we throw at security. Are the lives of hundreds of people worth maintaining an outdated cultural taboo?

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Health

So far, we have looked at the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing and the effect a nudist world would have on terrorism, but how well do these arguments hold up to the genital test? I discussed the genital test at length in my other post, Why Nudism is Wrong*, the basic premise being, we don’t have to go Full Monty to attain many of these benefits. Surely, we can trade in our pants and shirts for simple briefs. We can hold on to our modesty, or taboowhichever word you preferwhile greatly diminishing waste. And a terrorist may be just as hard pressed to hide a weapon in his underwear. But there are still other, undisputed benefits to nudism that require we expose our genitals.

Firstly, nudism is more hygienic. Some people consider the opposite to be true. The fear is that fecal matter and urine spread more easily, unconstrained by clothing, onto surfaces that then come into contact with your (in this case) exposed skin. But most infections we suffer from are cultivated by our own bodies. Poop is poop and urine is urine, and whether it’s someone else’s or your own, it’s just as unsanitary. Usually, we are forced into the same undergarments throughout most of the day, without a proper place to change. There is nothing more disgusting than (sorry!) the soiled textiles we keep pressed against our nether regions. This often leads to urinary tract infections, which is caused by bacteria, bacteria that grows in dark, damp places (where the sun don’t shine!). In my nudist world, I would have a shower kiosk (similar to those at the beach) stationed randomly throughout town, where anyone could clean themselves should the need arise. These could be as common as bathroomswould literally be bathrooms. Think about it this way, we wash our hands only so far as our hands are exposed.

Secondly, and far more importantly, nudity offers early warning signs of serious illness. When I last visited my dermatologist, he told me I had a lot of moles. Too many. I’d say I have more moles than there are stars in the universe, but I digress. He recommended he check me over, finding a number on my back that looked questionable. “Six months,” he said. “All it takes is a six months, and if it’s cancerous, you could be the richest man on Earth and it wouldn’t matter. There’s no cure.” But here’s the thing, the doctor checked me everywhere except … you guessed it, my private area. Why? I imagine it had a lot to do with my least favorite taboo. So, even as he’s stressing the dangers of cancerous moles, he’s neglecting a large section of my body because of what some Christian monks impressed upon our culture a thousand years ago. And, as it so turns out, I do have them “down there,” and I did have him check, and more were removed. You could argue that I check myself in the mirror, but how easy is it to see yourself, every part of yourself, even in the best of mirrors? In our naked world, hundreds of eyes would be upon me, everyday, all the more to notice something dangerously wrong.

 

The Future 

Cultural taboos are often difficult, if not impossible, to change. But all that is required is the will to change. Nobody could have imagined, twenty years ago, how embraced the LGBT+ community would become. As I suggested in Nudity is the Future, in forty years time, what we deem indecent will undergo a dramatic shift. Our nation has been leaning left for hundreds of years, our religion is losing its influence, and we are fast becoming a society in which personal identity is paramount. Current and future generations will be raised on PornHub. We simply cannot remain prudes forever. Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Orlando Bloom, among others, have already exposed themselves with little to no outrage.

One day soon, nakedness will take the place of bathing suits. Nudity will be a thing for the home, for backyards and public parks, for beaches, pools and camping. Showing up naked at a restaurant, school or office building will not invite shock, or calls to the police, but amusement. Clothing will continue to be worn, of course, but its function will change. It will no longer be associated with status, morality or shame, but be customary, a matter of tradition, of personal expression. Just as no one is judged by their sexuality or sexual orientation, no one will be judged, or condemned, by what they wear or don’t wear. This is the world I dream of. Perhaps by then, our cities will have moved, our religions will have become myths, and a hundred-degree weather will be the norm. But it will be a better, freer, more enlightened world.

Least Likely to Become a Nudist: A Memoir: Part 6: Finding Love in a Clothes-Minded World

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Love

I was born with a cleft lip. If you’ve never seen pictures, let me just say it can get pretty ugly. Basically, it looked like a mugger took a knife to my mouth as I exited the womb. The doctors did their best to sew me up, but the scar remained. As a result of the surgery, my nose was lopsided, with one nostril higher than the other. I did not suffer any adverse effects except for some psychological damage, because kids can be assholes. “What happened to your face?” was a question I often got asked, but I played it up cool, which worked better in my teen years. “There was a gang! I fought them off the best I could.”

For years, I tried not to think about my looks, avoiding mirrors when possible, but then high school happened and a girl named Leah. She crushed me hard. I wrote her a long poem on reams of dot matrix paper and she read it to our entire 11th grade English class. I turned every shade of red with every tortured metaphor. The evidence was all over my face, literally. I was so embarrassed, I might just as well have been bare-ass naked. Of course, Leah didn’t exactly jump into my loving arms, for you see, at that time I had to worry not only about my cleft lip nose, but a terminal case of acne. Kids in the hall used to turn just to get a better look. “Shit, did you see that guy’s face?” I also wore thick-rimmed glasses and was about as plump as an animated Tim Burton character. And this was long before “I Love Nerds” T-shirts, so girls weren’t exactly lining up to ask me to the prom.

Then in Greece one year, my uncle called to me, “Hey, Hermes.” I was in my underwear at the time, and as any mainland Greek will tell you, this is the highest compliment you can give a guy. Hermes by Praxiteles is a statue from the Classical age, representing the messenger god, and like Michelangelo’s David, stands as an ideal of male beauty. Which got me to thinking. Me? Hermes? My uncle is quite the exaggerator, but he didn’t say it in an ironic way, I am sure. So I checked with the mirror and sure enough, I could find nothing hideous about me, other than my cleft lip. After that, I started to think that maybe I’d look better in the nude. At the very least, it’d draw attention away from my face.

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Hermes

By the time I was in my 20’s, now a frequent visitor to Paradise Lakes, my confidence shot through the roof. My acne was no more, thanks to a dangerous drug called Accutane; a surgery at eighteen corrected much of my disfigurement; and I’d even gained a few pounds. More than that, naturism taught me the illusory nature of beauty. But I still had a problem and it weighed on me heavily, more than my nudist secret ever did. Paradise was full of couples, but I was by myself, alone. I needed a girlfriend, someone like Nicole, or an older version of Britney, but like Mr. Lee told me, single women were a rarity. My only chance was to find someone from the outside, clothing-loving world and introduce her to the lifestyle. But what crazy girl would agree to such a thing? Keep in mind, this was before online dating and my wooing skills were nonexistent. I mean I wasn’t exactly a player. Thanks to my cleft lip nose, and extreme social awkwardness, due, in part, to being locked in my house for a decade, I’d never even kissed a girl. And the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that my nudist days were soon to be behind me. Did I really want to risk a potential relationship just to play nude volleyball in a nursing home?

Being a restaurant manager can have its advantages, especially if you’re looking for love. Is it legal to date your employees? I don’t think so. But I never really thought of myself as “the boss.” I was just a college kid looking after my parent’s business, and far from the pervert some people imagine nudists to be, I was like the Amish when it came to sex. My brother, meanwhile, who never showed interest in social nudity, hit the clubs every weekend looking for a one-night-stand.

I found it easiest to talk to hostesses, who had nothing to do but greet customers and roll silverware. That’s how I met Maria. She was Greek, incidentally, and a few years younger than me. Ideal marriage material, if you were to ask my parents. But she was a big time flirt. Now, if you’re in the restaurant business, you know when a girl casually eats from your plate or drinks from your straw, she’s not afraid of getting your cooties. We used to share food all the time and not just pizza. And as you can imagine, two forks and one- spaghetti can lead to some pretty Lady and the Tramp situations. Eventually, we ended up at my parent’s place while they were off in Greece. She was eager to toss off her pants and watch porn, and later expressed an interest in taking nude photos (of herself, not me, silly). Being ever the gentlemen, I did not think to press my advantage, but photos? What guy can pass up nude photos? Now, for all you young people reading this, imagine a time before sexting, when taking naked selfies was especially challenging. Nobody had camera phones in those days, and you simply couldn’t drop a roll of sexy-time memories off at Walgreens without getting asked some serious questions. But I had a solution. It was this new fangled thing called a digital camera. So, as Maria sat on my bed readying for our Playboy shoot, I rifled through my desk to find—where the fuck is my camera? My brother, as it turns out, had stolen it! I was sure upset at the time, but looking back on it now, I should probably thank him. Given the butterfly effect, my kids today might not exist, and I’d be far less happily married. For you see, while Maria had little trouble getting naked, she was a shallow person, often judging people by their looks. She’d have hated Paradise Lakes if it weren’t stocked with Calvin Klein models.

But Maria wasn’t my only prospect. Jaime was a waitress who seemed into me, your typical blonde, all-American girl-next-door who liked to paint. When I asked her what she thought about nudity, she remarked, “I wish clothes had never been invented!” So . . . Jackpot? Not exactly. Nudism matters a great deal to me, but there’s more to my personality, and to love. At around the same time, I met another girl at the mall who made crepes. She was short and cute and just a little bit shy, but she always seemed to smile when I asked for my usual banana and Nutella combo. Somehow, I managed the courage to ask her out, and we talked well into the night about our favorite writers and philosophers. By contrast, Maria and Jaime wouldn’t have known Jean-Paul Sartre from Britney Spears. So when Valentines Day rolled around, I knew I had a decision to make. Maria was waiting for me, because we always went out that day, but there was also crepe girl, who was smart and considerate and I loved being around her even when we just sat on her couch doing nothing. Only problem? I couldn’t have met a girl further from the nudist lifestyle had I tried. Crepe girl was fairly timid, covering her backside with a jean jacket wherever we went, but that was the least of my worries, for she was living in America on a student visa from—I kid you not—a Muslim country. Far from the carefree attitude of the Greek isles, in her country, religiously observant women cover from head to toe, and the beach is just a field for boys to kick a soccer ball around as families mill about the sand in their Sunday Friday best, with nary a bikini in sight. Heck, not only would you never find unicorn girl here, she’d immediately get thrown in a Midnight Express dungeon. Or worse.

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Far from the Greek isles

When it comes to my life, it seems, God has a weird sense of humor. There was every possibility she’d be leaving me for her homeland upon finishing her studies, or go running for the mosque should she discover my nudist proclivities. But it was worth the risk, because I loved her, even if I had to give up the things that made me who I am. I don’t know how I broached the subject of nudism, but I did, not wanting to end up married ten years still harboring a secret. Whatever her response, I knew I owed her the truth.

Love, it seems, can make you do things, stupid things, crazy things, things you’d never imagine doing. On our first visit to Paradise, I assured her that clothing was very much optional. But what made her feel awkward was everyone else. Societal norms had flipped on her, and she became the odd one out, the crazy person in a one piece. Just like my mother, she hated any appearance of impropriety. Honestly, I think she’d have loved to live during the days of poofy wigs and corsets. But when in Rome, she’d be first in a toga. So by our second visit, she got out of my Volkswagen Beetle proclaiming, “Who needs bathing suits?” and what took me years to build up the courage to do, she did in a week. My younger, timid self could never have made that jump. But love is a powerful thing.

And that’s when I realized crepe-making Muslim girl was far better than a born-nudist, because she was willing to meet me halfway. For me. For shy me, for cleft lip me, for ugly me. She wasn’t a unicorn, but something better, a girl like me. Least likely to become a nudist.

Just last week, my wife and I returned from a naturist resort in Cancun. And in case you’re not following, yes, I married that crepe girl. We’ve been together fifteen years now and, during that time, managed to pop out two clones. Both are of my wife. I mean, really, the relatives say I wasn’t even there, but that’s probably for the best. And while we’re far from the nudist family I’d dreamed about, every night when I climb into bed and look at those three identical faces, I am reminded how incredibly fortunate I am. The main thing, of course, I am loved. But aside from that, I no longer panic when the car door slams in the driveway because I forgot where I put my shorts. Around my wife and kids, I can be myself, and I think that’s what nudism is all about. Just being yourself. And we are teaching our kids to do the same. To know that they are loved, and that they are beautiful, just the way they are.

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Family

 

As of this writing, I am 41 years old, too old for young naturist events, and yet it has taken me this long to figure out why nudism caters mostly to people over sixty. That’s just how long it takes for some people to come out to friends and family, to overcome shame, to realize the truth. From parents, religion, and the media, we are pressured into believing that the human body is shameful and obscene, a thing to hide and be disgusted by, but that it is sometimes, paradoxically, beautiful and arousing. But this is a lie—the most prevalent lie in history. A great many more people never overcome the “shame of being human,” going to their graves fully dressed. In church clothes no less.

Perhaps in some ways, I never fully overcame my repressed childhood. My wife, who is tolerant of nudism, still makes fun of me. “That’s your philosophy,” she says, “being naked?” But nudism, I tell her, isn’t about nakedness—strippers aren’t nudists, after all—it’s about being alive. At some point in our history, in our rush to evolve and separate from nature, we’ve forgotten that life isn’t merely to be seen and heard, but to be felt as well. We have forgotten that our bodies make us what we are—human—and there is no shame in being human, or in being without clothes, or being seen without clothes. To be naked is simply to be oneself. A breast or a penis or a vagina is no more embarrassing than an ear or an elbow. Body parts are only as significant as our society makes them.

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Free at last!

Missed Parts 1 through 5? Search “Least Likely to Become a Nudist”

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

Lost in the Woods and Naked!

Look! That deer is naked!

Do you ever feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? You know, where he wakes up every morning to the same song, “I’ve got you babe . . .” because his entire life is a repeat of the same day?

Last Thursday, I was in that Groundhog Day rut, and wanted to do something crazy, to carpe diem!, to remind myself that I exist. But carpe dieming (TM) means different things for different people. For some, it’s to go bungee jumping or fishing, or to max your credit card at Macy’s. For me, it’s shedding my clothes to reconnect with nature. Now, I’d like to say that my decision to do this was for research purposes. My next book, Naked in the Wildwood (working title) will feature a naked girl (Thelana) living alone in the woods, struggling to survive. Besides volunteering for the TV show Naked and Afraid, which I can’t do because I get migraines when I skip lunch, it’s always good to experience what you plan on writing. But in all honestly, I write about going primitive because of my deep seated desire to live that way.  

There is a park I sometimes visit with the family that has a nature trail, but is no way clothing optional. Fortunately, the park was near empty, being a weekday afternoon with most kids in school. I drove around looking for the trail, but couldn’t find it, so I settled on a secluded spot away from cars. By now my heart was racing. I’d been nude in public before, on beaches and in the woods when I was twelve, but things were different now. Here I could be arrested, or worse, be marked as a sex offender. So I had to be really careful. I got out of my car wearing only my black shorts and Crocs and proceeded to the woods. Looking back toward the road several times, I nervously slipped off my shoes and shorts. Being nude in the outdoors, I cannot help but think of my place in history, in geologic time. Doubtless, some proto-Indian stood on the same spot, feeling the same sensations on his bare feet, the same wind and sun on his shoulders, fourteen-thousand years ago. Consumed by fauna and flora, surrounded only by what has existed for millions of years, my everyday concerns melted away, as did my sense of self. Some people find security in stuff, but as Henry David Thoreau expressed in Walden, possessions can be a burden. The connectedness of social media, and the Internet, are like shackles to me. Sometimes, I crave the freedom of getting lost. Feeling ever more bold, I hid my things at the base of a tree (a really random tree), and went out exploring, without shoes, without shorts, without keys or cell phone, in nothing but my body. I didn’t even bother looking back. You’d think I was planning to live my entire life there, so great was the urge to go.

The trees were so densely packed that I had to move slowly, but it gave me cover, should some random person come along. Contrary to what Nike might tell you, I never felt the need for shoes. Being Florida wetland, the ground was soft and moist, and I could feel every dead leaf and root underfoot, and those things that look like straw (tree hair?) covering the ground. That’s not to say it was the Ritz Hotel. I cut my leg, but that only served to wake me up, when my life so often feels like I am sleep walking, and yesterday blends seamlessly with tomorrow. If it’s one thing I hate, it’s excessive comfort. Put me in an easy chair and I might as well be dead.

The climax of my experience was coming across deer, four young does just minding their own business. One looked right at me, and I sensed that it wasn’t afraid, only curious. Had it ever seen a naked human before? Did it even recognize my lack of clothing? I like to think we shared some kinship, being out there as our mothers’ made us, in that moment of wordless communication. Perhaps they could sense my vulnerability.

Alas, I could not be free forever, as civilization (and the occasional book, movie, wife and kids) beckoned. And I planned to write a chapter that day, so I headed back toward my clothes. But, they, were, gone! Where the fuck were my clothes? And that is when I learned an important lesson about being out in the woods. Apparently, trees look a lot alike. Surely, my shoes and car keys and shorts had to be in that other tree.

Nope.

I didn’t entirely panic, but panic was knocking on my consciousness. Over and over, I told myself to stay calm and focus and not to lose it. My stuff had to be around someplace. Finding them was only a matter of time. Unless, of course, some jerk came by and took them. I mean, anyone finding Volkswagen keys was sure to make the connection to the one car, a Beetle, sitting in the parking lot. But I had not heard anybody come through the woods. I was certainly alone, and my stuff had to be somewhere, they just had to be, I assured myself. But how far from the road had I ditched my things? And why the Hell hadn’t I picked a more conspicuous place? All the while, crazy scenarios kept popping in my head. How long could I search before giving up? Hours? Nightfall? What then? I would have to come out onto the road, completely naked, to seek help. Maybe a park ranger would see me and call the police. Or that lady with the baby stroller I’d seen earlier might lend me her cell phone. How embarrassing would that be? And who would I call? My wife? What would I say to her?

“Um, hi honey. Listen . . . no, no, I am not at Barnes & Nobles. Actually, I kind of need your help . . .”

That would haunt me for life. And yet, despite it all, I was exhilarated. Not for a second did I feel regret. After all, this was the adventure I was seeking! The Quest to Find My Keys! A day like this could never be forgotten, never be confused with a Groundhog Day. I searched tree to tree, climbing over logs and trekking mud and ducking under brambles (this is when I cut myself) no longer concerned with being seen. At one point, my skin caught a spider’s thread long before I could have seen it, a beautifully colored nasty looking thing, which acted as a convenient landmark.

After about an hour, I noticed the blue tint of my Crocs. Of course, I was relieved, but felt no less bold. I walked naked to my car, got in, and started to drive home. Nobody could possibly see whether I had my shorts on, could they? Is it even illegal to drive naked? Sure enough, the first car to drive by was police, and I made damn sure to follow the rules of the road. But the next vehicle, I KID YOU NOT, was a Google Maps truck, the one with the spherical camera on top. OK, I thought, now God is just messing with me.

My story, being true, ends anti-climatically. At home, I hosed off the mud and jumped into the pool. But I’d found fuel for my fiction, and at least I can say that, on May 29th, 2014, Nick Alimonos truly lived.

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.

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A nudist’s favorite sport!

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.

pingpong

Ping-Pong was another favorite.

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.

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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”

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”