Love Your Naked Self

Great advice for everyone, of course. But this also happens to be the title of an article in this month’s (February 2006) Self Magazine.

Since Self is a health and fitness magazine for women, it’s not surprising that the article is all from a woman’s perspective. But men can learn a lot from it as well. There are several pages of advice on ways to be more satisfied with and accepting of your body. Some of it’s pretty obvious — lose weight, get more exercise, and so forth.

However, the psychological/attitudinal angle is covered as well. And in particular, the theme is really summed up in this question: “If you felt perfectly comfortable sans clothes, what would you dare to do bare?” Nice, huh? Motivate people to accept their bodies by imagining how neat it would be to do stuff naked. Several actual responses are provided as examples. For instance, “Jennifer” writes:

I went to a beach in St. Bart’s last spring, and it was so wonderful to walk around topless. I even asked a couple to take a picture of my friend and me. I now keep that photo on my bedroom dresser. People find it strange that I have a topless photo of myself in full view, but I think it’s inspiring. I love remembering how empowered and accepted I felt to be nearly naked among strangers.

Yeah, Jennifer, and imagine how much more empowered you might feel being fully naked among strangers (as well as friends).

Anyhow, the magazine has put up an online forum where anyone can discuss the question “What keeps me from loving myself naked?” — and other questions about body acceptance and nudity. One hopes they leave this forum up for a while and that it gets lots of use.

Hint to anyone who has a special woman in his/her life: hurry out and buy this issue while it’s still on the newsstand. It just might help her get over hang-ups she has about enjoying being naked. Could be the best $3.50 (plus tax) you’ve spent in quite a while….

Originally published February 13, 2006

Anything but naked

I wouldn’t normally spend any time on such a gloomy, antagonistic view of naturism as the following. But it seems easy enough to answer handily, so I offer that after a brief excerpt. Perhaps it will help others deal with people they know who have similar peevish attitudes.

Anything but naked

Freelance journalist Carol Glassman writes:

I won’t say some of my best friends are nudists, but I do know one couple that goes to nude resorts regularly, considering themselves to be naturists. We have never discussed it, and I couldn’t imagine asking nudists to share photos of their vacation.

For most of us, it’s difficult to think of nudity without the obvious, and unfortunately that elicits all the old jokes and clich├ęs with sexual connotations.

My response:

It’s a pity you feel this way about nudity and naturism. I’m sorry for you, since you’re missing one of life’s gentle pleasures and so much simple, uncomplicated joie de vivre.

Talk to your friends about naturism. Ask them to share their pictures with you. Unless your mien telegraphs disapproval, I’m sure they’ll be glad to.

If you are unable to think of nudity without the “obvious” clichés and sexual connotations, then that suggests to me your creative spark and ability to see life in new ways is failing. What a shame that you seem to be dying inside before the appointed time.

Florida has so many beautiful places to enjoy nudity. If you can’t bring yourself to try one of the fine naturist resorts around Tampa or the lively Haulover Beach in Miami, then take a day off to rent a canoe. Pick one of Florida’s endless, spring-fed streams somewhere, remove your clothes, and enjoy it to the fullest.

Remind yourself of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings friend Dess written about in Cross Creek:

She lives a sophisticate’s life among worldly people. At the slightest excuse she steps out of civilization, naked and relieved, as I should step out of a soiled chemise.

Read Rawlings’ Cross Creek yourself. It has only indirect allusions to nudity, like the above, but try to understand how a naturist vision suffuses parts of the book. Then visit Rawlings’ homestead at Cross Creek, near Gainesville. It’s a state park now. See if you can’t conjure in your imagination what a fine place it must have been in Rawlings’ day 60 or 70 years ago to enjoy life without clothes.

If you can summon the courage to experience a taste of naturism in whatever way suits you best, and if you still feel so negatively about it afterward, I’ll be very surprised.

Originally posted September 16, 2005

“We need nudists on the beach now more than ever”

No nudes is bad news

The sad thing is, we need nudists on the beach now more than ever. They alone are brave enough to defy the tyranny of the body beautiful. Dedicated as they are to feeling comfortable in their skin, they eschew such practices as bikini-waxing, fake tanning, or plastic surgery. Lumpy, hairy, defiantly natural, they are our last defence against the porn-star aesthetic.

That may explain why there seems to be a growing mood of fondness towards nudies. Last month, Stephen Gough set off from Land’s End to reprise his historic walk – this time in the company of a naked girlfriend. They got as far as Shropshire before they were arrested. But the locals have come out in their defence: in a poll for the Shropshire Star, 67% said they wouldn’t mind encountering a naked rambler. If only the people of Illinois had been so enlightened.

This opinion piece wasn’t contributed by a recognized naturist/nudist leader, but instead by editorial writer Jemima Lewis of the UK’s Guardian Unlimited. (If you read the article, it will be apparent why it didn’t appear in a major U. S. media spot.)

The piece is based on a couple of interesting news tidbits. The first is the rather unhappy story of the passing of an elderly U. S. naturist named Robert Norton. The best account seems to be here: Nudist’s naked burial wish denied, again from a UK source (the BBC). Some out there may recall having read about Norton in recent years. The octogenarian liked to work nude in his garden in the midwestern small town of Pekin, Illinois, for which he was regularly arrested on the complaint of his neighbor, Brenda Loete.

Brenda Loete said she never spoke to Norton despite living next door to him for more than a decade.

“We didn’t really know him. We just had him arrested,” she said.

She had spent years taking her daughter to the park rather than letting her play in the garden because of the naked old man next door, she said.

“Normally, if we had him arrested in the spring he’d be gone for the summer and we wouldn’t have to worry about him until the next spring.”

How mean-spirited can a person be? Well, even more mean-spirited than Ms. Loete, it seems. Norton’s last wish was to be buried nude. His own family, especially a brother named Jack, who is a minister from Columbus, Ohio, saw to it that this wish was denied:

His brothers have decided to lay him to rest in grey trousers and a shirt.

One of them, Jack, is a minister. “He’s not going to be buried in the nude,” he said.

How’s that for small-mindedness? (More news reports: here).

The other story is a bit more upbeat and concerns the “naked rambler” Steve Gough. It’s true that Steve and Melanie were arrested in Shropshire on July 19. However, the complaint of only a single individual was required to trigger the arrest, and the case was eventually dropped on August 15. Even better, the trek by Gough and his friends has revealed widespread public support for the naturists’ plucky adventure. This public relations victory, of course, was one of Steve’s objectives.

There’s been a considerable amount of additional news about the little jaunt of Steve and friends (which you can find at nakedwalk.org), but we’ll put off commentary on that for another time.

Originally posted August 28, 2005

A day in the life of a teen nudist

Nope. It isn’t the title of an ephebophile’s wet dream. (Shame on you for thinking that.) It’s the title of a feature article by Rebecca Onion in the September 2005 issue of Elle girl magazine.

In case you aren’t familiar with the genre, here are some clues from the Web site. The most prominent feature on the splash page is a “Genius Guide to Hair Removal”. (“We braved waxes, strips, lasers, and needles to bring you the six best ways to get follicle-free.” Scary stuff!) There’s important breaking news from the wider world. (“Eminem checks into rehab.”) And serious, soul-searching conversation in the message boards. (“What color eyeshadow should I use?”)

You get the idea.

However, don’t despair. There is real gold inside. Namely, the article mentioned in the headline. The subtitle is “Rebecca Onion gets naked at a naturist colony and receives moral support from a nude 18-year-old.”

Rebecca is the writer (and photographer) of the article. Did I say photographer? Yes, there are photos. But pedos needn’t bother running out to the newsstand to get something new to wank with. There are these dirty little black bars in all the photos, covering (and drawing attention to) all the body parts you’re not supposed to look at. (Which is sort of fitting, since you can find the magazine at your local supermarket, close to the tabloids that use this sort of device so often… the tabloids that appeal so much to the dregs of humanity, such as alien-abduction cultists, crime-story addicts, and fundamentalist preachers.)

Waitaminit. What’s wrong with looking at the places under the black bars? This is a story about nudism, no? Never mind. Forget I even asked.

But seriously, naturism owes Rebecca a sincere round of applause. According to Carolyn Hawkins of the AANR, Rebecca is “the first writer to come to Cypress Cove and actually get naked in order to report the story”. This is definitely not true. Just a little fishing around in my files turns up a 1992 article (from Self magazine) by Amy Engeler who visits the Cove and strips naked. I feel quite sure it’s not the first, either. Indeed, Cypress Cove has been around since 1964, and the plot line of a young female reporter visiting a nudist “colony” and disrobing to get a story has been a cliché at least since Doris Wishman’s 1961 cult classic Diary of a Nudist. Sorry to burst the bubble, Carolyn and Rebecca, but them’s the facts.

However, what I said about Rebecca still goes. Because whether or not she’s the first, she says, “I’d be lying if I said I’m not proud of that.” And better yet, she admits that even though “I can’t say I’m a convert to nudism,” she also says, “I heartily endorse how good it feels to go skinny-dipping.”

Rebecca, if you ever read this, whether you realize it or not, you’re more than halfway there. Most people, in fact, do find that they like being openly naked (if they’ll just give it a try), even though few want to be burdened with the label “nudist” or “naturist”.

But please, Rebecca, don’t ever use that “colony” word. You know how nudists hate it. It’s as offensive to many nudists as “nigger” is to a person of color. Just don’t do it, OK?

All that being said about Rebecca, let’s have an even greater round of applause for Jessica Harpin, the teen nudist the title refers to. She’s the real heroine here, since for almost any teenager in her position, it takes real fortitude in the you-know-what to go public about admitting to the pleasure of being naked. (Something that rhymes with “crass malls”. I’d say “true grit”, but that sounds uncomfortable in this context.)

Jessica’s part of a naturist family, and has been going to the Cove with her parents since she was about seven. Nudity is normal in the family. “We go naked at home,” she says. And Jessica’s been different from many (most) kids raised as nudists. “A lot of kids end up not wanting to take their clothes off anymore once they hit puberty,” she says. “That never really happened to me.”

Inevitably, the article trots out the usual AANR talking points, such as:

  • “Naturism opens you up,” Jessica says. “It helps you learn to be comfortable with yourself.”
  • Jessica says nudism got her through the awkward years, in some ways. She doesn’t have body issues, she says, because “there are people of all sizes here… you look at [someone’s] mind, and talk to their face.”
  • She adds that nudism is a good equalizer because “nobody has to show how rich they are. I’m more comfortable in the nude than when I’m wearing clothes.”

Articles like this one have been appearing in women’s magazines for many years (since 1992, anyhow). (The AANR pays good PR money to see to that.) A little more recently, attention has been moving to the younger demographic, as magazines catering to that have proliferated. Rumor has it there will be a similar article next month in CosmoGIRL as well. Stay tuned.

Originally published August 21, 2005

Positive press report on naturism

It’s a fine article, except for one thing that really, really irritates me: headline writers who cannot resist the temptation to use “The Naked Truth” as a headline for a story on naturism. I guess they think they’re being witty and original. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this used dozens of times. Oh, well. (By the way, headlines are often written by someone other than the writer of the story, so we won’t blame her.)

The naked truth

Jennifer Parks
Edmonton (Alberta) Sun
July 9, 2005

It took me less time than usual to get ready last Saturday morning, because I didn’t bother getting dressed before I went to work.

No, I’m not the newest member of the Naked News team.

Nor did a momentary lapse in judgment lead me to drop the bonds of modesty in a heap on the floor.

I wanted to enter the headspace of the people I was interviewing, who happened not to be wearing any clothes.

The rest of the article reports on conversations the author had with various members of the Helios Nudist Association near Edmonton. Nice article, but no surprises for experienced naturists.

Originally published July 11, 2005

Americans lose their holiday inhibitions

Well, it’s a nice piece of PR from the AANR.

But forgive me, AANR, for I have been cynical, and still am.

To begin with, why is the woman in this image at the top of the AANR home page holding a large hat in front of herself, as if she’s ashamed of something? Is that the message you want to send?

Now for some comments on the PR article itself. First of all, congratulations on getting it picked up by some of the news media. You do that pretty well.

It is called a vacation “au naturel,” using a French expression as a fig leaf to cover up its more common name of naturism.

I’m trying to understand why someone thought the provenance of the term needed to be pointed out. Maybe because the article was carried by the French news service AFP? Perhaps not realizing that the term was appropriated by English long ago. (Wonder whether they’ve heard of the term “euphemism”)

The United States is a deeply conservative country

Got that right! Unfortunately.

Americans are starting to flock to beaches and country parks reserved for nudists, especially at the luxury end of the market.

Of course, the number of beaches officially “reserved” for naturists is very small, actual number depending on one’s interpretation of “official”. And “country parks”? Evidently someone means “private parks”, as there are no public parks at all (apart from the handful of beaches on public land where naturism is tolerated, tenuously). And what would “luxury end of the market” mean in relation to either a beach or “country park”?

The AANR estimates that naturist clubs and beaches for those who soak up the sun “au naturel” earn about 500 million dollars a year now, against 200 million dollars in 1992.

Nice, but to put that number in perspective it is, per capita, less than one gallon of gasoline per person. Or less than one fourth of an average movie ticket per person.

“The interest has been increasing over the last 10 years,” said Carrie Schultz, marketing director for the Caliente Resort, an upmarket nudist colony near Tampa

Nudist colony“? Aauggggh! Wash your mouth out with soap.

“Shields are coming off. We are not afraid to run TV commercials

My, how brave!

Caliente is family oriented, with a children’s playground and events for kids. In terms of luxury accommodations, we are off the scale.”

Whose scale?

Caliente highlights how naturism in the United States has become more sophisticated to reach its market.

If they think this PR-speak is sophistication, it’s no wonder naturism is advancing so slowly…

“Americans are a little spoiled

Now there’s an understatement, but without any hint of irony.

The AANR has listed 270 naturist organizations in the United States, including 18 created in the past year.

AANR habitually makes this claim, but without mentioning that over half the number are “non-landed” social clubs that own no facilities, but meet in members’ homes or at landed clubs.

On its map of “au naturel” beaches are a large number in Florida, with its year-round sunshine. Haulover, near Miami, and Apollo Beach, near the Kennedy Space Center, are among the best known.

In fact, there is exactly one other “au naturel” beach in Florida (Playalinda), which is part of the same National Park System unit as Apollo. Since when is three a “large number”?

Why am I so grumpy today? I don’t know. Maybe because of reading yet another media report that’s so out of touch with reality. Who actually draws a salary for writing this sort of stuff?

The article was evidently written by an AFP staffer, so it can’t all be blamed on AANR. But AANR is to blame for stuff like the very misleading “270 naturist organizations” claim.

Originally published June 18, 2005

The Great Nipple Hunt Continues

Amazing what you find reading the (more or less) mainstream online media. There are commentators out there, not part of the naturist world (as far as is known) who are willing to blow the whistle on America’s hysteria over female breasts.

What’s pathetic, though, is to read the comments from all the dimwits out there in America who disagree with Jeff Jarvis’ sensible attitude and try to rationalize their breast hysteria…

Originally published June 7, 2006

The Same River Twice

Just posted: a review of a great new naturist-related DVD.

Here’s the summary:

In 1978 Robb Moss and a group of 16 other river-guide friends took themselves on a five-week (and very clothing-optional) river trip through the Grand Canyon. He brought with him a 16mm camera and made one of his first films, Riverdogs, to document the adventure. Many years later it occurred to Moss to revisit the lives of some of that company in a new documentary. The Same River Twice is the fascinating result.

Feel free to leave comments to this note about either the review or the DVD (if you’ve seen it or the earlier video version).

Originally published June 6, 2005