Imagine going to a place where wearing clothing is
not required. A place where families can come
together and enjoy a day unlike any other. Indoor or
out, summer or snow, friends shed it all for a different
kind of living. A life free of crippling social
inhibitions with no need for repressive clothing.
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I remember being at the playground when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, early on a
weekend morning, when a little boy arrived in wet diapers and very sensibly took
them off in order to run around and join the play and sit in the sand. Another
girl took him home pretty soon, recognizing that he was too young to have come to the playground without
his parents' permission. This was obvious to me and to her, but many of the
other kids had already been indoctrinated against nudity. They thought he had to
be taken home because he was indecent. A two-year-old? This event was very
curious to me, since I recognized that the children were imitating the actions
and attitudes of each other and their parents. Without knowing the word for it,
I still recognized the conventionality that drove them to imitate others in this
That same summer, or maybe
the next, another little girl suggested that she and I and a third little girl
pull down our pants and show our pudenda to each other. It was a matter of play
for them and curious indifference to me. I was more interested in why they cared
than in the physical exploration. The third girl, smilingly happily and
playfully, displayed obviously unusual genitalia, and the first girl responded
by saying something like, "Oh, yuck! I'm going to tell my mother!" I had no idea
how to handle this, but I knew right then that a great injury had been
perpetrated. That little girl, I learned later, underwent several surgeries and
a very depressing puberty.
During one of those
pre-pubescent years I skinny-dipped with my mother one time, my father watching
over us above the river bank. Her squeals were louder than the chill of the
water could account for, and she never stopped smiling. It's the only sober
laugh I remember hearing from my mother while I was growing up. I also used to
wash my father's back when young; that was one of our rituals, along with
watching the fights on Friday nights. Both rituals stopped after my first
brother was born, except that after I started menstruating, my mother
out-of-the-blue instructed me to go wash my father's back. He was very quiet
throughout and this is the only memory of his penis I have, as if I never
noticed it during those previous baths. My father died at age 36 of a heart
attack and my mother is a proudly recovering alcoholic today.
Much of my childhood, as I
remember it, was spent observing and listening. I was not as compelled as others
to act out or experiment, with one exception. Two boys were gleefully pulling
wings and legs off grasshoppers one day, and I noticed their strange
expressions. This was something I couldn't figure out by observation alone, so
on another day soon after, I ran an experiment. There was a spider I'd been
watching for a while, managing to see it once as it captured and gorged on prey.
Well, I caught it in a jar when other kids were gathered around and made them
stop and look. Then I let this spider out, and as it was walking away I slowly
lifted my foot, clad in a white sandal that I could probably recognize today,
and then brought it down and squished the spider. And I understood the looks on
those boys faces, because I could feel it on my own, even as I retched at the
horror of what I had done and the sight of that black and yellow smear on the
Why is this even pertinent
to a story of how I got into nudism? Well, I'll have to tell about more of those
kinds of boys and how they awakened my sexuality while also awakening shame. Or
rather, I can't separate those boys from the others who came later. Or the
cruelty later visited on me reverberated with my previous cruelty to the spider.
I don't know. They are just inseparable.
When I was in fifth grade
I had a boyfriend who was shorter than me, and another boy wanted to take his
place. He insulted me and my boyfriend, and since I was bigger, I took it upon
myself to defend our honor with a proper fistfight. By this age I was starting
to engage life, you see, rather than just observe. Later a third boy, after
ominously forewarning me, grabbed me on the way home from school to steal a
kiss. Indignant and incensed, I told my mother, who called the school. Well, the
school official suspected that I was the one who had been the aggressor,
considering that one incident made me incorrigible. My mother decided to believe
I can't totally blame my
mother here, because in kindergarten at a different school I ran a "witch gang"
of girls who grabbed the boys for me to kiss. The teacher, the principal and my
parents thought we were horrid, but it was screaming good fun at the time.
However, when a worse situation arose two years after this fifth-grade kiss, it
never occurred to me to tell anyone because I had burned an important bridge
What happened is this: two
boys, Jack and Britt, ages 15 and 14, came to my house early one morning when I
was alone and still in my shortie pajamas. I had opened the door because my
friend Peggy had just called to say she was coming over. (Jack was her
boyfriend, and Peggy liked to draw pictures of penises, presumably his. Drawing
them with her was another example of curious indifference on my part.) Jack and
Britt had visited before, so although I was uncomfortable about it, I let them
in and started off to my room to get dressed. But they followed me down the
Jack grabbed me from
behind, wrestled me to the floor, put his hand between my legs and I froze at
that moment. Britt, standing over us, said, "Hey, she likes it!" I think my
obvious and extreme mortification was what stopped it from going any further.
But it went far enough to very effectively short-circuit the connection between
my genitals and my brain for many years. When I lost my virginity, I had to ask,
"Is it in yet?" and I don't think it was only the large quantity of alcohol I'd
consumed that had dulled my senses.
A few years later another
fifteen-year-old boy tried much the same thing with me, but this time on the
sidewalk of a deserted street at night. Having already been desensitized,
literally, it was much less traumatic. Even better, I had the pleasure of
catching him myself, with a little help, and presenting him to the police.
So, how in the world was I
able to become a nudist? Well, if nudity were primarily sexual, or somehow
asexual or anti-sexual, or less than invigorating and joyful, I probably never
would have. And if I hadn't needed radical change in my life I probably would
have gone on as I was, but more slowly. As it was, I coped and made progress.
By the time I was thirty,
I had finally overcome shame and frigidity to the point of being able to fully
enjoy sex, as long as my partner demonstrated he could be trusted
unconditionally. This meant that sex had to be taken rather seriously. My first
marriage had failed, partly for sexual reasons, and in between was bleak. The
girl who ran witch gangs and experiments wrote dry-as-dust computer programs,
wore suits, spoke little, and dreamed too often of spiders and 15-year-old boys
and their grins.
Well, I managed to find
someone I could trust and love, and did so for a couple of very happy years,
until he died suddenly of a heart attack. The grief overwhelmed me for quite a
while. And then a good friend -- a jolly, bearded man who organized the
after-hours shifts of co-workers who babysat until I was ready to leave for my
empty house -- encouraged me to visit a place in the Santa Cruz mountains called
"Getting In Touch." This was aa massage school and nudist retreat, now defunct.
And this was where I began to heal, partly because I had to, and partly because
the environment made a beginning practically inevitable.
My first visit was for a
weekend massage workshop. I arrived early and there was no one available to show
me around or get me oriented. I was perfunctorily escorted to the locker room
and invited to relax a while at the pool or hot tub. I think that not making a
big deal about it, assuming that I could handle getting naked in public for the
first time with no guidance, actually made it easier than otherwise. I stripped
down, alone in the locker room, stepped out the door and Wham! Two instant
miracles: no part of me was divided from another and the breeze in my pubic hair
tickled deliciously! I wished right then that I hadn't made a point of having my
legs waxed, another new experience, the day before.
This felt so good, with no
intimation of shame whatsoever, it was easy to dare the next move. So I traveled
around the building and took the long, long walk across the lawn to reach the
pool. When I got there, I noticed one young man nearby in the hot tub, not
looking my way. So far so good. But then there was the problem of making the
transition from a standing position to a reclining position on the lounge. And
not knowing what was acceptable. I mean, there are rather inscrutable rules
about not displaying some of our clothes -- our underwear -- when we're dressed,
so maybe there were equally inscrutable rules about not displaying some of our
bodies while nude.
I managed to lie down,
straining my knee joints in order to be as decorous as possible. Eventually I
got a bit bored and a little more adventurous, and decided to get in the hot tub
and try having a conversation with a complete stranger while nude. The young
man, I concluded later, was either a gigolo-in-training or had missed his
calling. He was gentle and good natured, low-key, discretely aware of my
awkwardness and the opportunity to help. The nicest thing he did was demonstrate
that it was indeed okay to bend over. He declared that the hot tub was too hot,
fetched some buckets and dipped water from the pool to cool it, while easily
bending, squatting or stooping as necessary. Which that two-year-old in the
playgound knew and I had completely forgotten. The second nicest thing he did
was give me my first massage and then allow me to reciprocate. Without a hint of
sexual invitation. He let me be in control of what he saw was my first nudist
experience, and by instinctively following my own inclinations without censure,
it was nothing less than just what I needed.
The whole weekend was as
delightful and all-around-awareness-building as that first afternoon. I can't
say it was merely mind-opening, because it was much more than conscious
awareness that was expanded. I wish I had kept a journal. As it was, I managed
to arrange a month away from work and returned that summer, the summer of '82,
for a full massage course. During this time I was totally and exclusively
physical and social. I didn't read one book. I didn't see a computer or a TV. I
did dishes for fun. I slept on the floor in a big hall with 30 other snoring,
farting people, and I slept like a baby.
We massaged each other all
day five days a week under supervision and experimented nights and weekends,
with feathers and beards! And we played. In the sun, on the lawn, between the
trees, in the creek, in the pool, in the shower after a food fight. We loved and
laughed as children do before they learn fear. I played as if I had never known
fear. I relearned trust and unlearned the differences between men and women and
boys and girls. I also cried and grieved and others cried with me. And every
tear of sorrow was joyous and beautiful. To cry for death is to cry for life. I
had been grieving for death before I knew what it was to be fully alive. Perhaps
because of that.
One of the people I played
with, on a deeper and more intimate level, was Chuck, the man I married three
weeks later (yes, weeks), and have been married to for over fourteen years. We
spend every winter with other naked folks since he retired. I wish we still were
associated with Getting In Touch, which was a truly remarkable place. But we do
have the memories. I still write computer programs, but only for fun, and I now
read philosophy with the same attention I once gave to technical manuals.
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