Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Post-Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day marks the opening of the season at my favorite nudist resort, and I've gotten into the habit of documenting my tan (or more likely sunburn) after indulging in some outdoor nude recreation every summer.

Imagine me playing volleyball in the sun with other naked people.

It's always hard re-adjusting to everyday life after a weekend in paradise. The sun, water, physical activity, friendly people, and all the naked bodies are just fantastic to surround yourself with.

"Beautiful as all that lay around her was, she knew of something yet more beautiful; and from the remembrance of this, a faint regret attuned her nature to soft melancholy."
- The Elves, by Ludwig Tieck

I find it ironic that I can view a nudist resort as something akin to a true paradise on earth, when many non-nudists presume that it's a gross conglomerate of ugly bodies jiggling around. How can something be viewed as ugly from without, yet so beautiful from within? In fact, I find that it bears a striking resemblance to classical legends of faerie or elven villages. They're hidden away in secret pockets of untamed wilderness, and you need to be initiated to get in or even find the place. All the uninitiated can see is tangled weeds and ugly bodies, but once you go inside, it casts its spell on you, and the enchantment changes you. When you inevitably have to leave, you find that the outside world isn't as beautiful as it was before, compared to the beauty you've been exposed to on the inside, and all you want to do is go back again someday - soon.

How can a campground filled with - statistically speaking - predominantly old, naked men be viewed as paradise? It's a subtle effect. I don't find old, saggy bodies appealing to look at, but that isn't really the point. Exposure to those bodies surprisingly desensitizes you to them - and I say this as someone who would throw fits as a child when my brother insisted on coming to the dinner table without a shirt on. When everybody is clothed, the sight of naked flesh is jarring - even I will admit that. But when everyone is nude, you find that it genuinely doesn't matter. I am consistently struck by the demonstration of how unremarkable the sight of naked flesh can be, when it is the norm and not the exception.

Sometimes in the evenings, when it gets cool, and half the people are all or partly dressed, and you can almost forget that you're in a nudist resort, until a woman goes walking through the crowd topless, or a man with just a shirt on, or somebody completely nude, you can't help thinking how much of a non-issue it is that somebody's skin is showing, when back in the textile world lawyers have to spend years in court fighting a half-million dollar fine for a split second flash of nipple. It's insane! I'm all for people being able to live their lives the way they want to, and I recognize the fact that a nudist lifestyle is truly not for everyone, but I still firmly believe that every man, woman, and child should be forcibly exposed to nudist recreation or public nudity just to make them get over their asinine, adolescent obsession with naked bodies. Whether they want to or not.

Still, what's the appeal of hanging out with mostly old, naked men? In the first place, people at nudist resorts are incredibly friendly. I have social anxiety, and even I am able to easily make friends. They also tend to lean towards liberalism for obvious reasons. This may be a negative if you're a conservative, but I find that these people are a lot more tolerant and accepting and progressive and evolved. Life is for living and having a good time, not petty conflicts and arguments - in the words of a popular phrase: life's short, party naked!

After all, the essence of nudism is really not about seeing people's naked bodies, but the joy and freedom one feels from shedding one's clothes and experiencing life and nature in the buff. Maybe this is not something everyone can properly appreciate (see: nudism is not for everyone), and there may be thorny issues involved in whether the excitement from being nude comes from a similar place as that which motivates exhibitionists (I've considered, at length, the similarities and differences - and there are both - between nudism and exhibitionism multiple times in the past), but the end result is that no, it's not about having sex orgies, but yes, it feels great, and it's incredibly life-affirming!

However, for me to say that nudism has nothing to do with seeing naked bodies would be disingenuous. I can't speak to other people's motivations for being nudists, but I am an aesthetic artist and a nude photographer. Although photography is unfortunately verboten at nudist resorts in the U.S. as far as I know, I can still appreciate the sights with my eyes alone. And while the statistical majority of nudists' bodies are not magazine cover-worthy, the thing that the average textile misses is that normalizing yourself to the sight of traditionally "unsightly" bodies is a small price to pay for a view of the few bodies worth seeing in the nude. And while there is a whole industry dedicated to bringing pictures of naked bodies to consumers, seeing them in person is a lot more rewarding, especially when they're involved in physical activity - this, I've been telling you, is what inspired the Greeks to make so many fantastic statues!

On top of that, nudists don't discriminate, so you're likely to also see some beautiful bodies that the professional industry doesn't consider or permit us to view as being attractive. Although, it's sad that these bodies are not better represented, and that even in an environment where body acceptance is pervasive, young men and especially women in the physical prime of their youth are still not infrequently motivated to feel self-conscious about their bodies. It's telling that beauty rejects can find solace in nudism, but that the beautiful among us must remain ever anxious. I would dedicate my life to righting this wrong if I knew how to fix it - but I feel that the full brunt of the weight of the entire rest of society is pressing against me on this matter...

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