Jaybirds on a Beach

All right, all right.  So I’m incapable of resisting an article entitled Why Women Should Feel Good Naked.  After all, I’m a woman and I get naked now and then.  I want to feel good about it.   (See http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/01/23/o.nude.attitude/index.html for unclothed details.)

Even though I think the advice is a little extravagant and all-encompassing (e.g., women who like their naked bodies like themselves and they’re nicer to other women, too!), I get the author’s drift.  It’s really preferable not to go around gagging and agonizing over the sight of your own naked body.  Hey!  Relax!  Enjoy yourself!

I speak as someone married to someone who’s long believed the whole world should be a nudist colony.  What’s the problem with dropping your clothes?  Why not?  You uptight or something?

Well, hell, yes, I was uptight.  Who wouldn’t be?  We all grew up pursuing the Body Beautiful, then tried to make our fragile peace with possessing the Body So-So.  What’s not to like about your own imperfect body?  Just about everything, it seemed.  The more clothes, the more cover, the better.

I finally took the plunge in my late forties when our family was at a beach resort in the Caribbean.  We were far away from home, I figured.  Nobody even spoke English there.  Nobody knew us.  Why not?

Our teenage children headed (fully clothed) to a nearby snack bar, all the time warning us that they’d be on therapists’ couches for the rest of their natural lives, dealing with the ignominy of parents who went to a nude beach.  They looked straight ahead en route to the snack bar, all the time scared to death they were going to see a little wrinkled parental skin.

“Where’s the nude beach?” I asked somebody in my highly imperfect French, wondering whether a foreign language made the whole thing more daring and risque.  We got directions.  We kept walking till we saw a lot of sand and a few naked people.

Well.  We left our clothes behind and splashed in the water and I felt OK and didn’t hate my body.  The truth was, all the people around us were kind of unexceptional.  There was a creepy-looking guy who looked a little too friendly, but you’ll find one of those in every crowd.  We splashed a little more, we walked a bit, we smeared on sunblock — all naked.  Then I got kind of tired of being naked and we put our clothes back on and left.

I wish I could say that going to a nude beach changed my life and made me nicer and more accepting about the world at large.  But it didn’t.  It was just a marginally interesting experience and, after it was over, I thought, well, I’ve done that and now I’ll never have to do that again.

“We could take our clothes back off and take our Christmas photos right now,” we told our kids when we collected them from the snack bar.

They didn’t dignify that query with a reply.  They just started talking about therapists’ couches again.  You know what?  Even if you started liking yourself naked, it’s still hard to convince your kids to feel the same way.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • jmobx

    I’m shooting for feeling ok about my fully clothed body.  Too much sun, too many pregnancies, surgeries and years of gravitational pull… I’ll take the layered look.

  • I can picture that adventure. Especially with rolling eyes of teenagers!

    It really is freeing to NOT hate your body. A work in progress, I guess. I work in small increments – naked in the sauna at the Y feels so risque.

  • Cindy A

    In the 70s, I knew a woman who had lived in a nudist colony/commune for awhile. To this day, she is one of the homliest women I’ve ever known. I remember when she told me about living in the commune, my mind wandered to the issues of daily life. Would I be able to sit where several other people’s naked asses had sat? Would I be able to tear my eyes away from the breasts of naked women and the penises of naked men? Would I be mortified thinking that maybe others thought I was the homely one? Oh, God, I’d make a terrible nudist.

  • Well, I went to art school (when I was 50), and there you see a lot of naked bodies, male and female.  Breasts and penises were the least of my worries.  Both are easy to draw.  It’s hands and feet (particularly feet) that can give you a fit.  I guess it all depends on your point of view, as it were.

  • ruthpennebaker

    Forgot to mention that one of the toughest things about a nude beach is that you have to hold your stomach in all the time.  So much for self-acceptance.

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