Saturday, October 23, 2004

How I Became a Naturist . . . A Rambling Article

I have been a card-carrying member of ANNR and my local nudist club for about half a year now and that membership has been supportive, understanding and a vindication of many of what I've considered embarrassing stunts in my life. Some would say we are born nudists and that is the natural state we all aspire toward. But I would disagree to some degree. 'Textile' does have it's important sociological purposes beyond the mere protective nature of clothing.

Clothing, foremost, is a civilizing agent . . . removing, for the most part, the gross sexual impulses between men and women by covering up the primary sexual organs and the stimulus they have of us. I say us, but it is primarily men who react to visual sexual cues whereas women react to much more subtle signals beyond the brain capacity of us men. With these ever-present visual cues removed, our ancestors were able to form tribes, then villages and so on to our present nation-state societies without the free-for-all of caveman drags cave-women by the hair to mate pretty much against her will.

Secondly, clothing is used to mark an individual by position and/or wealth. A man dressed in a three-piece gray pin-stripe wool suit impercably dressed invariably invokes an impression of that man as one of great power and considerable wealth in our society.

Simplistic as these statements are, when you meet someone it is clothing to a large extent that ends up defining that person . . . whether it be for a potential sexual partner or a business relationship in the offering. One of the great things about nudism and naturism is that they remove these stereotypical judgements we make of the people around us. One is often reminded of the fable of the 'Emperor with No Clothes' and the discover by the peasants that the emperor, beneath all his fine linens and ermine, was really no different than they were . . . that is was just a man. The clothes became the trappings of his office and without them he was just ordinary folk.

Parochial schools experiment and require school uniforms for this very reason . . . to even the playing field for rich and poor students and not let clothing dictate judgements. Children who wear school uniforms form friendships that cross class boundaries much easier that otherwise.

Not that I advocate everyone wear the same style and color of a one-piece jumpsuit. That would definitely be boring. The point is that clothing has become a barrier to enjoying life and people.

I am a naturist. There is a difference between nudist and naturist that is often blurred. The difference in my mind boils down to how you practice nudity and you can make all sorts of excuses for why one goes one direction or another. Nudists enjoy nudism for the sake of shedding their clothes and the statements clothes make. Nudists seek out the company of other nudists to enjoy their company. This is often called social nudity.

Naturists come into nudism for often different reasons and it often starts and stays as a solitary practice or a practice among a small, like-minded group. Whereas nudists will flock to a nude beach to be among other people who have likewise go naked, a naturist may hike the empty trails of our forests for years without encountering or wanting to meet another person naked. The primary, overriding reason is a desire to remove what clothing represents so that nature can find its' way into the naturists body and soul. Naturism is somewhat spiritual and philosophical whereas nudists are very social creature. Of course, the line is often blurred and a naturist can be a nudist and vice-versa.

I see parallels in my life to those who go before me. I am still young and in good health; so I enjoy nature and those solitary activities. What I see at 'landed' nudist resorts and established nude beaches are the more sedentary lifestyles . . . often the retired or those in less that perfect health. The first time I visited a landed resort I was taken aback by the physical condition and age ranges of the majority of the members. I had first been afraid to visit the resort for fears of becoming sexually aroused, but sexual arousal was the last thing on my mind as I watched three hundred pound naked men huff and puff from one lawn chair to another. I almost gave up nudism on the spot . . . is this what I was destined to become? There was no one my age. There was no common ground in me to sit down naked at a picnic table and play bridge. But is that what is destined for me as I grow older?

Nudity was a offing of myself back to nature and quite frankly, I considered it an insult to mar nature with out-of-shape bodies like I saw at that resort. I went back to hiking the trails alone or in the company of a couple of close female friends; which brings up another aspect of nudity that I continue to struggle with . . . homosexuality. The stigma hangs over any group of men enjoying nudity in the same area . . . and there is an unfortunate element of truth to that stereotyping.

'Sausage parades' one friend calls them when referring to almost any nude beach. Women have been called sensitive but us men are downright paranoid about our sexuality being called into question, and I deal with it no less than any other man. We compare. We all do and sometimes that comparing gets in the way of just enjoying oneself. My first visit to DogFish Point was as unexciting as have my wisdom teeth pulled. I walked up to the hidden beach, found a spot and proceeded to strip my clothes off, hoping for an afternoon of sunning. But I didn't get my solitude and privacy because guy after guy came up to sit down uninvited next to me and strike up conversations. Often these conversations turned to my uncircumcised state and a more than innocent curiosity of 'how it felt for me because of my foreskin.' That visit was a very uncomfortable event for me and I was relieved to finally give it up after only a few hours and get out of there. Though I hiked the mile along the railway tracks back to the parking area nude, that nude hike was one of the most cleansing hikes I have ever taken.

So, I suppose I'm the sensitive one. I have a friend who goes out of his way to bait the homosexuals hiding in the bushes at a sanctioned nude beach in Oregon. Kudos to him for he is much surer of himself than I am at this stage of my life.

That said, I am a newbie to organized nudity and still learning the confidence game. Believe it or not, I am much more comfortable being nude in the company of women than I am with men. AND SEXUAL AROUSAL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! Amazing, isn't it?

Well, this article is going off on tangents and I really wanted to explore what elements in my life become clearer now that I am comfortable calling myself a naturist (and nudist). Many of them are stunts every young boy and teenager has pulled off and usually gotten away with. For example, walking about the house naked as a kid, teasing the chance that your sister may come across you.

While that particular example is sexual exploration there is still an nurturing bud of nudism in it. I often strolled about the house late at night without clothes on because it just felt so good. That my sister sometimes encountered me naked in the hallway was just an added bonus then brought a rise from me . . . but what is important to note is that the sexual arousal came after-the-fact, not because of the initial desire to be naked.

I did my share of streaking as a young teen, often with a friend where we would challenge each other to talk increasing risks as we ran from yard to yard in our neighbourhood late at night. Again, with few notable exceptions, these romps were not sexually-motivated but were rather a rebellion against what our parents told us was proper behavior. Good boys and girls don't run about naked . . . so we did. Today when I hike a trail naked with a slight chance that I may encounter someone, and I finish it without offending someone, I get the same rush of elation I used to get when we streaking our neighbourhood as a young teen. Accomplishment and vindication.

A fellow Northwest hiker and one I've quoted in previous articles offers . . . no challenges . . . anyone knocking naturism or reticent about trying nudism, to simply hike out into the great wilderness some fine summer afternoon, find a spot to take off all their clothes. He then challenges them to pile those clothes safely someone and to simply walk about 100 yards in any direction and then back. He claims that by the time you get back to your pile of clothes you will have reached an epiphany . . . the spirit reaching through and touching nature as it should be. You will be a naturist at that moment and that lonely pile of clothes will represent the repression of your former life.

I absolutely accept this premise for I have experienced it and continue to experience it every time I hike nude. Clothes and the accouterments of society we carry with us blind us to this epiphany. The less I carry along, the stronger my communion with nature. If it were my choice, all my hikes would be stark-assed naked . . . no backpack, no shoes, no hat . . . no shorts at easy-ready to put back on should I encounter someone on the trail. Am I hypocritical? Why should I worry so much about being embarrassed that I should carry shorts to change my stripes as the situation dictates. I still struggle with personal embarrassment versus possible offensiveness. Which one dictates a need to carry shorts at-the-ready-to-put-on.

The epiphany of nudity is intoxicating. On my nude hikes or visits to nude beaches and resorts I delay as long as possible the defining moment when I must put clothes back on. I do not want to . . . period. The moment I put those clothes back on I change and become someone else. Nothing back, just different. Often, when I get back to my car from a nude hike I will forego clothes for the long drive down forest service roads. No always, but it does prolong that moment.

So . . . how I became a naturist is a a convoluted passage but it was always there I think. I have no desire to offend anyone so I find that the vast wilderness and forests out here are a God-send for me and you came find me most summers just prancing around naked or laying on a large granite rock sunning my whole body along with my soul. What greater pleasure is there than that.

I apologize for the rambling nature of this piece. I'm still not sure what I was trying to say but the words got out and I will let them stay.

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