I never see naked people.
I don’t remember when it was that I started keeping my eyes peeled in the hopes of seeing flashers or exposed body parts in public. I became intrigued by the lack of modesty in others, in great contrast to maintaining my own modesty. I’ll be the first to layer a camisole under a V-neck blouse, because, well – you never know. Whether years of Catholic schooling or something else entirely is to blame for my decorum, you just won’t find me out and about in my birthday suit. Instead, I try to find people that are out and about in theirs…
Memory serves that my quest to find naked people may have begun in England. While we were still dating, my British husband John told me the slightest hint of sunshine brings his fellow countrymen out in droves. They descend upon green spaces and laze upon the grass to tan English rose complexions in whatever glimmer of rays mights be shining down upon them. Some of the women, John added matter-of-factly, are probably topless. So, I’d scan the fields of sun-soakers but it was always to no avail – I never laid eyes upon any half-naked sun-worshippers.
In Britain, you didn’t need a copy of Playboy to find photographs of nudity. Images of bare-breasted women were readily obtainable Monday through Friday for less than 50 cents in newspapers “The Sun” and “The Star.” For more than 40 years, the “Page Three Girls” as they were known were as much a part of the British culture as fish and chips. And yes, there were also the naked torsos and skimpy skivvies of the “Page Seven Fellas” on display. Alas, the fellas, not nearly as popular as their female counterparts, only lasted about seven years.
It was April 2007 and we were back visiting John’s family in England for the first time since we’d been married. One night, my mum-in-law told me about Studland, a village and beach on the Dorset coast. Turns out Studland is the best-known official naturist beach in Britain and there was no question I had to see it for myself. We took full advantage of the car we rented and drove off to the coast. Again, this was April in England. The spring air must have been too cold for even the naturists. There were a handful of beachgoers out and about, all of them sadly clothed. Disappointed, all I could do was take a photo next to the sign advising I might encounter naturists. Naturists, I was ready for you. The naturists may not have been ready for me. There were none in sight.
On the way home from Studland, we stopped in the village of Cerne Abbas. Here a formidable nude male figure is carved into the hills of the Dorset chalk downs. At over 180 feet tall, the Cerne Abbas Giant or Rude Man is an impressive sight to behold – and the only nudity I saw that day.
So it continued. Where naked people appeared, I was absent, distracted or unawares.
It was fourth of July 2008 weekend. John and I boarded a fast ferry from Boston and jetted off to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod for the day. After exploring P-Town and taking a tour, we walked back down to the beach. While I always appreciate the beauty of Chicago situated on Lake Michigan, it was so much more exciting to be by the ocean! We splashed in the water and returned to our spot in the sand.
“Take a picture of me on the beach!” I commanded of John.
Several pose adjustments and snaps later, he put away the camera after I gave my resigned approval of the photo he took. Strolling back into town, John confessed that it was tricky business taking my beach photo. “Why?” I asked.
The girl behind me had been sunbathing topless and John didn’t want her to think he was taking a picture of her.
I stared at him. Topless girl and I didn’t see her?! I made it explicitly clear that moving forward, John would be expected to send up smoke signals should another naked person be in his line of vision and not mine. Or, I proposed we develop a secret code so I wouldn’t be left out. I couldn’t believe he’d seen her and I hadn’t. She was right behind me!
It was 10 degrees below 0 one pre-dawn morning in February and John was on the Chicago “L” headed to the airport. The train pulled into a station and a woman, unfortunately not of sound mind, boarded John’s train car and sat down. It took a moment for him to register that she was completely stark naked. Thankfully, help arrived rather promptly to bundle the woman up in blankets and wheel her away on a stretcher. Where was I at the time? I was at home, sound asleep and had to be told the story second-hand.
For our 10th wedding anniversary in 2013, John and I cruised to the Caribbean. Dutch St. Maarten was one of the ports of call with the option to also spend time on a beach on the French St. Martin side, just down from Club Orient, a nudist beach resort.
This was my chance! We relaxed on lounge chairs for a bit before leisurely strolling – in our bathing suits – towards the resort.
And…I found my naked people. While the group I came upon happened to be fellow travelers with Royal Caribbean-branded towels and not vacationers from Club Orient, I saw naked people!
A few weeks ago, I told my mama I might write about my encounters – or lack thereof – with naked people. She raised her eyebrows and asked, “why would you want to write about that?”
I shrugged. “Why not? It sounds ridiculous but public nudity fascinates me. I’m in awe of their confidence and the courage it always takes to bare all – be it your flesh or your emotions. I certainly couldn’t bare my flesh, so I’m curious about those who don’t have my same inhibitions.”
Mama wasn’t convinced, but I felt strangely reassured. Even in my 30s, I can still manage to confound my parents.
And, I might add, I’ll still be on the watch for more naked people.