Ever since we met over a decade ago, my husband Renald has wanted us to try a nude getaway. Nude is his thing. He says his family grew up nude. In mine, we grew up wearing clothes. Always.“What’s so great about being nude?” I say.“The freedom,” Renald says.“No” was the most natural answer in the world to me. Why would anyone want to be naked, around other naked people, for a whole week? Then, one Saturday morning in early November I was sitting across from Renald at his desk when he tossed out the idea one more time.“Remind me of the appeal again?” I asked.“You forget about the body after awhile,” he said. “You shed your cares and worries and pretences along with your clothing.” I’m sure he’d never put it quite that way before then.“I like the sound of that,” I said. And before I could change my mind, Renald had us booked to spend one week in February at a clothing-optional resort in Cancún.As the departure date drew near, panic took me by the throat. The vague list of fears I had in my head got clearer as the trip approached. I imagined a late night talk show host counting down the continuum of scenarios from moderate discomfort to outright horror…
The ten worst things that could happen at a nude resort10. The Fear: an all-over sunburn. We’ve all known or been or at least seen that person whose week of sea and sand is ruined because they got fried on the first day. I tan well but I have parts that, in 44 years, have not seen the sun. I worried for them.The Fact: Sunblock 30 works just as well on the shy bits as it does on the skin that’s used to being out there. Given the number 30, the shade, and a good sunhat—an acceptable accessory for a nude beach—neither Renald nor I burned at all.9. The Fear: What if I get ogled? Or what if I don’t? This was a catch-22 for me, and I trust I’m not alone. I pictured unashamed strangers on the beach staring straight at my exposed breasts. In my mind’s eye, I kept covert watch through my reflective sunglasses while resisting the urge to squirm. I tried to look indifferent, burying my face further in my magazine. I really wanted to tell them to leave me alone. Then my mind went to the alternative—people looked away as quickly as they set eyes on me. Again I imagined myself sneaking an undetectable look through mirrored glasses, pretending to be absorbed in my magazine. I wanted them to think I was attractive enough to pause over, if only briefly.The Fact: The more people you have together, nude, in one place, the less pre-occupied everyone is with bodies. People don’t ogle and they don’t recoil in horror. More than I’ve ever seen, people at a nude resort focus on the eyes. Never before have I had so much eye contact with strangers.8. The Fear: What if I never adjust? People say that after a short time—some say an hour, others say a day—when the initial (and understandable) jolt subsides, the eyes adjust to the new scenery and you stop noticing, or at least stop noticing, that no one has clothes on. I imagined never adjusting.
The Fact: The sand on the beach in Cancún is a soft, white powder. The water is a crystal-clear luminescent blue and laps up onto the shore in a gentle rhythm. The resort itself was impeccably maintained, with lush gardens and manicured lawns and luxurious private cabañas on the beach. That scenery remained breathtaking from day one to day seven. It completely overshadowed the nude bodies, which were entirely ordinary by comparison.7. The Fear: swinging body parts, mine and others. Bodies in motion jiggle. In their natural state, body parts swing around. Clothes contain all of that.The Fact: So what?6. The Fear: nude volleyball. Call up the image in your head—a group of adults wearing nothing but sunglasses and ball caps, playing volleyball in the sand. This was the most horrifying instance of “swinging body parts” I could picture in advance. The Fact: It took no time for me to make peace with swinging parts, yet I continued to dread volleyball. A friend got to the heart of it when she said, “It’s not the nude part, it’s the volleyball part you dread.” True enough, dressed or not, I’ve hated playing volleyball since high school. The resort had a volleyball court. Unlike in high school, no one made me play.5. The Fear: What if everyone is hideous? My own fears were more about self-consciousness about my own body. But before I’d even started to pack, at least four of my friends riffed on the same theme: “Some people—present company excepted, of course—just should cover their bodies up for everyone’s sake.”The Fact: In México, the beach front is public. Renald and I began most days with a stroll along the beach, kicking at the gentle surf, feeling the light warmth of the early morning sun and the freshness of the breeze coming off the water, and saying hello to the new friends we passed along the way. With other resorts in both directions from ours, we’d invariably pass guests from elsewhere as they walked through. Some of the men, still wet from their morning swim, wore unwieldy trunks that clung to their legs; the women’s bikini bottoms pinched them at the hips and the tops of the thighs. The women tugged at the men’s arms, whispering sternly (perhaps “Don’t stare”). Some fixed their gaze on the horizon. All marched through the nude area with an air of focused purpose: to get to the other side. By contrast, the nude crowd emanated warmth and openness, looking right at us with happy eyes. They said “Good morning” with sincerity. Hideous? People who are comfortable in their skins, no matter what their shape and size, simply are not hideous. In no time at all, I knew exactly which group was mine.
4. The Fear: What if everyone is a 20- or 30-year-old fitness-instructor type? More devastating than many things I could imagine was the prospect of being surrounded by hard, beautiful, youthful bodies. At 44, I have a regular regimen of yoga and walking. Most nights, I get seven or eight hours of sleep. I eat fresh berries and high fibre flax cereal, and drink extra-fortified skim milk in the morning. I’ve got the right body for my age. I’ve seen it soften over the past decade. Lean and lithe young women prancing naked along the beach would stand as an irritating reminder of the inevitable drops and droops and loosenings I confront each year. It was enough to make me want to hide behind a towel.
The Fact: The typical guest was between 40 and 60. Most bodies were average, with the occasional stand-out. As my comfort with my own nakedness took hold, I ceased to think about how I measured up to others. I could admire the beautiful people instead of hating them and feeling threatened. By mid-week, I experienced a strange and unfamiliar feeling: I liked my body.3. The Fear: having to get out of my chair. Everyone likes a reclining nude. They’re aesthetically pleasing. Even in advance I thought nude lounging in a chaise all week would be easy. But I recoiled at the idea of getting out of my chair, of standing up, of walking—I couldn’t even consider running. When you get up and move around, that’s when gravity takes over and everything…settles. Just the thought got me marvelling at the way clothing functions to keep the increasingly unruly parts in their proper places.The Fact: Nothing beats the freedom of walking naked in the open air, unencumbered by the restrictive grip of clothing. Nothing. Not even gravity. I felt like a kid again.2. The Fear: What if I run into someone I know, especially someone from work? Maybe it’s paradoxical, but I think it’s easier to be naked with strangers than with people I know. You could have told me all day long to remember that the colleague was there for the same reason as we were—to unwind and experience the freedom of going natural. But I cannot tell you what a damper it would have put on the whole vacation if I’d run into a co-worker.The Fact: I didn’t have to confront this fear, and for that I am truly, truly thankful.And the absolutely worst thing that could happen:1. The Fear: What if the reason for my resistance is that, deep down, I’m just a prude? I struggled with the possibility that prudishness could be at the bottom of my deep discomfort about communal nudity. The thought of discovering I was a prude made me feel old beyond my years.The Fact: We checked in. As soon as I exited the air-conditioned lobby and walked out into the tropical garden seating by the central, thatched-roof bar, the first person I ran into was a paunchy naked man in his late 60s carrying an elaborate frosty pink drink garnished with a slice of fresh pineapple. He said “Cheers!". My inner prude twitched: shouldn’t he be wearing shorts or something? Within minutes, my inner prude confronted a nude yoga class in the gazebo on the beach. She recoiled. And then Renald told me the time had come to remove our clothing. There would be no hiding behind towels or reaching for a cover-up.The clothes came off.The inner prude blushed and retreated. She surfaced just once a day after that: whenever I entertained the idea of taking the nude yoga class. But the next time I go to a nude resort—and there will be a next time—she may not even win that battle.
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The Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN) and the Fédération québécoise de naturisme (FQN) share the Canadian membership in the International Naturist Federation (INF), which has its world headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium.