Participating in nudist clubs was not originally my idea, and yet I know that it flowed out of my life and was done for my benefit. Moreover, this story encompasses some of the most delightful experiences of my life and three of the greatest tragedies of my life.
This adventure began with my first husband, Tom. He was very tall, 6 ft., in contrast to my 5 ft. at that time, a venturesome Renaissance man with black hair and fair Irish skin, he loved me with complete dedication and said that he found me delightful. He would do anything he could for me. When I would cry as I tried to sew jumpsuits or bras for myself to accommodate my back curvature (impossible things to sew for one’s self even for the skilled, which I’m not) Tom would try to help me sew. He knew how frustrating my body was to me – the severe curvature in my lower back, the heavy breasts that increased my back and neck pain, these made me feel altogether physically ugly and out-of-sorts with my body. Tom found me beautiful. I know he wasn’t lying, but I never understood this.
Browsing in Barnes and Noble bookstore, Tom ran across an interesting book: Nudist Clubs and Beaches in the United States. The information seemed sound and he thought perhaps attending one of these activities might help my self-image, help me feel O.K. about my body. I don’t know why I said “Yes” to this; I can only chalk it up to who I was arguing with – Tom had been on debate teams for seven years in high school and college and I was no match. He persuaded me to to try the once-a-month gathering of the Chicago Sun Club.
We had to call ahead to make reservations. They explained their philosophy and policies to us. They try to keep a balance between male and female participants and encourage people to come as couples. They described their activities. This would be Hawaiian night, so we were invited to bring a Hawaiian style potluck dish.
We arrived, were greeted by nice people, and paid a fee towards the once-a-month rental of this facility. We disrobed in the locker room and headed shyly for the food. People were very friendly. Everyone wore Hawaiian leis (nothing else) and in fact, these people seemed very ordinary, though interesting. Believe it or not, after about 90 seconds, I no longer realized we were all naked. We stood around chit-chatting about politics and family and philosophy as at any party. A few people wore swimsuits; this is allowed, except not in the jacuzzi in order to encourage hesitant folks to take the plunge. There was swimming, volleyball, yoga, board games (sitting on towels), and food. We had a great time, and I did feel that my body was no funnier than anyone else’s.
After that we often returned. Each month was a different theme. There was ranch night when we all brought barbequed food. Everyone wore boots and neck scarves and bolo ties and cowboy hats – nothing else, just boots and scarves and hats.
Eventually we visited a couple nudist camps. We brought our son and daughter, late elementary age, to a nudist family resort in Indiana. One child went nude and the other wore a bathingsuit; I don’t remember which did which but they could choose as they wanted. The place was a lovely wooded campground and had an outdoor pool, with a waterslide for the kids. They took to it fine because it was such a fun place to be. I got to jump up and down naked in the warm sunshine on a trampoline! It was a gorgeous experience. The place had tennis courts, too. Tennis players everywhere have to be careful about too much sun, so there at the nudist resort the tennis players wear shirts – nothing else, just shirts.
The Indiana resort is across the street from a truck drivers’ nudist resort, a place that probably fits most people’s ideas of nudism more closely than where we were. In our resort, families can rent campground space and leave a trailor for the summer or bring their tents for a weekend. We were always involved with family centered, philosophically based clubs and resorts.
We visited the nudist resort in Kissimmi, Florida, which surrounds a lake. At night I rented a canoe and went out to the center of the lake. There I sat naked under the millions of stars overhead in the Milky Way. It was an awesome and holy night for me. Also in Florida, north of Cape Canaveral at Playa Linda, Tom and I and our two children floated naked on the great warm waves of the ocean, held up easily by the salt water, relaxed completely as if Mother Nature were rocking us in a cradle. I knew that I was born for nudism, though it was Tom who got us there.
Time went on and one night back home when I came to bed Tom said he was having pain in his left arm and shoulder. He hadn’t told me earlier but he’d already gone to the hospital and they said this was not a heart attack. But he was in great pain. We fell asleep naked together, afraid and not knowing what to do. He said, to me “The most wonderful thing in all the world is to lie here in your arms.” Two hours later I heard him make a very long strange sigh. I jumped up and turned the light on. He wasn’t breathing. I called 911 and it seemed to take forever for help to come. Our son was just beginning his senior year and had taken a CPR class; he tried to resuscitate his dad but Tom’s spirit was gone from his body and no emergency help was able to bring him back.
A few years passed, and I met another Tom, a very different man but dear and special in his own ways. Eventually I invited him to go with me to the monthly nudist club where first Tom and I had gone. We called ahead and were told that this would be the Halloween party. I planned my simple costume: a dark blue feather boa around my neck and a half mask made of white feathers. Tom couldn’t think of anything for a costume so we stopped at a drugstore and bought him a mask. It was nondescript: a face, two round holes for eyes, with a small black mustache and long brown hair hanging down the sides of the face like a pageboy.
At the club, we were sitting at a table with another woman sipping drinks and talking, when it was announced that there would be a costume parade. We should tell the judges what we were as we passed, in case they couldn’t guess from our skimpy costumes. We three looked at each other and wondered, “What are we?” The woman had a feathered half mask like mine, so I had the inspiration that she and I were birds and Tom was a bird dog. As we passed the judges, the other lady and I ran around and flapped our arms like wings and Tom barked and chased us like a bird dog. And – we won first place!
There was a funny sexist ending to that little story. The prize was a free pass to the nudist resort in Battle Creek, Michigan. One pass was given to the other lady and they gave ours to Tom, writing his name on it “plus guest”, assuming that he had brought me as his guest! I was indignant as he was my guest and I went up to that judge and asked him to correct the mistake. Gender assumptions, even in such an enlightened community!
My life with second Tom was short and rich. After three years of our life together he had a brain stem stroke when we got too high for his lungs in the mountains of New Mexico. He was totally paralyzed and unable to speak, though his mind was fine. I cared for him for 2 and ½ years, but finally his spirit gave up and he, too, passed on.
Now, being twice widowed, I finally persuaded a surgeon to almost completely remove my heavy breasts. “A size A,” I begged him, and because of my age he did it for me. My back is greatly lightened by this, though my body now seems funnier than ever. But now I know a society of people who will lovingly say that I’m just fine, no matter how I look. I am a convinced and happy and grateful nudist.
Postscript: There are two nationally recognized nudist organizations that are trustable for their integrity. Ours was called The National Sunbathers Association, today called the American Association for Nude Recreation. A similar organization is called The Naturist Society. Both emphasize nudism as a lifestyle that promotes such values as living in a manner that respects nature, promotes self-acceptance, good health, equality (beauty is not a person’s value), moderate living, and such.