August 21, 2014
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Mr. Adventure: Facing the Naked Truth

Visiting a nudist club becomes far more revealing than you can imagine.

Illustration by Gary Hovland

There are times in life when you need to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of. I’m thinking of the cancer survivor climbing Mt. Everest or the 85-yearold first-time skydiver. Risk takers, each. But sometimes an act you do every day can become a momentous mental hurdle: a bucket list-worthy item that is as freeing as it is edifying. I’m speaking, of course, about nudism in Southwest Florida.

To the untrained eye, nudism is nudity without purpose, practiced mostly by people who aren’t being asked to get naked on their own accord. To the trained eye, it’s a reality show on the consequences of gravity.

It seems that once there were a number of places in Lee and Collier counties where you could just drive up, pull in and pull down your skivvies with other likeminded folks in a quest to be totally free of society’s continual false importance on appearance. I believe it was ZZ Top who pontificated, “Every girl crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man.” It was time to put to the test how every girl felt about a stark-naked man.

Perhaps, mired in a culture of perpetual consumption, there really might be something to shedding all of our outward symbols of power, prestige and pretension, for a life that gets down to the bare bones of one’s true self.

Then again, maybe it would just be cool to get naked with strangers.

I must admit, as someone who’s spent an inordinate amount of time with Victoria’s Secret models, this is a concept that I fully support.

Of course, if you think about it too much, it seems like it might be hard. (You know, getting naked in front of strangers and just hanging out.) As Americans, we seem to have had Midwestern sensibilities forced upon us no matter where in this country we’re from.

A quick Google search yielded a surprising number of nudist clubs, resorts and organizations in the Fort Myers, Sanibel and Naples area. In fact, there was a nudist resort listed just a mile from this magazine’s offices. What luck! I’d just call them on the phone, let them know I’d like to come over and soak up some sunshine with them, perhaps play some lawn darts with a German woman named Gert. Yep, it was going to be a hell of a day.

Unfortunately, the resort—Southern Exposure of Naples, conveniently located off Jaybird Lane— seems to have gone belly up since the last quality nudism blog was posted back in 2007. A quick physical examination of the property revealed little more than some weeds, a garden hose and the memories of dozens of unfettered breasts.

A few more phone calls and a few more dead ends. It seems there are not as many nudist resorts as there used to be.

But persistence paid off when I found myself at the end of a long dusty road (they’re all on long dusty roads), staring at a privacy gate for one of the few remaining area nudist clubs. A quick call for the gate code and there was no turning back.

I was greeted by a woman we’ll call Pamela, not because I’m interested in protecting her anonymity, but because I cannot for the life of me remember what she said her name was. It was a blur (although not as blurry as I’d have hoped).

For her part, Pamela looked, shall we say, extremely thin. She was wearing what appeared to be a threadbare muumuu from 1977 that at this point was virtually transparent.

“Welcome,” she said in a voice only Virginia Slims could love. “This is a no-smoking facility. I have to tell everyone that. We don’t get many younger people here. Is this your first time?”

I was literally at a loss for words. She guided me to the pool deck and a small, open-air community kitchen where guests can make lunches. At its counter stood a woman who looked to be the Costello to Pamela’s Abbott. Straining to reach five-feet two-inches in height, late-50s Marie was what some people would call pleasantly plump. She was also naked. Full-on naked. Warming what appeared to be a hotdog bun.

“Can I get you anything, hun?” said late-50s Marie. I shook my head “no,” still unable to generate the proper verbiage to convey what was going through my head—which was a good thing.

Eye contact is key in these situations, as though you were staring down an angry badger in the wild. One errant glance and you realize you are at the SAG Awards. I hadn’t experienced this many folds since I worked at Chess King.

“Well, if you need anything, my husband, Tom, and I are right over there in that camper,” late-50s Marie said. “Everybody is really nice here. If you have any questions, just ask away.”

By this point, I’m still wearing a pair of running shorts and a T-shirt and sticking out like a sore thumb. (That’s an expression.) I decided to make my way over to the pool where a bald guy named George, a 70-something widower originally from Indianapolis, was floating about, minding his own business. A quick introduction and George became chatty.

I was a mysterious stranger, new and clothed.

“You’re gonna love it. Just ease into it,” he said. “I’ll turn around, you hop in.”

And with that, I hooked my thumbs into the waistband of my shorts and took the first step toward what will ultimately be many visits to a therapist. The heated pool was thankfully chlorinated and, as I looked down at my feet, it occurred to me that this would be a nice Instragram photo.

“So how did you end up here, George?” I asked, while grasping the side of the pool.

“Just lucky, I guess,” he said, possibly seriously. He then did the exact thing I didn’t want him to do—he pulled himself up and out of the pool so that he could sit on the edge with his feet dangling in. Good god.

The human body, which can look so spectacular on newer models, can morph into an almost unrecognizable form once the odometer has reached a certain number. For George that number was sometime before 70.

“You know, I can’t say what the original draw was for me,” said George. “I remember being aware of nudist colonies in the ’70s, but it never got past the curiosity stage. Then one day a few years ago, I heard about a place in Sarasota (where he used to winter) and off I went. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is freeing. You feel one with the world, with nature. Somehow healthier.”

“Healthier? You’re begging for skin cancer?” I said, incredulously.

“You’ve gotta use a lot of sunscreen,” he said as a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face, down his neck, and, I suspect, continued on through the power of gravity to its natural course. I consciously chose to not follow it.

 

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