clothes free vacation, pt. 6: the men

What, indeed, would it be like to interact with men clothes free at the festival and at the clothing optional beach?

I’d been warned of the infamous “Joe Cool” kind of guy, the dude who sees himself as God’s gift to the universe and is constantly on the prowl, often under the cloak of “naturism.” He’s the guy that ruins it all for the good guys. I’ve heard a lot about Joe Cool, so I learned to be on the lookout for him both online and in preparation for the clothes free vacation. No problem.

 But there was something else that had been a point of murky discomfort for me this entire first year: the users (various genders) online who seemed to incessantly fawn over the human body. The comments weren’t sexual, but they constantly drew attention back to the body. (I have to clarify that the tone of those comments was very different from conversations about body image / body positivity and that whole movement. I actually find discussions in that specific arena quite inspiring and thought-provoking). No, these particular comments landed on me as a kind of obsession with the body. And some said that such commentary was an appreciation for the human body and the beauty of naturism. Although I kind of heard what they were saying, it still confused me, because one day I’d read that naturism / clothes free life wasn’t about gawking at bodies, that it doesn’t matter what one looks like, and then I’d turn around and see all this fawning over young, taut, smooth, perky bodies. I’d see the “beauty” of naturism represented almost exclusively through images of those kinds of bodies. That was confusing and uncomfortable for me.

It’s not that I think such adoration is “bad;” it’s that none of that is new to me. I see and experience that kind of fawning all the time in TextilesBurg. I’ve had people call me fat and ugly and run in the opposite direction (literally), and I’ve had people chase me down on a dance floor at the sight of my rear. I’ve had men just stand there and pick apart every curve of my body while I was trying to get a cup of coffee at the office. So, for me, the fawning over naked bodies wasn’t a helpful “naturist” (as some individuals tagged it) conversation, because obsession with bodies wasn’t something new to me. Judgment of the human body, one way or the other, happens all of the time. The question I was left with over and over was, “Is there more?” Is there more to the clothes free conversation than just the body?

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 So, what was it, then, that I wanted when encountering men? (Gosh, sometimes I feel like I’m so high-maintenance when it comes to clothes free life! What is this woman writing about now?!?!) Similar to what was on my heart when encountering the women, I wanted interactions that took the focus beyond the body. I just wanted conversation about clothes free life and topics beyond (food, culture, politics, light bulbs, whatever), because that’s where there seemed to be a huge void in my experience for quite a while, except for conversations with my friend. And thank goodness for our talks, because those chats led me to Twitter and the blogs with a fresh start.

I drew from the list of folks he followed, and thankfully, that’s how I came in contact with men who didn’t post pictures for attention, who didn’t make everything about sex, who didn’t spend all their time fawning over bodies. That’s where I came across men who actually talked about their clothes free life and experiences, who talked about the world. They posted all kinds of inspirational thoughts and their own unique images. It was like striking gold. These men interacted with me as a person, as an everyday human being. It took so much pressure off of me, because all I had to do was show up and be human. It was so liberating, a great breakthrough, similar to what I talked about in my post regarding the women who inspire me. Being human, interacting as people engaged in a whole-person clothes free life kind of conversation, that’s what I needed and that’s what I finally got.

 So, then by the time my clothes free vacation came, I actually had really high expectations for the men I’d be meeting in person. First of all, my friend has always been a great example of genuine clothes free interactions across the board, in my opinion. I shamelessly observed (read “stalked”) how he interacted with other users across genders, because I really wanted to know if he was for real. And it didn’t take long for me to see that he was. Then I saw the guys on Twitter with whom he interacted and the blogs having these great conversations, too. It felt to me like these guys were on the up and up. So, they all set the bar really high. I basically walked up to Empire Haven and Gunnison Beach and was like, “Alright, y’all. Don’t screw this up.” And they didn’t, except the one creep on the beach (we’ll deal with him in a separate post about the beach).

First, I’ll start with my friend, because it was my first time meeting him in person, too. It’s so cool finally meeting people I’ve talked to for so long through these online means. I was like, “Wow, he’s a real person!!!” (I mean, how was I to know he wasn’t really just an aardvark in disguise?) We got along instantly, and in watching him, I saw him treat every person with respect, talking with people naturally, just being himself. Then, there were the other men, who also just walked about and interacted with each other as regular human beings. No sex, no commentary on bodies, just conversation about various topics.

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I remember one night my friend and I went over to the conversation hot tub for a bit. It was pretty full, a lot of men and a few women of various ages. And nobody did or said anything sketchy. People just talked about the festival schedule and how to get youth more involved. I met Mr. Sunsport (I call him Mr. Sunsport, because he is from the  Sunsport Gardens Family Naturist Resort and rang the giant bell on the premises) and listened to him talk about the efforts they are putting forth down there to get the younger generation involved. He interacted with me as one human talking to another. It was the same with men I encountered at the workshops or in passing. Even the guys we saw at the clothing optional beach were just enjoying their time there, running in the water, playing volleyball.

 So, this was an important and positive experience for me during clothes free vacation. I’m so grateful that to have shared good conversation and space in a positive and wholesome way with these men. People kept telling me that there were plenty of good guys out there, that Joe Cool and the fawners didn’t represent everyone. And it’s so true. (I know, I know, some of you guys are screaming, “WE’VE BEEN SAYING THIS ALL ALONG!!!! WE’RE RIGHT HERE!!! BAH!”)

To anyone having doubts or struggling, they’re right, and I landed in a wonderful in-person experience where I felt safe and free to just be me among them. For that I give thanks.

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