This year, I dove into a number of public clothes free events. All of them were magnificent, as I’ve written in various posts. With these wonderful experiences under my belt, I felt confident and ready to step into an experience where I wouldn’t know anyone at all, no previous contact or connection. This one was a little closer: Maryland Area Naturist Association (MARNA) (meetup site: http://www.meetup.com/MARNAINMD/). I had been avoiding this since February, as I was afraid to go alone. I am glad that I finally braved it. However, on the whole, I wouldn’t say that it was an experience that ranked at the same level as my other spring and summer adventures.
Registration & Payment
The price list posted and communicated in the emails:
All aged 18-28 : $25 / 2 @ $40
Single Ladies ALL AGES : $25
Single Men 29 & over : $40 AANR Members take $5 off all of the above!
Couples : $60 AANR Members take $10 off”
Based on my stats, I expected to pay the $25, so I submitted that via PayPal several days prior and received confirmation that I was all set. However, upon arrival at the event, the gentleman at the front desk, who was the same one in the email communication, said that another $20 was required as the entry fee. This was my first turn-off. It is always important to have a comprehensive and accurate list of fees. All the other places I attended had full price lists, which helps considerably in terms of financial planning. Total, I paid $25 via Paypal + $20 at the door + $10 for the yoga (which I knew was separate) —> $55.
The group also didn’t have change for anyone. Most of us showed up with $20-bills from ATMs, because cash is not as popular around here. All the other places I’ve been to this summer (Hippie Hollow, Empire Haven, Turtle Lake) were always fully prepared with change for bills. So, it was disappointing that this group was not prepared, since it has been in operation for several years, and given that the rates on the price list were not all multiples of 20 anyway.
The other turnoff was that the guy from the front desk prodded me and the young men to prepay for all the remaining season sessions. Mentioning the option once or twice is fine, but he did it 4 or 5 times throughout the night. At some point, that kind of behavior comes off as inconsiderate of people’s financial situations, pushy and disrespectful of their choices.
The group president introduced himself while I was at the front desk. He let me know to contact him should I encounter any problems. I very much appreciated this, and, given my prior experiences, expected it. In fact, if he hadn’t said it, I would have been disappointed, because this should be done for everyone so that they know who to go to in case problems arise.
But he then started saying things like, “You know, because, women are generally scared of us men, whereas we aren’t afraid that women are going to hurt us,” and so forth. There are genuine reasons to make sure we women are safe and comfortable, especially when we are single. Even other women I’ve talked to at other events have said that they avoided activities when they felt there were too many men. At the same time, women aren’t the only ones who might feel uncomfortable or become targets of some crazy person. I’ve read some shares by men about their negative experiences, too. And what about kids of any gender?
You never know who is going to try to hurt whom. So, they should let everyone know that they are there for them and keep an eye out.
The space used was an athletic club, and it was densely packed with exercise and weight-lifting machines. The only vacant floor space was the path to the locker rooms. Even the room where the naked yoga was held was somewhat crowded by equipment lining the walls. It was also quite cold in the gym, which makes being naked a little less comfortable. Even the seasoned men noted it. And the showers were not as clean as other places I’ve visited. These are some of the challenges with using a space that is not accustomed to supporting clothing optional / clothes free activities.
Designated Space and Decorum
The guy at the front desk had told me that they designated the Men’s locker room as the “coed” space and the Women’s locker room as “women only.” I went into the women’s locker room. While I was in there, the gentleman from the front desk wandered in (without asking if it was OK to do so) and started talking to me about the activities. He was standing there babbling on fully clothed from head to toe (shoes included) while I was fully nude. I kept thinking to myself, “What if I were a newbie single woman and this guy was acting like this? Here I am naked and he storms into here fully clothed and is standing right there…”
If this had been a nudity-required event and the spaces all designated as coed, I would not have been bothered. But, it was clothing optional, and they designated the women’s locker room as women only. So, men, especially those in a leadership / staff position, should not be going in there unannounced, as that could make people, especially newbies, quite uncomfortable and reluctant to return to this or any other events/places. I told one of my female friends about this experience, and she said, “It’s a good thing you already had expectations about how things should go, because if it had been me, I would have thought that’s how all places act and would have been totally turned off to the whole thing.”
If it’s clothing optional and certain spaces are designated as single sex, then people, especially staff and leadership, should treat it that way.
One gentleman said to me that he found the event to be oversold. I agreed. In the posts and communication, the following activities were announced:
- Volleyball – Courts
- Volleyball – Water
- Massage Therapy
Of the activities listed, really the athletic club itself provided swim given the pool, sauna in each locker room, weights and TV. The yoga did take place.
However, there was no volleyball, not even nets setup for the possibility. There was no massage therapy, acupuncture, vendor / shopping, or food. I don’t know what they meant by spa, but there wasn’t anything apart from the sauna, which was listed separately. There was a storm, so that the massage therapist couldn’t make it was understandable. But, given the cost of the event, I expected them to at least still have volleyball and refreshments as promised.
So, I paid $55, and the men maybe $65+, for a small percentage of what was originally listed, and most of that list was already provided by the gym. It begged the question: Aside from the gym’s own resources, what did we pay for? A single monthly membership for that athletic club is $40. Alternatively, I could have used the car to visit a clothing optional resort one additional hour away for a day fee of $24.
I won’t mince words: $55 (or $45 without the yoga) is very steep for 5 or 6 hours of fun. If they are trying to grow groups and get young people, it can’t be that expensive, especially if there aren’t going to be that many activities. And the list of activities needs to be accurate. I love being active, but even if the list of activities is smaller, I’d be fine as long as it is accurate.
(Some of) the people were the reason I stayed for a little while after the yoga. There were about 15 people total, and I was the only female. Four of us practiced clothes free yoga. That group included me and 3 men somewhere around my age. At first, it was a little awkward, as we were standing around waiting for the yoga instructor to arrive. The first gentleman to talk to me was wearing basketball shorts. The other two practiced nude. We did basic introductions: “Have you been here before? How did you hear about this? How long have you been into these kinds of things?” Only one of them had been there several times, years in fact, which I found interesting. Another guy had been just once before, and I was the brand new one. The conversation with them was welcoming and positive.
After the yoga class, I wandered over to the pool. There was a clique of older gentlemen, maybe 7 of them, chatting with each other. I sat nearby and tried to inch my way in as an active listener. However, no one said a word or even nodded a hello. Two of the younger men from yoga finally came into the pool, but wandered over to the opposite end away from the clique. I decided to join them. Within seconds more fun conversation and laughter echoed the walls. With that, some of the clique pulled away to join us. Good conversation continued for a while both in the pool and when a group of us check out the sauna. Some shared very interesting stories, like doing the Nude Polar Plunge, which made me shiver even in the sauna!
Overall it was an interesting experience. I am glad that I finally did it, because I’d been avoiding it for half a year, but I’m not likely to return immediately. The best part was the conversation with a few of the people. In terms of the organization, the biggest issues for me were 1) the incomplete price list, 2) inaccurate list of activities, and 3) decorum with regard to the practices.