August 19-21, 2016 I found myself running around the hills and trees of Camp Ramblewood stark naked during Field Festival 2016. I was one of very few women who had opted to go nude at this clothing optional event. What’s more is that I was the only black woman who chose to bare much of anything. Black women wore the most clothing of all women present at that festival, considering that even other women of color experimented with going bare chested or completely nude.
I find nothing wrong with one choosing to wear clothes. I believe that we all should have the right to choose how much or how little we want to wear and to be respected. I did not poll the women at the festival to ask them why they chose to wear what they wore. In fact, many people took this festival as an opportunity to use clothing etc. to express themselves in ways they might not normally get to do in la vie quotidienne. However, this observed pattern around black women at the festival raised some thoughts for me, personally, given conversations I have had with women of color, recent news media and stories shared by black women through various mediums. Read more wow: i’m here, i’m me
Two weeks ago, my mother, aunt, brother and I went up to Manhattan for the day. As we ventured through Times Square, we came across a group of bare chested women body painted in red, white and blue who permitted tourists to stand with them and take a picture. I paused in my steps and, after a few deep breaths, shared that I wanted to take a bare chested picture with the women.
This would be my first time telling my brother and aunt about my bare-chested and clothes free life. My mom was over the moon and shouted ecstatically, “My daughter’s a naturist and she’s going to take a topless picture with these women!” in the middle of Times Square as she snatched my phone to capture the moment. It was heart-warming to see her excitement.
I pranced over to the women and informed them of my request, and they expressed some excitement given that I, too, would be standing bare chested, enjoying the right to be. The moment I freed my chest, the breeze brought a refreshing breath to my skin, and I felt like I was in my element. My mom was bouncing about with glee, and the rest of the world around me seemed to pause for that moment.
The thing is, just an hour prior while we were Grand Central Terminal, a random man had tried to attack me. I was fully clothed in a baggy outfit at that point. Fast forward to Times Square when I stood bare chested having a pivotal moment with my mother witnessing my public expression of my right with my aunt and brother nearby. I felt so pure, and my mom saw me as so organic and natural, yet, the second I bore my chest, others’ cameras went up, and some men kept lingering prying eyes on me even as walked away with my family. It’s interesting being a woman.
This experience, then, led to a rich discussion with my folks. I had been quite nervous prior to connecting with my family, because I didn’t know how my aunt and brother would react. They took in the things I shared about my clothes free life as well as my mom’s anecdotes from when we went to Hippie Hollow together last year. As it turned out, they were very happy that I felt comfortable enough to be myself around them. They also stated that it made sense, because this is how all humans were born, and that it’s our perversions in society that have created so many issues.
Subsequent conversations with my family about this experience opened up something else for me. This past Monday, my mom shared with me that my grandfather used to do paintings of nude people until the church scorned him for it. So he stopped and settled for working in a warehouse his whole life. I never knew he 1) painted and 2) that he saw the human body as pure art.
There is often the question around race and whether clothes freedom is foreign to other ethnicities and races. Is clothes freedom, for instance, something that black people just don’t do? I used to think that. But then Earl D, curator and Editor-in-Chief of clothesfreelife.com, did the series back in February on the history of clothes freedom in the black community, all the way back to Africa, and I thought to myself, “Wow, my heritage is clothes free.”
What really brought it home for me was to find out that it have been living and breathing in my family even now, albeit suppressed. I’ve had similar discussions with another black woman where, upon reflection, she realized that there was a member in her family who simply enjoyed being clothes free. Then she realized that she actually did it, too, at home, and enjoyed it as well. So, on first mention, clothes freedom seemed like foreign concepts to us, but when we sat back and thought about it or had further discussions with people, we’d see that this actually is part of who we are, and there is a deep historical connection there. This is something clothesfreelife.com is going to explore through a new podcast show “Bare Black & Brown,” so keep a lookout for that.
I am still reflecting on that experience in New York. It was an interesting intersection of being a woman, being black and being with family. As a woman, it reminded me that my body is often seen as something to regulate to control the behavior of others, and the state of dress actually seems to have nothing to do with it. In my life, I have been attacked or almost attacked in both states. So often I read cavalier remarks from folks in the clothes free community about how being naked comes to men more naturally and how women just need to be more confident. But the truth is that it’s just not easy or safe living in this world as a woman (and othered classes) period. And, whether it’s clothed people blaming our state of undress as inviting attacks, or some clothes free people blaming our state of dress (e.g. sarongs, etc.) for causing arousal / erection and welcoming advances, it’s the woman to blame for others’ behaviors in both cases. Really, I just want to be without it meaning anything.
Then, as a black person, initially looking at all the discussions about naturism, nudism and clothes free living, there usually isn’t much discussion about the history of it in othered cultures. It felt like I was engaging in cultural appropriation when I first started my clothes free journey, until I realized that there are many of us who do it, that there is a rich historical connection, and that it has also been in my family in some form through my grandfather, who just turned 80. This is mine to own.
There is much left for me to unpack after that trip. Ahh, the joys of luggage.
Outside IN is a new series on clothesfreelife.com consisting of interviews with various people who do not practice naturism or clothes free living. The purpose of these chats is to hear individual personal shares about people’s history, experiences and perspectives regarding nudity. Most interviews will take place with people I know, as some questions might become quite personal.
Visual artist Nona Faustine, a Brooklyn native, has published a series of provocative photos to underscore New York’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The photo series, titled “White Shoes,” features Faustine posing nude on Wall Street, at City Hall, in a Brooklyn cemetery, and at various other New York landmarks where African slaves arrived, lived, and died in America.
A graduate of NYU’s School of Visual Arts, Faustine cites enslaved African “model” Saartjie Baartman and black American photographer Carrie Mae Weems as major influences and inspirations for her “White Shoes” project. “Through self-portraiture,” Faustine explains, “I explore issues about the black body within photography and history.“
From time to time, I come across discussions about what to do with young people when it comes to naturism? How do we keep it from dying with older age groups that seem to be most heavily involved? Is the end of naturism upon us? What to do?
I have no magic answers for these big questions, and I won’t speak on behalf of all young people. I can only say that these discussions prompted me to take some time and reflect on my first year of clothes free life. Read more creating my clothes free life
I recently arrived back home after visiting my mother. It feels strange to call this place home after having spent my first ever clothes free time with my mom as an adult. The time we had together made for a special kind of bond in a beautiful atmosphere of simply being.
I had taken vacation time to go visit her down. Over the course of several conversations prior, we decided to try my being clothes free in her presence during my visit. We also committed to going to a clothing optional outdoor space.
I got to her late on a Monday night. As always, there was an immeasurable amount of excitement in the air for the reconnection. We always scream and jump in each others’ arms when we first see each other at the airport. We grab arms and pinch cheeks just to make sure it’s real: Yes, we are both here.
We arrived at her apartment and chatted into the wee hours of the morning. Part of that chat involved discussing some clothes free things. She gave me the green light to sleep clothes free on the futon in the living room. I didn’t want to rush things, so I waited until bed time to disrobe. Once I could hear her steady sleeping breath, I tossed off my dress and dove under the covers with a giant smile. There was I was sleeping clothes free in my mom’s apartment. Life was good.
Morning came, and I knew it was time to stand before mom clothes free. She was still asleep for some time. I thought, “So, how do I do this without shocking her to death or making it weird?” I took some time to walk around the apartment, letting my feet feel the carpet and the cool kitchen floor. I stood near a tall sliding glass door that faced out into a pedestrian walkway and traffic. I went upside down and breathed. Time seemed to move quickly, so I hopped back under the covers, but sat upright and worked away on the laptop. Only my shoulders were exposed, but the general hint being, “Yes, I am naked under here.”
Finally, I heard shuffling. “Deep breaths,” I told myself. “Just be.” From her room she announced a joyful, “Good mornng!!!” I returned the salutation, waiting for her to make an appearance. She crept out and rounded the corner in her pajamas. Another deep breath.
“Hey! That really does just look natural,” she remarked with her chin resting on her hand as she took in the image of me sitting there. I looked over and smiled. She made her way into the kitchen to prepare her morning tonics, and we chatted like we always do. That made me feel comfortable, for her to make that observation and then to return to life as usual.
I was nervous to get up and show my full body. “What will she think? Will it freak her out? Will she think I’m crazy? Or gross??” I stalled for a bit. As things would have it, nature gave me a kick in the pants by filling my bladder to the top. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I gave a quick pause in our rolling conversation and said, “OK, I’m going to get up now. I have to go to the bathroom.”
“OK!” she said. Finally I got up, and as I marched over the bathroom while mom bent over and searched for items in the refrigerator. After I came out, I kept myself standing, fully exposed as I set up for yoga practice. Finally, Mom looked over at me and remarked, “Wow, yeah, it really is just…natural.” I smiled. “See, yeah, this is so helpful for me,” she said. “I have so many hang ups around my body. I won’t even go naked in a locker room, even if all the other women of all ages, shapes and sizes are naked. I see you and it really is just natural. It makes me think there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Over the course of my visit my mom became increasingly comfortable with my being clothes free in her presence. We chatted, she in clothes and me naked, with the same joy and enthusiasm as always. We laughed, we screamed, we hugged.
She shared many beautiful reflections on how healing it was for her to be with me while I was clothes free. Ever since she could remember, she always had a lot of shame around her body. There were stretch marks, and moving bits that seemed to have a mind of their own. She hid much of herself when around others. So much of her life had been filled with a kind of fear and shame. As I think about it, it makes sense; she has endured many traumatic experiences that stemmed from her appearance. I will never forget something she said to me over the phone when we were talking about the possibility of my being clothes free during the trip. She said, “I don’t want to spend the next 50 years of my life living in shame. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” This was a process of healing for her, to see how being just as one is can be wholesomely naturally wonderful. It is safe.
My mother didn’t strip and prance around clothes free, but I will tell you this: she noted that not once during our time together did she wear makeup. For my mom, this is HUGE. For as long as I’ve known her, my mom has never left the house without “putting her face on.” It was simply unfathomable. Beyond the desire to be artistic was a feeling that she didn’t feel whole and complete without it. She couldn’t be that kind of naked. During that week, though, she put her tools aside and walked out fresh. She put her true self out there, she showed others her naked face.
A few days ago I told her how much the visit helped me find my footing, strength and confidence again. She replied, “When you were here, I felt like I was with a dear friend.”
Guest post by @tallandnaturallyfree I finally did it. Now, it doesn’t matter whether it came off of mg Bucket list, my How Stella Gets Her Grove Back list or my Path to Self Acceptance list because I DID IT.
I went to a nude beach and got NAKED. I was more excited than nervous. I think it is easier taking clothes off amongst strangers as opposed to friends. You can read reviews to get the low down on what Haulover Beach is like. I want to tell you how it felt. I did my research on nude beach etiquette and protocol to prevent my committing faux pas but no one mentions, do you set up your personal space first or take your clothes off? Do you take your clothes off one article at a time, or slide your underwear off with your bottoms? Way too much pressure here… Read more Now that I’ve been clothes free on the beach how do I go back? Haulover beach first time report
Recently I have come across some discussions in the clothes free community about whether to post identifiable full frontal pictures of self on the internet. Some say it is necessary to do so, that blurry or unidentifiable self-portrayal does a disservice to the cause. Some believe it is perfectly fine, perhaps necessary, to shield their identity, because repercussions could be catastrophic. Personally, I don’t feel it my place to say what is a “must” for others. The discussions, however, moved to reflect and share what has resonated with me in my own short journey to date. Read more Identifiable Naked Hearts