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
I don’t aspire for a world in which everyone is nude all of the time. I do, however, aspire for a world in which everyone has the right to choose how little or how much to wear without being penalized. Read more wow: choice
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of finally meeting a woman with whom I’d only had email conversations about clothes free life. She and I were introduced via email by a mutual friend, another young woman who lives in my city. This mutual friend is a very close friend of mine, basically my sister, someone with whom I’ve talked about my clothes free life. Although she doesn’t engage in clothes free life, she follows my posts on Instagram, and I share all my stories with her when we hang out. About a year ago, she was moved to tell this lady about my clothes free life, and this woman wound up adopting it for herself. Read more wow: face to face
Felicity Jones of Young Naturists America on balancing privacy, respect and consent at clothes free venues with regard to photography policies.
“…I think it’s time we start to move beyond the overly-cautious, paranoid approach of the 20th century and allow nudism to be more easily documented in the digital age. We can emphasize privacy, respect and consent while still letting people have fun and without turning nudism into a secret, hidden activity.”
Reflecting on my own experience, I was most certainly concerned by the possibility of people taking photos of me, or being caught in photos without my consent. Last year was a lot of firsts for me during year 1 of my clothes free life, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect or whom to trust. I didn’t even really trust the approved photographers who were there to document the event.
However, I will say, that because those were my first experiences, I really wanted to document them for myself, for my own records and stories. They were such positive experiences that meant a lot to me for so many reasons, and to not have the option to document myself was frustrating, especially since there were approved photographers going around snapping photos of the events (of course only where people consented). I understand the distinction and the concerns. Similar to Felicity and possibly others, I don’t want to end up on someone else’s blog that might fall into another category of topics. At the same time, me not being allowed to take a picture of myself with no one else in it was disheartening. I wanted those memories of my first experiences for myself as well as for the people with whom I choose to discuss my clothes free life (e.g. my mom, who gets excited every time I have a new clothes free experience about which to share; a few friends).
Community is defined as a unified body of individuals with common interests or an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location. That definition could not be more true of those supporting and living a clothes free life.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to participate in our first block party at Turtle Lake Resort in Union City, Michigan. Like your typical block party, it was complete with traffic cones to block traffic, a DJ and food. Food is actually a pretty generic term. There were approximately 9 tables lined up covered with all the dishes and desserts your heart could desire. As unique and different the people, so was the food.
This has been going on for over 10 years on the Labor Day weekend. We were told yesterday that each year it continues to get larger. We took our place towards the end of a VERY long line when it was time to eat. Our first thought was, there isn’t going to be any food by the time we get up there. Boy were we wrong. There was plenty of food for us and all the additional people that continued to show up behind us. To be honest, we don’t have a count of how many participated in this block party but a conservative guess would be 125-150.
Now back to the definition. An interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location. That is what yesterday was, a group of different people in the street having a good time. How different could we get? We were white, black and brown. We were tanned and fair skinned. We were thin and heavy. We were young and old. We were urban and rural. But the irony is, only in retrospect do you realize the differences. For at that time and place we were the same……….human.
I performed comedy naked at a nudist resort and it wasn’t even the most uncomfortable part of my day.
Frankly, I was kinda bored. It didn’t take me long to revert to my normal naked time activity: picking at ingrown hairs. In the few hours I was there, I developed a new fear about performing with toilet paper stuck to my labia. What’s the etiquette there? Do you tell someone, like with spinach in their teeth?
The show was a special comedy/sword fighting/Renaissance themed dinner—think big turkey legs and elaborate costumes, but also nudity. I know, it was weird. The Pun Gents opened the show. Get it? Lord Seymour Thanue and Sir Thomas of Lipton, otherwise known as David Barone and Matt Harlow fought each other with swords while throwing pun-filled insults at each other. Next, Alex Feldman, aka Alex the Jester performed. Alex is a literal jester. The first part of the show was family friendly. I felt sort of silly explaining that I couldn’t perform a clean, kid-friendly set naked.
Choose your activities carefully. Swimming is the easiest for beginners. Volleyball and other jumping sports are more challenging. Yoga can be particularly intimidating, even for committed nudists.
Don’t be surprised if you occasionally experience phantom clothes. After decades of living as a naturist — his preferred term and the one used in Europe — Deschênes still sometimes reaches to pull up his nonexistent pants after using the restroom.
Some time ago, I shared an image of myself on Twitter, and one of the comments I received was to the tune of, “A clearer shot shows you’re getting more confident.” I’ve also had this kind of perspective said to me with regard to video chats. This along with a recent experience stirred reflection in me.
Here’s the thing: I am actually plenty confident and have no shame around my clothes free life or my body. But, I have to discern when and how to share myself. I would say especially because I’m a young woman, but I know men also have to navigate mindfully…but maybe still the whole being a woman thing, I don’t know.
When I first started my clothes free journey a year ago, I was indeed hesitant to post pictures of myself and not entirely rooted in self-confidence. At that point, I on Instagram with a locked account. But, check this out: most of the images I shared there were (and still are) actually clear as day: one could see me, face and all, just fine unless I just felt like playing with a photo editor for creativity’s sake. BUT – my lack of self-confidence expressed itself in jealousy and pulling away whenever I saw the images of other females participating in naked yoga projects. I was wicked jealous. They’d post their pictures, and I’d think, “Wow, my body doesn’t look anything like that. I’m not the white girl whose body seems to inspire responses. I’m not that flexible. My hair isn’t long and flowy. I don’t have that ‘come hither’ look that seems to intrigue people. I’m not the skinny bendy black girl.” So, sure, I posted clear pictures of myself, but I had zero confidence.
Over time, that has (and continues) to shift and heal. I love how I look, and I love that I’m in a continuous inquiry about my health. When I practice clothes free yoga, I feel like a royal boss. When I journal clothes free, I’m nakedly honest in my soul. Genius mode hits when I work clothes free. I no longer look at myself and automatically think, “I’m not her, her, him (yep) or her” all of the time anymore. I’m a really happy woman, folks. I stand firmly in my own beauty and power. I know who I am. I know I’m awesome, inside and out, mind and heart, body and soul.
Since last year, my platform usage has expanded outside of my locked Instagram account to a locked Flickr account, posting with Clothes Free Life (clothesfreelife.com) and an open Twitter account. On my locked accounts, I tend to share mostly clear images of myself, unless I just had the itch to play with photo-editing apps, because fun. In public settings such as clothesfreelife.com or my open Twitter account, I don’t, because I know that the likelihood of any of my images getting tossed around out of control is much higher. In fact, I found out that one of my images from a Clothes Free Life post that was about me taking care of my health wound up on a sex site. The image had nothing to do with that topic.
So, my choice on how I present myself is based on how much I want to risk my image getting scattered about. Sure, I know that at any point, really, my images could wind up on a Tumblr about goats for all I know. I had it happen even on a locked account just a week or so ago where one of the followers I took a chance on stole it without notice and posted it to their Instagram account which was public with 1,200 followers. I have less than 200. So, yes, I know there are really no guarantees. But, I value choosing how and when I want to take that risk. And my choice has nothing to do with “self-confidence” or “shame” about myself or clothes free life and everything to do with discernmentaround social media and the online space.
Another story: I’ve been participating in @iamreneewatkins / @nakedsoulyoga “Naked Soul Yoga Challenge” August 15 -29. I chose to participate in this, because the topic of focus is Suicide Watch – bringing awareness to the issue and promoting reflection and resources for help. This was very important to me, because I’ve been down that road. I’ve lost friends to it. I’ve met people through it. So, it was close to my heart. Last night, posted my contribution for the day (pic at left) with a personal reflection, and some guy just HAD to comment on my breasts. A personal reflection about suicide, and he just HAD to go for breasts. I know my breasts are awesome. I love them. And I don’t want people commenting on them one way or the other. I was like really?!?!
I mention this, because this is one of many considerations that I toss around in my head when deciding how and when to share my images and stories. I want to share in a way that promotes clothes free life holistically. I’ve connected with numerous great folks, especially on Twitter, who get that, who speak to clothes free life in that manner. However, when trying to reach others, it gets tricky. It’s a constant conversation I have with myself about what is most effective to move the bigger picture forward, and I just keep feeling it out for myself each day. Of course those kinds of comments won’t necessarily end, but they always make me reflect on how I’m sharing myself online.
When I spent time with my friend and mom in person in early spring of this year, I walked around unclothed, just myself. I didn’t hide underneath layers. And I walked around confidently and at peace completely clothes free when I was at Empire Haven, Gunnison Beach and Turtle Lake this summer. I felt so comfortable and at ease. And the folks I encountered said that I inspired them: mom, friend and women at these locations.
So, for me, the issue of how and when to share my images is not about my self-confidence. It’s about navigating these complicated channels in a way that is authentic to me and that moves the conversation forward in some way. It will always be an investigation and balancing act, and how I choose to do it will differ from others’, and I’m not interested in tagging people or their approaches as “right / wrong” or “good / bad.” I’m just interested in whether my own sharing is effective.
My goal is to share my clothes free life in an authentic, honest and wholesome way. And yes, I talk about ALL topics, but I am picky about how, when and with whom I engage each topic. I’ve had specific women, both on social media and in person, locked and public platforms, tell me that my shares have inspired them. How some of them “heard” about me and my clothes free life:
social media, locked account
in person & my posts on clothesfreelife.com
in person, no idea of anything I wrote or posted on any online platforms
complete stranger, word of mouth through a close friend
I only mention that to illustrate that different things I’ve been trying have been having a positive effect, one way or another. These women, for instance, have stepped into clothes free yoga, clothes free life or even simply gotten rid of some of the extras (e.g. makeup) as a result of reading my online shares or being with me in person. And that’s really what I’m going for: exploring ways to share myself that have a positive impact and that move the conversation about clothes free life forward. And that’s what inspires me from others.
I had a much needed healing experience with the women I encountered on my clothes free vacation, both at the Northeast Naturist Festival at Empire Haven Nudist Park and at the clothing optional beach we visited towards the close of the adventure.
This was a very important moment for me, because my introduction to clothes free life happened through social media. And similar to what others have shared, I found it difficult to find clothes free accounts / users online that weren’t primarily focused on the human body as just a body and incessantly commenting on it sexually. I have seen various genders post those kinds of images and have seen various genders make sexual commentary on pictures, even when the images were not at all about that subject. Read more clothes free vacation pt. 5: the women