ESPN’s Body Issue and the Naturist

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A cover of ESPN’s Body Issue

I’ve always been two minds about the ESPN Body Issue. The positives are that they show strong bodies designed to complete impossible-seeming tasks. Though they are all athletes, not everyone has a 2% body fat composition, so they manage to celebrate the human form, but not just one type of human form. And they are unabashed that this is not a swimsuit issue; those bodies – well-known “models” from the world of sports – are nude.

The negatives derive from how they frame the issue. Each year, they promote these as “Bodies We Want.” On the one hand, this could be a throwaway line. But on the other, it fetishizes a certain type of body – the strong, athletic, heavily worked-out body – as the ideal, the one worthy of our gaze. And admiration. It can be a backhanded way of contributing to body shame, since many of us don’t have the time to “achieve” those “bodies we want.” We are not worthy of being in such an issue, because no one would want ours.

But the Body Issue is a huge step forward in how the body is presented for public consumption. There is no shame attached to these images. And while the former ESPN ombudsman received a few complaints, it is, on the whole, embraced. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did; nor would it receive the attention it gets on their website’s front page when released. It is unabashed. Not shy. Not hiding behind a brown wrapper.

However, think of the struggle nudists/naturists have in gaining wider public acceptance. For many of us, we sit with the fears that if we are found out (or reveal our true selves) that we will be rejected or ostracized by society, jobs, friends, and family. We don’t hold the wealth of the professional athlete, nor are we celebrated nationally, both things that insulate the athlete models from the backlash a regular old nudist might experience. They can continue on, because it’s a one-off. It’s not “who they are.” It’s a day of play-acting. Those of us for whom this is daily life don’t have such luxuries. And that’s sad.

IMG_2928.JPGI was born a nudist, to the point where I struggle to label it because it’s just me. It has always been my inclination. I did not choose to be this way; I just am. It is so intrinsic to who I am that I don’t enjoy hiding from it (I have to my own personal detriment), though there are risks for someone lay nudists being unabashed the way those in the Body Issue are. Yet, after years of struggling with my own body positivity, my own body acceptance, and my own confidence in being just who I am, I have realized that I am actually in the body I want. It’s got me this far in life.

My hope is that ESPN is actually helping to normalize non-sexual nudity, which is the nudist/naturist dream. Unlike “swimsuit” issues, they aren’t projecting a salacious model to their readership. They do show people with larger guts, muscles, curves, and without thigh gaps. They are all one type – the powerful athletic type – but they provide a step in the right direction.

The next message should be – want your own body, but celebrate the human form.

Winter Naturist: Catching Zzz’s

In the cold northeast, it’s not very possible to engage in much naturist activity unless you crank the heat and watch the money fly out of your wallet to some such energy company. So, nudism isn’t particularly practical in the winter. There is one naturist “activity,” though, that you can take part in while the snow falls and the wind swirls: Sleep.

One enjoyable aspect of nudism is being cognizant you are part of it, so you might want to tuck in earlier than usual if you want to be awake for this activity. But we’ll take what we can get. Since adopting nude sleeping almost exclusively about a decade ago, I find that I sleep better and perhaps more deeply. I certainly don’t have the twisted in sheets and clothing wake-ups I used to have. And it turns out there are a host of reasons to sleep nude.

Here are a few articles highlighting the benefits:

  • Forbes: Since it’s Forbes, they say it can make you wealthier.
  • HealthlineFrom the angle of natural health measures.
  • ShapeKeeping your internal organs physcially fit.
  • Psychology TodayMental and physical health benefits are mentioned.
  • Men’s Journal CosmoA little saucier, but also some sound reasons geared toward men’s and women’s health.

The top reason should be that it feels good, but if you’re new to this world, having some social and physical science to back up your new habit probably helps. And it definitely helps pass the long nights until the swimming holes are hospitable for human use.

Visitor, You Are Appreciated

All – Thanks for reading the occasional blog pieces and for supporting the journey by your presence here.

  • If you chime in with comments, I do my best to engage, and hopefully you find that we can have a civil conversation.
  • If you’d like to connect on Twitter, you can here: https://twitter.com/fullvermonty
  • If you feel there are ways to capture the Vermont nudist/naturist experience on these pages, let me know. Someone complained in a different venue about the lack of mention of Vermont freehiking. I have not been able to find a reliable resource for it, but if you know of anything, drop a line at: fullvermonty2018@gmail.com

That First Time

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A view from Little Beach, Maui

I am alone.

6,000 miles from home.

A tropical island.

I had my first socially nude experience about as far away as I could get from people who knew me. I was alone on Little Beach on Maui, surrounded by people much more comfortable about the situation than I. I had been anxious, at once with anticipation, but also concerned that someone I know might see me.

Stop. Right. There.

If you’re on a nude beach and you see someone you know, you are among kindred spirits. It is quite likely that they didn’t just stumble over a ginormous lava flow and have their clothes blow off themselves in a gust of wind. So, if they see you, you are also seeing them. Enjoy the fact that you know someone who is a nudist.

But, that was not remotely where my mind was that day.

For me, it was a momentous occasion. A childhood of sneaking around and finding time alone at the house. Of being embarassed because I wasn’t aware that there was a whole community of people out there like me. Of assuming I was weird or odd or worse.

We’re all weird, I can say now, of course. In our own way, that is. We all have something about us that someone isn’t going to like. Or that someone will ridicule. Or lord over your head before you’re ready to share that part of yourself.

So, there I was. Looking around. The Pacific Ocean. The perfect weather. The warm breeze. The SPF 50 slathered all over me. Just have to drop trou and take the shirt off. Any moment now.

Other people were just so casual. So at ease with themselves, settling into their spot, and prepping so matter-of-factly. I was in an area where my standing there clothed made me the oddball. The one who was different from everyone around me. And so, with a deep breath of anticipation, I finally crossed that imaginary line that I’d been waiting years to step over. One small step for man. One giant leap for me.

And there I was. Settled on my blanket. Nose in a book.

Alone among my people.

6,000 miles away.

And free.

Winter Naturist: Cabin Fever

Here in Vermont, we expect to close out the weekend with a foot of snow. Spring begins in three weeks. Typically, though, warmth begins in two-to-three months, so it’s around now that we get itchy to get outside. To at least shed our heaviest coats and dream of when the biting cold gives way to warm breezes swirling about us in late spring and summer.

It’s around now when we remember trips of years past. Little Beach and various waterfalls and private lagoons on Maui; Pirate’s Cove in California; hikes along the east coast; a naturist B&B in Florida; and of course our beloved local swimming holes here in Vermont.

Have a look:

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Little Beach, Maui, on a Sunday evening, when exclusive naturism gives way to drumming.

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Pirate’s Cove, California

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Marrero’s Guest Mansion, Key West

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The iconic tree at Ledges, Vermont