Body Image Rollercoaster

Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 5.05.25 PM“Boy am I out of shape!”

That’s what I thought when I looked at this photograph after it was taken. And it’s true, I haven’t been diligent in recent years at getting exercise. As the rigors of life have taken over my schedule, I’ve found myself with less time to tend my own garden, and so I’ve let some things go.

At the same time, I’m not that out of shape. In fact, I’ve been running 3-5 miles per run for several months now. This could very well be the body of an athlete, albeit one who has gained a few pounds since starting to run again.

I run because I love it and this body completes the routes I set for it. I’m slower than I was half a lifetime ago, but I enjoy every minute of it. I no longer run out of hatred for my body, out of a desire to reduce my weight drastically because I have disordered thinking about my body. In fact, I run because I love my body and all the trials it has helped me to survive up until now.

And yet, when I saw that photo, my first thought was to take it down, to hide it, and to not bring out another photo until I had worked myself back into the shape seen in older photos I have.

I didn’t. And I guess that’s saying something.

A nudist friend and I were conversing about body image and we came to some conclusions: We agree that all bodies are beautiful and have value. We accept all bodies as they are. We believe that no person should have to change to fit a standard.

And we find it extremely hard to apply this standard to ourselves.

For ourselves, it is judgment galore. It is less for me than it was when I was weighing myself up to 20 times a day, when I was 30 pounds lighter but felt hopelessly “fat,” when I ran 90 miles a week chasing an impossible physique. But still, when I see what I view as an imperfection in myself, I recoil a bit.

Re-embracing nudism has saved me from the darker impulses of poor body image. It has even brought me toward greater body acceptance in myself and others. I could judge others as ruthlessly as I did myself, because I was looped into the images projected on screens, on billboards, and in magazines. I was a victim of that messaging and made others the victim of my thoughts. As I forgave myself, I was able to see the beauty in others. For myself, sometimes I see the beauty through tinted glasses.

When I look at old photos of myself, I am never as hideous as I thought I was when the photo was taken. And I try to remind myself of that now. That I’m fine just the way I am. That if I want to get in “better shape,” I had best due it out of love of self, not hatred for how I think I look. And that in ten years, I’m probably going to wonder why I was so harsh on myself.

I’m tired of living for tomorrow when I look at the present, rather than viewing the present through a lens honest appraisal. I guess the photo is not so bad, even though I want to be in better shape for better health.

I didn’t take the photo down. And that counts for something.

Follow on Twitter: @thefullvermonty

For a Nudist’s Potential Twitter Followers

Nudism is not porn. I repeat, nudism is not porn.

The reason for this is that nudism is not porn. It has never been porn, nor will it be porn. Primiarly, that is because nudism is not porn.

However, if we dig in a little more deeply, we will find that nudism is not porn. If a pornbot on social media uses the word “nudist” to describe their pornography, it does not mean that nudism is porn. Similarly, I can scream to you that the sky is green, but that does not make it so. Mostly, this is because nudism is not porn.

What about naturism?

Not porn.

Clothing-optionalism? General nakedness?

Not porn and not porn.

How about pornography?

Yes, that is porn. But porn – guess what –

IS!

👏

NOT!

👏

NUDISM!

👏

Thus, stop following us. Stop pretending. There is a whole world out there that will welcome your pornography, but true nudism pages aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

In summation, nudism is not porn.

This has been a public service announcement from the world of nudism. Enough already. Please.

Follow on Twitter: @thefullvermonty

Taking on the Inadequacy Industry

IMG_3037.JPGSince birth, we have been spoon-fed the idea that we aren’t good enough. Advertisement tells us we aren’t good enough. Entertainment tells us we aren’t good enough. Religion tells us we aren’t good enough. Politics tells us we aren’t good enough. School tells us we aren’t good enough. Hopefully, our parents provide the corrective, but some aren’t so lucky. Taken together, I’ve long called this the Inadequacy Industry.

The Inadequacy Industry chips away at our psyche. Makes us feel “less than” or that we need to improve something. There’s always something wrong with us. The confidence of a child running with abandon becomes the stressed out teen wondering why they have no friends becomes the exhausted adult putting in empty hours to get ahead becomes the midlife crisis that will be resolved through shopping for expensive things. Faster. Higher. Stronger. Better. And if you slip even once, remember this important thing…

You are not good enough!

What would we buy if we were good enough? Probably a lot less stuff. Because we’d truly be comfortable in our own skin. We wouldn’t need that cream or makeup or diet or dress or shoe or tie or car or gadget. The lawn could even have weeds!

So, is it any wonder people are a bit fearful of the exposure of nudism? I’m not even 100% comfortable in my skin. I find that while I lay off judging others, I am my harshest critic. I feel “fat” though ostensibly I’m not. And so what if I were anyway? Those couple sentences are ultimately what makes me an Inadequacy Industry Success Story. I know there’s nothing wrong with how any body presents, but still apply a rude and unrealistic standard to how I present.

My Success Story is that I’ve never felt like the best looking person in the room. I’ve often felt in the moment that I was hideous. Then I look back at pictures and wonder what on earth I was thinking. Why did I lack for confidence? And how did I try to resolve it? Better clothes, a gym membership I never used, running 90 miles a week, an obsessive viewing of the scale weighing myself 20 times a day.

That was half a lifetime ago, luckily, and I’ve been working ever since at becoming an Inadequacy Industry Failure. The body image issues are slow to dissipate, because they burrow into your brain when you’re most vulnerable. See, the Inadequacy Industry doesn’t just tell you you’re ugly, it tells you you’re unworthy of love and kindness because you haven’t yet fixed yourself. Why do diets fail? Why do exercise regimes fail? Because the Industry doesn’t want you to truly be better, because then it’s funding would run out. So, you do the brief fix, but you’re still not happy since now you’re malnourished, underfed, and still haven’t received messaging that you are good, decent, wonderful, and worthy.

For me, embracing my nudist self has helped to shift it. It’s not gone completely, but we have a diverse community that is accepting of one another where they are in their journey. We have the friendliest and most encouraging community of people I’ve ever met. The openness to each other and the welcome nature of folks within the nudist community can provide the richness of spirit the Inadequacy Industry fails to provide while profiting off of our misery. Perhaps nudists are frowned upon, because on the whole, we have already rejected the messaging of the whole Industry.

In that rejection is when we heal. That is when we find the courage to love ourselves for who we are. That is when we embrace ourselves as perfect as we are. Because we’ll never add up to those who have monetized our self worth. And by failing at their game, we succeed where it matters most.

Topfreedom Deserves Our Support

Screen Shot 2019-10-19 at 11.12.50 AM

@freethenipple film poster

I take for granted that I can go out without a shirt should I so choose. And though I advocate for nudist rights, nudism and topfreedom are two distinct entities. For nudists, we’re all in a struggle for rights in the face of ignorance, because being fully unclothed is typically restricted across the board. For topfreedom advocates, we have an equal rights situation where the law is applied differently to men and women. And it’s built on a very masculine view of what is and isn’t appropriate for public viewing. Since men have sexualized the female breast throughout history, we have created laws that restrict its viewing for more salacious moments. So, I believe there is a very strong Equal Protection case to be made that banning topfreedom for women is discriminatory and puts an undue burden on women to conform to a law limited to their body’s makeup.

Additionally, as we become more aware of the fluidity of gender, that we’re not merely the binary types that have been fed to us by our collective cultural hypnotism, banning toplessness for “women” or “female breasts” is actually more complicated than first thought out.

Here’s where folks might say, “When I was a kid, we didn’t have all these genders!” as if that’s a valid argument. Truth is, we did. Nonbinary genders, though, typically didn’t have the visibility that they have now. But they existed, perhaps buried deep in “the closet” or in safe spaces or anywhere out of sight of the type of people who get angry at the idea that someone else might express their human beingness differently from themselves (and for fellow nudists that might sound familiar). So, let’s cut to the chase. There have always been nonbinary genders, but society ensured we didn’t have to think much about the topic.

And while I believe that makes it even more likely to cause toplessness bans to be lifted, we should bring back some focus on the discrimination against what we would identify as the female breast if the person identifies as female. There are many people who fit this category.

So, what of this offending nipple? On a hot day, I can run into the water with just trunks on, if at a clothed beach. Women can’t let their bodies breathe the same way. At the beach, a man with large breasts can stand in the water and feel the breeze, while a woman with smaller breasts must be contained. The key is that they are all breasts. Men get breast cancer, too. It’s technically what that area is.

Society is nothing if not full of enforced conformity. And for years, women have been unequal, even here in the so-called “land of the free.” Women couldn’t own property; women couldn’t vote; women couldn’t marry without permission; women were discouraged from working and then got harassed in the workplace; women are looked down upon for not having children, for having children and working, for having too few children, for having too many children, for having children and not having energy, for aging naturally; and as we see from the Me Too movement, we have surface gains while misogyny is still the way of the world.

Here’s hoping Top Freedom wins out, for the sake of sensibility, for the sake of individuality, for the sake of equality.

To me, it seems that men in suits are far more likely to lead to the collapse of civil society than topless women ever will.

 

 

Why “Nudist” Is My Identity

fullsizeoutput_ba74I have struggled immensely to refer to my identity as a nudist. I’ve said I was a clothing-optionalist. I’ve been a naturist. But the word “nudist” has often caused me to recoil.

I was a kid who preferred to be out of clothes, but I was closeted about it, because I had no reference points in my life for what was going on with me. The religion in which I partook instilled a deep sense of body shame. So, I was very confused. Any time I heard the word “nudist,” it involved criticism, jokes, and judgment.

The word “nudist” was a pejorative. Why would I want to call myself something everyone makes fun of?

As I slowly worked myself out of the closet and began to own my identity, I went through the word salad rather than using the one word that identified me best. It’s as though if I took that word on for myself, I’d be inviting the ridicule of the ignorant onto myself. Society doesn’t have much understanding of clothing optional living, so why doubly heap myself with scorn?

Recently, I outed myself to some of my best friends. It’s funny – people I’ve known since before I became more open about myself still don’t know this aspect of my life. When I did, I tossed it off in a text about am unrelated overarching topic, but one that could be drawn back to the theme of bodily autonomy. In the text, I referred to myself as a nudist. I did it easily. Because that’s really how I identify.

A nudist doesn’t mind being without clothes in a variety of situations. While a naturist uses the root of “nature” to describe themselves, for me, the commonality is being nude wherever. This year, in fact, I didn’t get much to my outdoor spots, so there hasn’t been much naturism to my nudism. It’s been all nudism.

My friends blew right through the text. I assume they saw it, but they never said a word about it. I said I assumed they knew, but if not, “Surprise!” So, either they’re like most people who know how I identify and don’t think it’s a big deal or they were horrified. I might never know.

After many years, I’ve come to realize that people who poke fun are doing so out of discomfort, likely with themselves. So, finding someone they think of as weaker and picking them apart make them feel pretty good. So, using nudist almost as a slur, a way of dividing people, of making them feel “less than” is a strategy of those afflicted with shame of their own. That should never have stopped me from accepting and embracing who I am.

What’s odd is that for the amount of fun had at the nudist community’s expense, I have not met in this world a more accepting, open, compassionate group of people. Perhaps it’s because we’re all used to the cutting comments and the way society treats us, we just are relieved to be among our own people. Sort of a bunker mentality, where other differences – money, jobs, political beliefs, religion – are literally stripped away as we gather in common cause.

Given my experiences at several nudist venues around the country, the word should be an honorific, should be something to aspire to rather than be ashamed of. By owning the word “nudist” and applying it to my identity, I honor my community and I honor myself.