On This Winter Solstice

Can you practice skyclad indoors?

If so, that’s what I’m doing on this Winter Solstice. The height of privilege is to be in the Northern Hemisphere but to be able to be nude and commune with the earthly pull of this time of year. I am in a very warm house, fortunate by life’s circumstances to enjoy these moments, to feel deep connection, to welcome the light back into life on this shortest day of the year.

When I think about light, I think about lightness, as well. The relief of burdens, the shaking free of that which has built up over the year. I am not a well-practiced person of spirit. In fact, I often forget a lot about that side of my nature as the events and pressures of everyday living mount, clouding the mind. The Solstice, especially the one in winter, is the time for me to remember that I am a spiritual being in a human body and that all of this is an illusion, a creation we’re all making up as we go along.

So, what do we create that is new? What narratives can we bring into the world about how to be – with ourselves, with others, with nature, with the rest of humanity, with the ethereal?

The return to light is the return to hope, the return to outward presence versus inward thought. We don’t wait for the dark at the end of the tunnel, after all.

As we cycle toward June and the ever-expanding light, let’s remember to do what we can to bring peace and kindness into the world.

Thanks for being here.

Defending Nudist Anonymity

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 11.27.52 PM.pngThere is a debate in nudist circles about whether nudists should have to be “out” to be considered worthy of complete acceptance. As a member of national organization, I have seen this play out in their letters section of a publication, where some nudists have been critical of those who choose to use pseudonyms to write articles. The argument for everyone being out seems to be that if we are not ashamed of our bodies, we should not be ashamed to admit who we are, that we should not live in the shadows.

This denies reality and could fracture our cause.

In the real world, nudists are not a protected class. We can be picked apart, made fun of, and discriminated against without repercussion. In fact, due to the dastardly anti-labor laws in this nation known as “right to work,” we can be fired for any reason. Due to deep-seated misconceptions about the human body, we are viewed suspiciously by the small-minded among us. Therefore, if a troublemaker wanted to make an issue of our nudist practices, we could lose our livelihoods.

When I read notes or articles that demand the sort of purity some nudist circles push where you have to be out to be legitimate, I am left to wonder: Will you pay someone’s bills when they are ousted from their job for being out? Will you pay for therapy and mental health support when they are ostracized by communities of which they are a part? Do you realize you are part of the closeting problem; that by insisting that we be out you delegitimize our lived-in experiences?

I am out to people close to me, but until I make a good living as a nudist, it is impractical for me to be out with a more public profile. When the privilege of publication is prevented due to anonymity, we lose a significant perspective in our movement. The story of the closeted nudist, or the one protecting her paycheck, is pushed into a sort of second-class status because we are not privileged enough to guarantee maintenance of our lives and livelihoods were we out.

Insistence that we step out from behind the veil of anonymity stifles the diverse voices of our community. It creates a caste system of purity and sends the wrong message to those who fear anti-nudist societal punishment. It’s hard enough being a nudist that there shouldn’t be rejection from “Big Nudism” simply based on closeting.

This community needs to meet people where they are and where they can be, to be a nurturing influence. We are a wonderful community already pushed into society’s margins. Let’s not marginalize our own members simply because not everyone can achieve the glory of true openness that I’m sure most of us long for.

VT Government Update

Representative Clem Bissonette (D) of Winooski has won reelection to the Vermont House. He entered an extremely brief retirement, but since his name was still on the ballot, he has chosen to take his seat. In the last legislative session, he did something quite peculiar.

At the behest of one constitutent – I repeat, ONE CONSTITUENT – he submitted an anti-nudisty bill to be considered. This bill would have annihilated our ability to enjoy Vermont’s natural beauty the best way we know how. A pastor was angry that a man who showed up nude on the streets of Burlington (well within Vermont law) and requested that his representative do something about it.

Even though Mr. Bissonette knew of no other complaints and claimed in the linked story to have no issue with the status quo of Vermont’s law, he entered House Bill 73 which made it a crime to appear anywhere in public nude – punishable by two months of jail time, no less. This would have meant: Goodbye, Ledges; goodbye, Willoughby; goodbye, secluded river spots. And hello, excessive sentencing.

If you don’t think one person can change the world as you know it, think again.

Luckily and thankfully, the bill went absolutely nowhere. But Bissonette is back.

I can’t tell if its laudable that the rep went so far as to draft a bill on behalf of one citizen. Would he move to loosen Vermont’s nudity restrictions of one constituent approached him on that issue? My guess is he wouldn’t, but you never know.

Maybe an enterprising nudist in his district should try.

Nudist Book Review: Old School Texts

When you’re in high school, you are often assigned some of the most stultifying pieces of “lit-ra-chuh,” simply because they are considered “classics.” If you’re like me, these books contributed to a hatred of reading, at least of assigned reading. Think of Moby Dick and its countless passages about the minutiae of whaling or Silas Marner, which just sucked.

Well, sad to say, but that’s what reading our historical nudist “lit-ra-chah” is like. Stilted, austere, written through what seems to be fearful eyes; fearful, perhaps, that the days were numbered on the authors’ ways of life. After all, the story is about nudism, which while a curiosity, was probably not well regarded among what would be considered “respectable company.” And given decency laws, historial Puritanism, and (let’s face it) a country that nearly a century later for some of these books has shown little growth about the human body, they probably felt they had to produce books that read like scholarly articles.

These books were a slog. Often the authors treated “the nudists” as though they were anthropologists glancing in on a foreign society. However, each book has at least one author who was or became a nudist at the time of writing. In many respects, though, it seems as though these authors were scared to write from simply their first hand experience. I suppose there wasn’t much room for the authors to write, “Yeah, that’s right! I’m a naturist and it’s awesome!” So you get pages of examples and statistics, semi-scientific polls, and some pseudoscience about the benefits.

Nudism Comes to America by the Merrills (repackaged as Naturism in the United States) presents a survey of attitudes about nudity and in the U.S. when it first arrived on these shores in the 1930s. They interview psychologists, medical doctors, researchers, and artists, among other factions, which is a worthy enterprise. It is as dry as it is worthy, though, though it is nice to see that generally, the professional world didn’t find the pursuit condemnable.

Maurice Parmelee, a sociology professor at CCNY, wrote Nudism in Modern Life, a more intimate account of the nudists/naturists in his social circle. Uncomfortably to today’s eye, Parmelee writes about bodies being beautiful or ugly and about it having a eugenic purpose to create more beautiful people. The comments about ugliness typically apply to women and he even mentions that some should just keep their clothes on. Essential if you’re a completist, but crikey, it’s not necessary.

Nudist Society and Growing up without Shame also provide exhaustive surveys of nudism in this country. The former clocks in at more than 400 pages and you feel every one of them. Published in the early 1970s, the book takes into account the fact that the sexual revolution puts a new wrinkle into the discussion. They dip into history, look at sexual behavior, family nudism, and even people who left the movement. Very long story short, the authors basically find that nudists are pretty normal people in comparison to the rest of society.

Growing up without Shame looks at family nudism and the perspectives of those who grew up as children within the movement. Based on interviews with young people and their habits as they’ve grown up, they determine that there’s no greater chance at deviance than in the clothed world. In fact, one quote in the book is that a naturist venue was “like a church camp,” basically saying, “Hey! We have morals, too.” And really, isn’t this the intention of such a book? To show that we’re good people?

The latter books are more readable, but stuffed with surveys and statistics in an effort to show nudism’s legitimacy. The boredom they induce might be by design. See? say the authors. It’s dry; it’s stuffy, it’s lit-ra-chuh; it’s scholarly! Basically, there’s nothing to see here. These folks are normal. You might be curious, but the movement isn’t turning folks into marauding hordes. In fact, they could be your neighbors.

It’s nice to get a feel for our history, but as Journey might say, “It goes on and on and on and onnnnnnnn……”

When Calvin & Hobbes Represented Me

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 7.11.34 PMOn the interwebs, you’ll see a lot of nudism articles that ask when someone decided to become a nudist. I believe that nudism is a product of nature and nurture, that not all of us decided, and if you’re like me, you were born this way.

I know I was born this way, because I had a propensity to be naked though I didn’t know what nudism was. I didn’t have familial role models, nor did I have access to anyone who was nudist. Not even a couple hippies in my suburban youth. I’d hear about nudist venues as I got a little older and think, someday… But overall, it was me alone, wondering if I were crazy.

I found solace in the little things: the occasional news story, though it was relegated to the “weird news” pile, the Andrew Martinez saga at Berkeley, or a piece of art that sneaked through to my young eyes. Sometimes, I’d pretend I was a non-human animal and imagine what it would be like just not to have to wear clothes. And that’s when Bill Watterson produced a comic that seemed aimed right at me. It’s environmental and it ends with Calvin choosing to walk as one with his non-human animal friend, casting aside his garments and striding along in his natural state.

That comic strip was a whisper that maybe I wasn’t as crazy as I thought I was, that even though this was a fictional character, the real-life human behind it had a similar impetus that led him to draw it. That Calvin had the courage to walk nude with his tiger friend through the woods, unconcerned about who might come across him, empowered me as a fellow misunderstood-in-many-ways kid. Empowered me to know that despite what society was preaching, there was another way of being.

I struggled to accept myself as a nudist, cringed at the word for years, and suppressed it to the point of making myself absolutely miserable. But through it all, that Calvin and Hobbes Sunday comic burned brightly in my mind and became a beacon that brought me through toward greater acceptance. It’s why the “I’m with you” panel graces the Twitter page for this site. And why I hold Watterson’s work in such high regard to this day.

He gets me, I thought. And that helped see me through.