I was going through a box of old papers and found, to my great surprise, a short piece I wrote years ago (as in, approximately 34 years ago) about, of all things, social nudism. It’s written in pencil on lined notebook paper, with a grade of ‘A’ – it happens to be an assignment I wrote for Spanish class. I would have been around 17 or 18, with just a few years of high school Spanish under my belt. Today, I teach Spanish, so of course it’s very telling for me to look back on this and see how I made a lot of the same mistakes that my current students do!
I’m resurrecting it here not for anything related to the language: certainly my intermediate-level vocabulary and grammar in the assignment could only hamper what I was trying to write. (For example, I simply translated “birthday suit” literally, but, as I would learn much later, the Spanish phrase “traje de cumpleaños” is more like a particular birthday outfit for kids and not the euphemism for nudity that it is in English.) My purpose here is rather to show how just how much I was interested in naturism even at that age. As so many of us do when young, I had already heard the call to abandon clothing! And yet, other than streaking naked around my room as a little kid sometime in the ’70s to the accompaniment of Ray Stevens’ “The Streak,” I didn’t have any experience with nudism until the early ’90s when I would have been around 23 – a skinnydipping experience at the pool on the last night of summer camp.
Fundamentally, this little writing sample shows how my outlook toward naturism has evolved. My attitude then was one of mere curiosity, and my assertions in the essay reveal my ignorance at that time. For example, you’ll see I made the rookie mistake of calling nudist enclaves ‘colonies,’ and further confusing such places with free beaches. According to my immature writing, nudists don’t even wear jewelry, and they stand around naked and cold in the winter! The ending line of the essay is what I find the funniest – it’s an ironic contrast from my current viewpoint as an avowed naturist who has written two published novels, two serialized novellas, a play, poems, short stories, numerous blogposts, and three (to date) articles for N magazine, all on the topic of naturism!
Here is the English translation of this little gem from approximately 1985:
Birthday Suits and Their Wearers
“There is a modern lifestyle that is also a style of dress, or rather a style of undress. Although they may not make up a large part of the population, there are many people who prefer to live without clothes, in naked colonies. These nudists go about the activities of their lives without wearing shoes, nor underwear, nor even jewelry. The colonies are usually located on beaches, but the residents get cold in the winter because the facilities are very primitive.
However, the nudists say that going without clothes is like paradise – nature in its purest form. They argue that being naked gives them a totally free spirit, and that ‘what you wear is what constrains you.’ When confronted by accusations of sexual perversion, they respond that they see naked bodies every day, a condition which, with time, makes them immune to constant desire. On the contrary, the nudists accuse our society of its immorality, with our strippers, streakers, topless bars, and other examples of public pornography. Maybe they are right. I don’t know, but I am grateful for clothes.”
At the end of the essay, my teacher wrote “¡Yo también!” (Me too!) – she also felt thankful for her clothes. And of course, really we all do: any true naturist is grateful for clothing when necessary for protection or for warmth. But that last line I think is what is so interesting – the sense of relief, as if to say, “phew, this naked stuff sounds interesting and quaint, but, nah, it ain’t for me”. Even though I had obviously understood and expressed the basics of naturist philosophy in that second paragraph, I still felt the need to skirt away from it at the end. Maybe because it was a class assignment, maybe because I was not yet convinced… It was as if I were trying to convince myself but stepped away from it in the end, unable to believe in the true functionality of such a lifestyle – a lifestyle that seems to have sincerely captured my interest, but which I only understood quite poorly at that time, and with which I had no direct experience yet.
Ah, youth! Fortunately, attitudes can turn on a dime. Often one great experience, like the night I went skinnydipping some six years after I wrote that essay, is all it takes to change an attitude forever. We need more youth like the folks in this photo below – they are already on the right track!