Sunday, July 6, 2008

The naked truth

We went camping this past weekend. This is nothing unusual, lots and lots of people pack their cars and drive off to someplace in the woods where they can gaze into a fire and slap at mosquitos. What differentiates the camping I did this weekend was that I went to a nudist camp.

There are a lot of things I could tell you about this place. It is a lovely, quiet setting. It's not prurient, no orgies or wild sexual escapades. If anything it's like spending time with a bunch of kids who can drive. And happen to be naked. And the bodies? Just like yours. The average age is probably close to 60. It's a bunch of really nice, ordinary people, who happen to like not wearing clothing.

There are some rules, spoken and unspoken.
- You get more direct eye contact at a nudist camp than you will anywhere else in your life - you're not supposed to look, even though I suspect most people peek. You don't catch anyone peeking, instead everyone looks right at your face whenever you talk with them.  
- There is some smugness about being at a nudist camp. If you somehow manage to forget that everyone there is naked, sooner or later, someone will remind you that in some way we are a little bit better because we camp naked. I don't really agree with this, but it is in the air.
- There are some real rules about keeping everything pretty much asexual (no significant touching (there are kids around), no visible body jewelry below the waist, etc etc.).
- Conversation is light, no politics or other heavy stuff. I suspect this is because we're already so exposed no one wants to be more so.
- If you're playful, you're better off. It's a really silly bunch, with silly senses of humor.
And so on. It's all friendly, polite and very sociable. This is not the kind of camping you do if you want quiet communion with nature.

I don't really care much one way or the other about being naked, though there is something nice about the nude sunbathing and hot tubbing whenever I want, not to mention not having to worry about clothing getting wet in the inevitable rain. What I find really interesting about this place is the community. I don't know if it's because everyone is naked, so there isn't really much left to hide, or because it's a bunch of people drawn together by one common, relatively unusual interest but this group of people seems to be strikingly honest and open with each other.

If someone has a problem, everyone knows about it. Yes, this could just be common gossip, but it seems deeper that that. People want to help. They want to talk and be listened to. The underlying assumption is that if you are there, you are part of a community that will help each other.

I show up with my tent and gear, people stop to assist me, even though they all have their trailers and permanent sites and barely know my name. I don't ask, they just do it. There are potluck dinners where we are fed even if we have nothing to share and the response is just delight that we came. A few years ago I mentioned the PMC to one person; within 15 minutes an announcement was made over the PA systems and people can running, literally, to give me money for the ride. People I didn't know, people I knew didn't have much money, people who were doing it because they cared. When I've asked in other communities, with people who know me better and have more money, I don't get anything like that kind of response. It is truly remarkable.

I don't know if it's because everyone there has the great equalizer of being naked, being revealed for all to see. I don't know if it's because it's simply a kind of community I hadn't had the good luck to encounter before and it exists elsewhere, with clothing on. I do know I am grateful for it and if I have to drop trou be part of it, then I will.

Oh, and that recurring nightmare about performing naked? Not such a big deal, stories are stories no matter where you tell them.

(c) 2008 Laura S. Packer
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