Recently, my friend became a naturist. I re-read her email twice to make sure she hadn’t said “naturalist”. But no: there it was in 12 point Verdana, as clear as the shock on my face: “I’ve joined a naturism society”.
I couldn’t be more shocked had she joined a satanic cult. Not only is she English to an almost stereotypical degree (reserved to the point of inhibition – or so I thought – and sporting milk-pale skin prone to burning) but she lives for Doris Day musicals and her politics make Sarah Palin look liberal.
And yet her new hobby is meeting up with people she doesn’t know… and taking off all her clothes.It’s one thing to get together with a group of like-minded people who want to change the world, or learn Spanish, or gossip about Brangelina. But naturists are united by nothing more than the fact that they have bodies. Once they’ve gotten nekkid and walked about a bit, what else is there to do? You’re not even supposed to be judging anyone’s looks.
Yet my friend says she’s enjoying her new hobby a lot. I say, Shouldn’t a hobby be something you can use to pad out your resume? Maybe even something you can tell your colleagues and grandparents about, without being considered some sort of sexual deviant? Not that naturism is about sexual deviance: it’s not a prelude to an orgy and naturists swear there’s nothing sordid about it. But the first naturist event Katrina (not her real name) attended was a group swim after which she apparently “got a lot of compliments”. I’d like to think she had been noticed for her breast stroke rather than her breasts but when she later came back from an under-30s nudist vacay with a stack of men’s phone numbers that could rival the Manhattan White Pages, even she had to acknowledge that it wasn’t only my suspicious nature that had been aroused. The British Naturist’s society website says that “Naturism is non-sexual nudity,” but who’s around to enforce what people are thinking?
The site then goes on to state that many people are prejudiced against displays of nudity. But I’m not sure not wanting to see the naked bodies of people I’ve never met before can really be considered a prejudice. And naturists aren’t doing much to challenge misconceptions when they propel my young and pretty friend to a level of popularity saggy septuagenarians must rarely experience.
Maybe there are some naturists who barely (ha ha) notice the imperfections of others, who aren’t lecherous or exhibitionistic but just love the feeling of not wearing clothes. I can accept that, but I can’t understand it. Maybe because I like wearing clothes so darn much (for one thing, they’re nice and warm). But I won’t be forming a club with other people who also wear clothes; that would just be weird.
Nor will I be joining a society so I have somewhere to strip off without being judged. I already have a place I can do that: it’s called my apartment.