At the ferry loading dock we are greeted with the antithesis of nude: old order Mennonites and IT conference goers, all collared shirts, poochy khakis and lanyards.
I am here to face my (well-founded) fear of being naked in public.
I come from a never-nude family. My mother once fled a life drawing class when the model disrobed. I regard random nudity with the mild disgust that I would view a dead baby bird that I’ve nearly stepped on. I’ve mastered the art of getting changed in gym class without ever being naked. My pasty, unremarkable body knows shame.
It is the hottest day yet on record, nearing the 100-degree mark.
I’ve brought my cheerfully-naked Polish friend, Zosia. The first time I met her mom, she sauntered over to me in the kitchen and asked me to apply sunblock to her topless body. I tried to act casual.
As we’re dropped off at Hanlan’s Point, we ask the bearded park attendant where the beach is.
“The nudey one.”
He smirks lasciviously and points us in the direction of the east.
We pass the clothing mandatory portion, covered in chiseled windsurfers majestically swooping across the water. The waves have reached a high hilt. Soon we near the clothing optional area. An old man lounges sybaritically, his corpulent buttocks glistening in the sun. A couple in matching green thongs sashays across the sand. They are shriveled to a crisp like candied pecans. We situate ourselves midway down the beach.
Zosia has brought a rosemary scone that quickly gets covered in sand. I have brought some serious reading– a copy of Psychology Today and National Geographic. I don’t want to come across as some sort of foul voyeur peering over my trashy US Weekly. Just a somber day of reflection, nude.
Lifeguards emerge to place colored flags on the beach. Is this Germany? E. coli? What does it all mean?
Consumed with thoughts of impending nudity, I don’t properly lay out my towel. Soon I am tangled and bedraggled, caked with sand. The sand’s ‘intimate’ intrusion is a very real threat. Very real. I gnaw on a gritty scone. Time to get down to brass tacks.
The top comes off without too much agony and the sun feels lovely. Zosia admonishes me to use extra lotion on the nips. We position the umbrella in the sand, against the wind and firmly implanted. I draw the line at running naked after an umbrella across the beach.
I don’t want to appear too sensual with my sunscreen application so I find myself saying “BLAM! BLAM!” as I slap it on with great force.
Now to the bottoms. I recall when my friend Suzy was accosted by a flasher at a bus stop. He had rigged up an elaborate system of reveal. He loosened his drawstring jogging pants and dropped them while slowly raising a piece of paper over his face, save for his eyes. Zosia was horrified. Suzy just sighed and said; “Oh Zosia. Live… and let live.” It is at this time I try to channel the spirit of Suzy. Off come the bottoms in a fell swoop. No one gives a shit! I’ll just do this. Bare-assed, like the Coppertone baby, I am as naked as the day I was born.
I figured I’d be surrounded by gay men and (happily) ignored. This is not necessarily the case. A replicant of Bela Lugosi orbits us perpetually, wearing only a white t-shirt, free from the shackles of pants. His attention to our bare chests would insinuate that he is quite straight.
“This is like Native Americans and their first brush with photography,’ remarks Zosia. “I feel like when he gazes at my nudity, he steals a part of my soul.”
I glance over at the water’s edge. “Look Zosia,” I muse. “A travelling adventurer from.. Australia?”
“I think that man is homeless,” she mutters, deadpan.
We decide to tackle the water. It is impossible to not be self-conscious while walking upright, I am eager to get this part over with (also, I have to pee). The water is perfect. It does feel better naked. And it’s rinsing off the sand that has invaded my body.
“The sea is a very tactile lover,” chortles Zosia.
This isn’t so terrible, I mean it’s totally friggin’ weird, but not terrible. I scan the human varietals surrounding me. Single men reading weighty tomes. Micro-penises. Macro-penises. Saggy boobs. Pert boobs. Tramp stamps. Couples holding hands and patting asses. Hippie sun worshippers addressing their 4000th consecutive day on the beach. I see the future before me and it ain’t pretty, but it’s oddly comforting. The great equalizer of age hits us all and takes us right back to the beginning.