Do you have a naked-friend?

Because it’s Friday, I want to share a story about a very cool girl I once met.

You know how we all have that naked friend. You know the one who always ends up skinny dipping in a golf course pond, or signing the anthem to the moon in the buck, or egging every one on to play strip poker. Well, it got me wondering about Nudism…..

It’s Hard to Judge a Book Without a Cover

Jessica is 16 years old. She is an avid volleyball player, a landscape painter in her spare time and when she grows up, she wants to be an accountant or an interior decorator. Like most of her peers at her London high school, she is worried about finishing her biology homework.

But unlike most 16-year-olds Jessica is an expert at keeping secrets. She has been keeping one for years, actually, for as long as she can remember.

Jessica is a nudist.

She decided to use a pseudonym – not because she is ashamed of her secret – but because she knows something about the speed at which gossip can travel through high school corridors.

The petite, athletic teenager was raised a nudist by her mom and dad and spends most of her summer days wearing not one stitch of clothing. On lake Huron, 100 kilometres north east of London, she swims, plays ping -pong and hikes with other nudists at the Ponderosa Nature Resort.

Nature, in this case, means natural and nude – a distinction, Jessica explained many have failed to grasp. “So many people get confused because (the resort) is called a nature park. So a bunch of people come in with these outfits on, like they’re looking for animals when they come in. It’s no where near what they think,” she said.

Jessica fondly remembers growing up in a nudist environment. “When you go away for the summer you get to be completely free. It’s pretty relaxing. I always had a lot of fun and pretty much, not a care in the world,” she said.

When she goes to the resort in the summer she tells her friends she is going to her cottage near Hamilton. So far they haven’t asked too many questions, but one day, Jessica hopes to tell them the truth about her lifestyle. She is very worried about their reactions.

“(Some people) think because it is being nude, it’s something you should be doing privately and not something you should be doing around a group of people. Everyone gets misconceptions of what it actually is,” she said. “I guess people think that something inappropriate might be happening because of the circumstances.”

Though Jessica fears judgement from those around her, she feels her experiences have helped her be more tolerant and accepting of others.

“I am more open than I could have been and I’m more accepting of other people no matter what they look like,” she said. “I don’t judge people as fast as I probably would have if I hadn’t been brought up a nudist.”

Jessica said many opinions are formed about others based on the clothing that they wear. When there is no clothing, you have to find out what the person is like before you make an opinion she said. This enables many persons of all ages, from very different backgrounds, to gather and become friends.

Called ‘The Pond’, by residents of the camp, Ponderosa caters to families. The members compete for the best tan and call newcomers cottontails because they often have white bottoms. Tan lines are frowned upon, as they advertise the inhibitions of being outside, in the sun, in the textile world.

Nudists use the term textile to describe places where clothing is required.

There is, however, a shortage of people from the ages of 16 to 25 at the camp. When their bodies begin to change, young people often begin to feel self-conscious. Jessica blames puberty. Many of the nudist friends that Jessica grew up with, will now only swim at night or have stopped coming to the camp altogether.

Shame or self-consciousness about her body is alien to Jessica. “It doesn’t matter whether I’m short, tall, skinny or not. You get to see pretty much every kind of person (at the nudist camp) and after a while it’s pretty hard to judge yourself after seeing like…everything.”

Jessica says she is so comfortable in the nudist environment because her parents introduced it to her at such a young age.

After reading about a nudist camp in the London Free Press in 1979, Jessica’s mother and father got involved in nudism.

Though hesitant to go and terrified at the prospect of baring it all, Jessica’s mother was eventually persuaded by her husband to sample the nude camp. She describes her first experience as exhausting. It was her own stress that initially caused discomfort but she now describes the nudist camp as “completely relaxing”.

“You don’t see many body beautifuls there. It’s not a body thing. It’s a mind thing. I see Grand Bend Beach as a body thing,” she said.

Jessica’s mom had no qualms about introducing her little girl to nudist camps. “I always felt it was a safe place to bring her. If I hadn’t it wouldn’t have happened. But because of the family atmosphere, and because we had already been members for seven years, I felt safe bringing her there and raising her there,” she said.

“I wish I was as lucky as Jessica because in my upbringing it would have been unheard of to change my clothing in front of my mother without some modesty. I think Jessica has a better handle on nudity and sexuality. At a very young age she knew that nudity did not mean sex, has nothing to do with sex.”

Unwanted onlookers, who may have other ideas about what nudity means, are a hazard at nudist camps. They may be nude as well, but Jessica’s mother says, “when you come across them, you know them in a flash.” Usually alone, they do not involve themselves with the community.

Jessica recalls seeing one man ‘reading’ a book upside-down for 45 minutes. “Jessica can pick out the oddballs pretty quickly,” her mother said, “and the members of the community really look out for each other.”

Nudism is an important part of Jessica’s life and of who she is. During the winter, she joins the Forest City Family Naturists for nude swims twice a month. She always sees a familiar face and spends time reminiscing about the summer.

Jessica can’t imagine what life would be like without the freedom to be naked. The only disadvantage she says is being young and not wanting friends at school to have ammunition for nicknames and teasing.

When her mother asks what she will do if her future husband doesn’t want to be a nudist, Jessica responds, with 16-year-old righteousness, “Well you got convinced to do it, didn’t you?”

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