I have met the nudist, and it is me!

by Leslie Nicoll

Early in 1998, if you had asked me to describe myself, nudist would not have occurred to me. Eight months ago I still would have been hesitant to call myself a nudist-in-process. Now, here I am, "naked-in-front-of-the-computer" and writing about my new nudist lifestyle for all the world. For me, the change was dramatic, profound, and personally transforming.

Becoming a nudist involved a process of self-exploration and reflection. It began as a solo endeavour, expanded to include my husband, then a world of Internet friends, and at the last my children. Although my first "real" social nude experience occurred only last spring, I feel like nudism has been part of my life forever. I share my experiences and look forward to being nude in social situations. All this in less than a year?!

Yes and no. Yes, many of these changes have occurred in just a few months. But no, because I realized that in my heart I have been a nudist for at least 30 years. I have clear memories of being young, happy, and nude, skinny dipping or playing in the sand.

When I was eleven with a friend named Jody we went out with our mothers, my grandmother, and another woman. The four grown-ups disappeared after telling Jody and me to wait in the car. It was a beautiful summer day, warm and sunny. The woods beckoned us. Somehow we got out of our clothes and out of the car. We fashioned some nature dance with elaborate steps and lots of "bottom bumping." We were so wrapped up in what we were doing, we never noticed the return of the four grown-ups. We looked up just in time to see four chins collectively fall to the ground and horrified looks replace previously smiling faces.

We were told several times how bad we were. But when we pressed the issue, they could never tell us what we had done wrong. Taking our clothes off is wrong? No, we do that every night before our bath. Dancing in the woods naked? That might not be socially acceptable, but we were in a secluded location where no one saw us. Finally, they settled on embarrassment. "You embarrassed me," said my grandmother. "That is what you did wrong."

For years that lesson framed my activities. If taking my clothes off would embarrass someone, then I should not do it. But I eagerly joined in situations which would not be embarrassing.

Here's an example. Years later, at a college fraternity party, there must have been 30 of us who sneaked into the university pool one midnight. No one had suits, no one cared. We swam, we lounged, we talked. It was less sexually charged than the party at the frat house. No one was sneaking off to the bedrooms upstairs.

For the record, when I met Tony, who became my husband, I fell in love and never looked back--20 years now. He and I have always enjoyed being nude together; but until recently, our nude activities were pretty traditional. We slept nude, read, watched television, but rarely ventured beyond the bedroom door. Our children often joined us in television or reading, so they saw us nude. But doing something non-traditional, like having a nude dinner, didn't occur to us.

Fast forward to 1998. I had the opportunity to visit with a high school friend whom I had not seen in 25 years. We had a terrific time laughing, telling stories, and looking at yearbooks. But like the old song, his happy mask hid an unhappy person. On the surface, he had everything he wanted: nice home, good job, fabulous car, lots of friends. But one thing he said stuck with me: "I am not happy with my body."

Now, this guy had no reason for that. At 180 cm he is a trim 77 kg. He plays tennis four times a week, is in terrific shape, and is much better looking than he ever was in high school.

But I could not get his comment out of my mind. It prompted me to wonder how I felt about my own body. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I did not hate myself. I turned to my source of all information, the Internet, and began to read up on body acceptance. This quickly led to nudism and naturism, so I began to read about them too. As I did, my thoughts moved forwards and backwards. Forwards to "I would like to try this" and backwards to "I have tried this, but a long time ago."

In April I said to Tony, "I have a very strong urge to spend an extended period of time nude with you." He looked surprised but said OK. That very night, after we put the kids to bed, we decided to play nude backgammon. To be honest, we only managed to play about half a game before the love hormones overcame us. Something about being nude, I guess, led us to revert to a traditional activity!

But I was not ready to give up. That weekend, we arranged for the kids to spend the night with some friends. Once they left the house, at 14:00, our plan was to take off our clothes and stay that way until the kids returned at 10:00 the next day. Because we had a longer nude time ahead of us, and even at our most passionate knew we could not make love for 20 hours, we were able to pace ourselves. We did some laundry, watched a movie, read, and chatted. We went out to dinner wearing very loose clothes to keep the nude feeling. As soon as we got home, they came off again. In the morning we cooked breakfast and read the Sunday paper.

That weekend experiment was transforming. Suddenly clothes felt confining and restricting. I wanted to be nude, and I wanted to talk about it. Tony and I discussed our experience, but we felt like the blind leading the blind. How did others feel? What were their experiences?

I discovered an Internet mailing list and signed up. I lurked for a week, then dived in with a question about sunscreen. A wonderful thing happened: I was welcomed to the group like a special friend. Suddenly I could ask all the questions I wanted and people would reply, honestly and fully. I started corresponding off-list with a few people who shared many of my thoughts and questions. My nudist world had expanded from my bedroom to my house and suddenly to the world. I went from knowing no nudists to knowing hundreds. It was terrific.

Meanwhile, Tony and I continued to explore our nude time together. We have an outdoor hot tub and shower. Instead of running to get dressed after emerging from either one, we would sit on the deck and let the air dry us. (A fence and trees provide privacy.) We began to eat dinner nude occasionally. I watched the entire NBA playoffs sans clothes and not in the bedroom. I discovered NIFOC (naked in front of the computer).

In June we went to Denver. We made a deal that when we entered the hotel room, the clothes came off. What to do on our one free afternoon was very important to us. We decided to visit Mountain Air Ranch, a family nudist resort. How important was nudism becoming to me? I passed up a chance to visit the Figure Skating Hall of Fame!

Everything I had read was true: going to Mountain Air I was nervous at first, but that quickly passed. No one cared what we looked like or who we were, but everyone was friendly. Within minutes we felt relaxed and comfortable. When one fellow talked about "us" as nudists, I realized yes, I am in this group. I am a nudist.

I began to think of nudism as part of my life. I wanted opportunities to be nude with others, and not just on a trip. But how to handle nudism with my daughter, 7, and son, 10? My initial thought was not to involve them. After Colorado, I realized that was not realistic. To be nude only when they were in bed or at friends' houses would not be practical. I also recognized that many of our activities are family activities. It would be a dramatic change to get a baby sitter every time we wanted to go to the beach! Besides, isn't nudism supposed to be a family experience?

The solution came naturally. Shortly afterwards, we were all in the hot tub together, my husband and I nude (which has always been our custom) but the kids in suits. My son was fussing with a knot on the string of his suit, so I suggested he just take it off. He did, and my daughter soon did the same. My son immediately realized how good it felt in the warm water without anything on. That led to a discussion of being nude with others. Then we told them about our visit to Mountain Air. They were both very interested and appropriately curious. We showed them a brochure, with pictures, and answered their questions. My son was very interested in the concept of a club, wondering if there were any near us. So we showed him the brochure for Cedar Waters Village in New Hampshire, about an hour from where we are in Maine. Tony and I visited the place ourselves to check it out, then returned about two weeks later with our children. After that, my son told me that he was proud of being a nudist. My daughter seems oblivious to the title but enjoys the experience. I regularly get asked, "When can we go back to the skinny-dipping place?"

So that's how we went from a clothed family to nudists. We each choose when and where we want to be nude. I often have dinner nude while my husband wears a T-shirt or is even fully clothed. My daughter, a natural, is frequently nude around the house, while my son is usually nude just in the hot tub.

I am still surprised by how far and how quickly I have come. At first I was intrigued with the idea of a nude cruise or vacation--a once-a-year special event. After going to Mountain Air, I realized that a little more often to be nude would be nice, but it was still in the category of recreation. Now I understand I have a need to be nude. At times it is a physical need, at times it is a stress reliever. Nudity with others is lots of fun, but nudity at home with the family is also very important to me.

The process of becoming a nudist is not complete. There will be more I learn and incorporate into my life. I look forward to visiting different clubs and resorts and meeting other nudists. But one thing is clear: nudism is very much a part of my life. A friend recently commented about my status as a novice nudist and I gently corrected him: "Not a novice, just a nudist. Once you're there, you know it, deep inside the fibre of your unclothed body."

There is an update from Leslie to this story, called I Am Still the Nudist, One Year Later

Leslie Nicoll lives in Westbrook, Maine. This article appeared in the Winter 1998-99 (Vol. 13, No. 4) issue of Going Natural, the official magazine of the Federation of Canadian Naturists. Used by permission.

Copyright © 1999, Federation of Canadian Naturists

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Last updated: February 12, 2000