This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Kerry and her experience at a 'naturalist' resort.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I'm a 25 year old author, magazine journalist and creative writing tutor who was born and raised in the East End of London. Growing up, I had an insatiable appetite for writing and traveling and have spent all of my adult life doing those two beloved things. I’ve packed my little brown suitcase and moved to destinations across the world five times (so far) all while doing the job I love.
Currently, I’m in Florida (with my newly acquired, devilishly handsome husband Joe). When I’m not competing in Defying Gravity diva-offs at a karaoke bar, I’m organizing Free Hugs sessions, baking, cycling, or exploring hidden parts of town.
How's your relationship with your body?
If you’d met me before my nudism escapades, you’d probably think ‘there goes a reasonably confident young lady.’ Deep down though, I’d always been excruciatingly self conscious about my body. The mere sight of it could curdle my blood. Honestly, there was nothing terribly wrong with my personage, I was just very, very real. I have stretch marks, tan lines, flabby bits and way more body hair than I’d like to admit. For the longest time, my way of dealing with it was to cover up.
I don’t think my husband ever saw me fully naked in daylight - a cunning skill I crafted over time. I pulled the blind when we were in the shower together, lit candles for the romantic effect (pfft) and tried to insist on sexy underwear being kept on where possible. Kinky? No, survival.
What made you decide to give nudism a try?
This behavior simply didn’t tally with the rest of my personality. I love every little thing about life and having this huge hang up was robbing me of simple pleasures. One day, while eating my toast and marmalade, I had a light-bulb moment. ‘What if I took off all of my clothes and spent a whole day wandering around, completely starkers, in daylight?’ It was as simple as that.
I’d driven past a nudist resort in my new Floridian town and surmised that, if other people could do it, why the bloody hell couldn’t I? Sure, I might be thrown out for entangling a group of unsuspecting sunbathers in my swaddles of ‘I just shaved this morning but it grew back REALLY quickly’ leg hair, but on the other hand, it might be kind of liberating.
What was the nudist resort like?
Palm trees, pools, tennis courts, bars, restaurants - the resort was like any swanky beach-side getaway, except this one was full of naked people. As I drove into the parking lot, I was greeted by three passing older gentlemen, swinging tennis rackets, clad only in sparkly white tennis shoes. Crossing the lot to Reception, two buxom ladies in their 30s whizzed by on a golf cart in nothing but sunhats. They beamed at me and I beamed back. What a nice, naked place it seemed. This particular resort offered a complimentary day pass to those interested in nudism but it’s been around $40 every time since. Once I’d checked in, it was time to get really, really naked. Locating a sun chair, I glanced around to see men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages lounging by the pool sipping cocktails, while others played team sports or chatted.
I saw stretch marks, tan lines and lots of flabby bits, just like mine. The difference was that these people didn’t care. Though nervous, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. Slowly, I peeled off my already sweat-ridden clothes, and for one nerve-racking minute while I stood nude, bathed in the sunlight bouncing off the pool, I looked at others’ faces to see if they were laughing at my wobbly bits. To my surprise, not a soul even so much as glanced my way. For so many years, I’d worried about what others thought of me. I suddenly realized what a huge waste of time that had been. It was exhilarating and I felt completely liberated.
As the day grew hotter, I ventured into the bar to order some drinks and food. Though it felt bizarre to be unclothed in such a formal setting (what if my ketchup dribbled?), I basked in the freedom. After lunch I was asked to join in with a game of volleyball in the pool. While we slipped into the water, I couldn’t help smiling at finding myself living out the true nudist cliche. Volleyball? Naked? Rather than being nervous, I found the situation impossibly funny. It took a while to get into the game but the camaraderie made me feel instantly welcome. Once I’d finished, I slipped into the conversation pool for a chat and cocktails with my new naked friends. When the time came to leave, I was dismayed at the prospect of having to put my clothes back on.
What are the logistics that go into wandering around nude all the time?
I bought INDUSTRIAL quantities of sunscreen. In fact, on the first day, I was probably more sunblock than flesh. The idea of burned bits is not a pleasant one but you soon learn to relax a little, and by 'relax' I mean you only use three tubes of sunscreen instead of 42. Usually, you have to rent a towel from the resort for a really small fee.
Whenever you’re sitting, the towel should always be placed beneath you - hygiene is your friend - and everyone is very conscientious about polite about that particular rule. For me, my main worry was body hair. I shave, wax and trim excessively and try to keep everything neat and tidy. Alas, I honestly believe my mother had a dalliance with Bigfoot 25 years ago. I’m extremely hairy. I needn’t have been concerned. Pubic hair comes in all shapes and sizes at the resort - and sometimes it doesn’t appear at all - but nobody will be looking or judging.
What surprised you about the experience?
How very easy it was. I was out of the car, checked in and more naked than I’ve ever been in my life within 10 minutes. The relaxed atmosphere is infectious and, though you think you’ll be terrified and self conscious, the thought doesn’t even enter your mind. Nudism is one of the most liberating and confidence boosting things I’ve ever experienced.
Would you ever go to another nudist resort?
Yes and yes! I’m not a die-hard nudist now and I won’t do it often but certainly a few times a year. I’ve been back to the same place twice and it’s just become a really nice way to relax and enjoy ‘me time’.
What advice would you give to someone who's interested in giving nudism a go?
Research resorts and contact them to ask whether they offer tours and complimentary day passes so you can try things out (most do). Once you’ve had your tour, make yourself comfy by the pool in your swimsuit - you can be as clothed or unclothed as you want - and it might be easier to take things slowly. But mostly, just push your fears aside and go for it. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.
Have any of you ever visited a nudist resort? Would you?
image credit: Laura Pannack