I’ve long felt sorry for single men who come to the park and seem lonely and lost. I’ve been in awe of those who turn up and seem to fit right in. I’ve never explored a naturist place on my own; I think it’s a very brave thing to do. Not just because there’s nudity, but because it’s a new thing and you’re navigating by yourself. I’ve had some darling gents write to me about wanting to fit in but still feel very much on the periphery. My heart goes out to them as I’ve witnessed how groups can often keep to themselves and wondered how someone can get their shoe in.
I know what I would do as a new person to a naturist location, but I wanted a broader perspective, so I’ve been asking naturist friends throughout the week. Some visit numerous naturist parks regularly and love their experiences. It turns out that my game plan is the same as theirs.
Here’s the key to success (insert drumroll here):
Plan to have a good time one your own. I would bring a book and writing pad as those are things I like to do. Maybe you want to hike the trails, or swim in the lake, or try their local draft beers. Consciously release expectations and go about having a great day on your own.
People are a bonus. If you’re up for a chat, start the conversation. If you wait to be invited, you may be waiting awhile. It’s respectful to “read the room”. A busy server at the restaurant may not have time or patience. But “reading the room” is a delicate balance because we approach this with whatever life experience has thrown our way so far. I think that plenty of people assume they’d be bothering someone by starting a conversation. What I recommend here is testing the waters; start a chat and see if they’re receptive. (I do feel for my friends on the Autism Spectrum as I write this.) High success rate in connectivity anywhere, naturist or otherwise, is assuming other people will like you and enjoy your company. Assume that you’re great, and if you try to connect once and they seem uninterested, don’t take it personally. You have no idea what that person is going through, just move along and try again.
A name drop could be a shoe in. Mentioning other naturist places you’ve visited, where you’re from, or even people you know might be a decent ice breaker. (This is a guess.) Other naturist places = oh, I’ve been there before, or how was that? I’ve been meaning to check it out. Where you’re from = nice, that’s not far from here then, or, wow, you really travelled a distance to be here, or, my brother lives there, etc. Name dropping ie. I’ve been taking Nikki’s yoga classes, or Jess in the office is such a gem, or Kim really does a great job with the Bistro = I don’t know where this would lead, but it shows that you know people involved in the place and you’re speaking warmly about them. Familiarity can get you in like an old shirt.
Another huge misconception is that the naturist culture is completely different from the textile culture. My experience is that we take our clothes off and have become equal in that we’re allowing ourselves to be a little more vulnerable with others. This can allow for a warmth and friendliness that doesn’t exist among strangers in the textile world. Some of my dear fellows are having some difficulty because they’re being too wonderful. They care so much about being respectful and never making anyone feel awkward, and I love that about them! I’d happily give badges for this. But it’s getting in their way. Don’t throw out that respect, it’ll serve you well. Let me help.
One story I discussed with a naturist group to gain perspective is this: the gentleman was on a walk and there was a lady in front of him, she’d looked over her shoulder to see who was close to her, and he then assumed/told me, he could tell she was uncomfortable, so he paused his walk to create more distance between them. See? I adore this man for always wanting women to feel safe. What he doesn’t realize is that his behaviour of giving space in this instance may have come across as being strange. A positive option might be saying aloud: Hi, looks like we’re heading the same way, or isn’t it gorgeous today, or just giving a wave and a smile. Show her that you’re a nice guy by engaging in a minor way, not assuming she thinks you’re creepy, because… it starts to seem like you might be creepy.
Men and women are there for all kinds of reasons. Some to find quiet, some to engage. Just be yourself. If you’re typically chatty, go ahead and be chatty here too. If you’re slow to open up, that’s ok, you’ll likely meet a quiet kindred spirit in time. The more you assume that you shouldn’t engage in conversation, the more you carry a vibe about you that they shouldn’t engage with you. They’re the same people you see in the textile world, there’s no need to change all the rules.
To reiterate: Continue being respectful. Also, understand that being respectful doesn’t mean don’t talk or make eye contact.
More on eye contact and looking in general in my next post.