I have some weird advice: you should look at people when you go to a naturist place.
What?! Aren’t we only supposed to make eye contact?
I never knew this would be something to address until I spent time with a lovely young man at Bare Oaks. I noticed his extreme stiffness of his neck and face and wondered what was going on. I let it slide on that first day, but when it continued the second day, this robot-like neck and head movement, I had to inquire. Turns out he was trying so hard to be a gentleman, to just look people in the eye and avoid noticing their nakedness.
It reminded me of some of my first conversations with Stephane Deschenes, owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. He told me that it was natural to look someone up and down. I told him that I didn’t think that I did that. He then asked if I wouldn’t notice a man wearing a suit without any shoes? Yes, I said, I would notice that. He explained that we look people up and down first to see if they pose us a threat, and secondly to see if we find them attractive. It happens in an instant and it’s all about our survival as a species. So, when we go against that instinct it looks very strange. Once we’ve made our assessment, it’s proper to make eye contact for connection. This is the same in the textile world.
Beyond that though, I think it’s a shame to rob yourself of the opportunity to see nude bodies. To see the natural aging process, different shapes and sizes, life stories like surgeries or accidents or childbirth is a beautifully real thing.
The Aging Process
In the textile world we’re taught to idolize youthfulness. Face creams, surgeries, expensive pillowcases, exercises, clothing, certain hairstyles, vitamin mixes, the list goes on. Within a naturist community we get to see people of a variety of ages as they are. I’ve been a member at Bare Oaks for 14 years, so I’ve watched kids mature into puberty which was neat to be privy to. I’ve watched the twenty-somethings move into their thirty-somethings, filling out a bit and often looking more like their parents which is fascinating. Somewhere around the fifties there’s a strong sense of not caring what anyone thinks and leaning into joy, often associated with some extra padding and tan. Eventually parts start to sag and wrinkle, body hair turns grey or white, posture may change. We’re intellectually aware that all this happens, but it’s so rare to see it and appreciate it as part of the life cycle. It’s so healthy for us to witness it. Maybe we’d all be a little less afraid of aging and death if we spent more time seeing it versus running from it and trying to cheat it.
Shapes and Sizes
It’s such a relief to see different shapes and sizes. To know that it’s ok to be yourself exactly as you are. This isn’t just the case for the full body either, it can be soothing to see differently shaped breasts, bums, tummys, pubic hair stylings. A male friend told me that he thought it was nice to see a bunch of different ways penises can be. We’ve all spent time in a changeroom before, but, in the ladies anyway, we’re doing our best to avert our eyes out of respect for the other individuals. There aren’t many other opportunities to see and understand body diversity.
The Body’s Life story
There are no scars to be ashamed of. Whether we’ve transitioned genders, or had cancer, or had a baby, or lost a limb, it’s part of your story. It’s never a person’s whole story, but part of the woven tapestry that makes us who we are. Perhaps representing a time of bravery, strength, resilience, maybe even a cautionary tale. Seeing the body for all that it is, a compilation of moments, adds to who we are and how we can better understand each other and connect.
More strange advice I never thought I’d give, this time specifically for my young adult friends:
Just as it’s neat to appreciate the natural aging process for you, older people may look at you and reminisce. Perhaps their body isn’t working like it used to and they see you, firm, body parts still in their youthful positioning, and they drink the moment in. It’s nice to see and reflect. The reason I mention this is because I know a handful of attractive ladies in their early twenties who’ve complained recently about being weirded out by people looking at them. It has me wondering if someone really was leering or if they’re making themselves uncomfortable with their thoughts? If you’re a gorgeous person in the textile world, you may have had upsetting run ins with inappropriate behaviour and it’s understandable why one would have their guard up. You’d still be gorgeous in a naturist community, people will notice, but it’s a much safer place to be. The tight knit community ensure that.
People should never comment on bodies (not until you’re really good friends anyway). I read a quote today that read: Your body is the least interesting thing about you. So… let’s not comment, even if it’s meant as a compliment. If ever someone is staring intensely and/or commenting on your body, please do stand up for yourself whether to that person yourself or by mentioning it to someone you feel safe with. I’m certainly not condoning bad behaviour.
The key with looking is to not stare. You’ll get the hang of it easily enough. Most naturists can easily identify people by their bodies and how they carry themselves once they get to know someone. And you obviously can’t do that without looking, so go ahead. Please look around and, hopefully in doing so, you’ll find more comfort in yourself.