“Seek and ye shall find,” the sages have instructed us, along with this: “The answers often lie within.”
Those two pearls of wisdom, basically, are what led me to Ottawa on Saturday to answer a question I had about nudists/naturists, and about why I was so interested, personally speaking, in this subject as opposed to, say, in hot-air ballooning.
My question for the naturists was: Why do people want to be naked in non-sexual public or semi-public social settings?
I had been invited by the Ottawa Naturists organization to an evening swim event at an indoor pool, one of 18 they hold annually. The group is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has about 200 members, with a strong contingent from Quebec, I’m told. They also hold other social gatherings, such as a summer barbecue and a weekend camping event.
I accepted the invitation, but told them I would be attending as a private individual, not as a journalist on assignment for my paper. Sure, I would probably write about it in both my blogs, but they are labours of free love, i.e. I am not paid for writing them.
I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon chatting with my host for the event, Ted, the president of the board of the Ottawa Naturists. I asked him about the appeal of public nudity, and about the origins of his passion for naturism.
“It’s about having some place to go where you can be naked,” he said, quite simply.
It started for him when he was a child, he explained. It was “practical nudism.” He and some pals were playing in the woods when one of them stopped and stripped. When queried about it, he responded that he didn’t want to get his clothes dirty and get in heck with his mom. All the kids thought it was a great idea, and followed suit. And so it began for Ted: practical nudism developed into a love for naturism.
Ted and I arrived at the pool about 30 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin. He and a couple of other board members set up a table at the entrance to collect admission fees, while I sat nearby and looked on. I would be fibbing if I said I wasn’t a little worried when I saw only men showing up for the swim. But, praise the lord, some of the female naturists started arriving, and I chatted with them, posing the same questions I had asked Ted. And I got pretty much the same answers: they were there because it was a place to be naked outside of their homes, which they found too limiting, and, indeed, they traced the origins of their passion for naturism to when they were children living in country settings – though, at least one said she was introduced to it by her husband later in life, something I’ve heard from several of my female readers before.
It was time for me to bare it all and join the others in the pool.
No need for a drum roll here (even if I am a drummer): Ted and I undressed in the locker room, put our clothes in the same locker, and strolled out into the pool area. How did I feel about my public debut in a nudist/naturist setting? Smiles . . . No big deal. I wasn’t in the least shy. I felt no different than I would have had I been fully dressed. No, strike that: if I had been fully dressed in a room full of naked people, I would have felt out of place. Here, I was just one of the crowd.
There were about 50 people or so, ranging in age from young children with their 20something parents to 60somethings. The facility itself was superb: a large swimming pool for adults no deeper than 5 feet, a children’s pool with a slide, a whirlpool/hot tub and a sauna. Ted and I waded into the swimming pool and started chatting with people.
And, really, chatting is what this event was mostly about, though some parents tossed a beach ball with the children. It wasn’t really about swimming at all, because I didn’t see anybody doing laps. It was almost like a garden party, minus the food and refreshments.
“Yes, it would be nice to have wine,” one gentleman commented to me while I luxuriated in the hot tub/whirlpool. “But it’s probably not legal here . . .”
I wasn’t the only newbie there. A gentleman, about 65, from Gatineau had just joined the organization, and this was his first outing with them. He had experience with naturism, though: he had been practising it since he was 20. He asked me if I am a journalist, and when I told him that I am, he asked if he could tell me his story. (Of course I said yes.)
When he was a kid, he told me, he had a slight frame and was small. The other kids used to tease him, and he had a complex and related body inhibitions, i.e. He wouldn’t wear shorts and expose his bare legs. At the age of 20, someone suggested he try camping in a public naturist setting, and within six hours after setting up tent and baring it all, he was effectively cured of his body inhibitions. Everybody there accepted him, he said.
That is a common theme in naturism: people don’t judge you by your looks. It’s not a beauty contest. Size and girth are irrelevant.
At the end of the two-hour swim event, we all dried off and dressed again. One gentleman said to me: “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” Then chuckled and added: “It’s an old naturist’s joke.”
The next morning as my g/f and I drove home (she drove) from Ottawa, I wasn’t sure I had answered the questions that had led me there in the first place. CHOM-FM, my favourite rock station (97.7), was spinning a Neil Young song, and I found myself thinking about Woodstock. I thought about all the people who attended that festival, and why they were there. Sure, it was about the music and the herbal pleasures of the time. It was about grooving on good vibrations. But it was about something else, too: it was about rebellion against “the system.” And it was about liberation from that system, if only temporarily.
And I began to draw comparisons. Naturists are very much rebelling against a “textile world,” as they call it. They are also rebelling against a system that disses anybody who doesn’t look like a Barbie Doll or a Ken Doll. Yes, these nudism/naturism events are more than about social gatherings and good vibrations; they are about people thumbing their noses at the system that says nudity is something of which to be ashamed and forces people to cover up the body’s natural state. It’s about liberation from that system . . . if only temporarily.
But what about me? What’s my personal interest in naturism/nudism? Smiles . . . Anybody who has been reading my Gazette blog for any length of time knows I am a rebel with several causes. This blog has been about liberation for all sorts of people and the various fights for equality that go with it. So, it’s only natural, yes, natural, that I should be attracted to naturism.
So, I will be joining the Ottawa Naturists, and leaving my clothes and my stiletto heels behind in the locker room while I socialize au naturel with other naturists . . . and thumb my nose at the textile system.
“And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden . . .”
P.S. Hot-air ballooning might be fun, too!