Nudism/Naturism: Selective observation

A week or so ago, a former colleague stopped by the office. He chatted with me briefly — I was sitting at my desk in a darkened corner of the newsroom and he was standing about six feet away in the corridor. I remarked to him that he looked good, as in fit, healthy and well-rested.

Later, when I was talking to a current colleague, I mentioned that I had seen aforementioned former colleague and how great he looked. She replied: “Oh, I didn’t get to see him . . . does he still have a beard.”

My mind went blank. I couldn’t recall if he had a beard . . . and sheepishly made that confession to her.

In fairness to my blonde self, I was sitting in a darkened area — deliberately darkened because the two of us who work there prefer it that way. I couldn’t see the pores on the ex-colleague’s face or anything. But you’d think I would have noticed whether he had a beard or not, yes?  Well, no, apparently. I didn’t make a mental note of facial hair or lack thereof. Yet I felt he looked fit and well-rested.

I confess I am not always the most observant of individuals when it comes to noticing things about other people’s appearance in casual settings. And I think I am noticing even less now that I have been attending social nudism events, where the idea is not to notice and appraise other people’s bodies. It’s all about eye contact.

Though, we still do notice things, of course. It’s human nature — selective observation. But I suspect that as naturists, we see and just as quickly forget whether so-and-so has a beer pot belly or stretch marks or, yes, even sports a beard — unless it’s of the ZZ Top sort. But the average short, well-groomed beard is, well, just so common these days . . . who really notices?


Not me, apparently.

I’m think if I set out to notice things, say, if I were on a reporting assignment, I would notice every little detail about a person. Or not? I’m not sure. The reason: Well, last October, when I posed nude for a group of artists, I was pleasantly surprised by what they observed and, more specifically, didn’t observe about my body. I’m very self-conscious about the lines of time on my face. Yet most of the artists didn’t draw those lines, and the few who did made only scant references to them in their drawings. God bless them all!

So, I am not sure what this all says about how we see each other and how we see ourselves, except that it seems to be all about selective observation — and maybe I shouldn’t be so hung up on my lines if other people don’t really notice them.

I’d like input from my naturist readers. What say you about all of this? How has naturism affected your views of others?

Oh, by the way, after putting my brain through a scan, I can say with some certainty that the gentleman in question didn’t have a beard . . . I think.



9 thoughts on “Nudism/Naturism: Selective observation

  1. Selective observation seems to be an accurate term for what you describe. Everyday almost everyone is exposed to a vast number of things, while having little or no interest in most of them. People tend to pay attention only to those things that interest them. That which interests you will usually be remembered. I have always had a special interest in people’s hands. I can identify people I know just from seeing their hands. The appearance of hands varies as much as the appearance of their faces. I assume that most other people have similar interests in other body parts. I can rarely recall the eye color or facial features of a woman who I’ve recently met, but I remember the color of her nail polish and the general appearance of her hands.


  2. A friend seen fairly regularly over several decades was forever changing between clean shaven and a beard and I was not the only one who ceased to register his present state when asked… Always more interested in what he had to say.

    Nature has been fairly random and mean handing out really great bodies but life is too short to pine so best get on with what you do have rather than waste it moaning about what you don’t have. Only a short while in a naturist environment and you see that those worse off than yourself are getting on quite happily so you just relax…


  3. After my years as a naturist I find that while I see other peoples body I no longer make any note of it or it’s features however thier faces I remember.


  4. I think it comes down to us seeing what we want to see. I’ve generally been very visually sensitive, and I don’t know if it has anything to do with having 20/10 vision. I’m getting closer and closer to x-ray vision every day.

    For me, nudism isn’t about not appraising a person’s body or only making eye contact. If I see a person nude, at some point I’m going to mentally note their features from head to toe, and I expect the same to be done of me. I’ll note facial features, pot bellies, six packs, penis size, circumcised or not, breast type and size, shaved or not, height, muscularity, and really anything that has to do with what can be visually observed on the human body. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m not afraid to look at a man’s butt, even though I’d never want to go near one. (Ew.)

    If I wanted to go somewhere to be focused on eye contact, I’d go to Starbucks or a bar.

    The point of nudism, as I see it, isn’t to try to avoid paying attention to what we normally wouldn’t see if the person wasn’t naked. The point is more that, as nudists, people seeing us in our most vulnerable state is not of concern. Obviously gawking is screwed up, but I think that trying to avoid seeing a nude person’s nakedness is misplaced concern in the world of nudism.

    That being said, nudism is also about acceptance. I shouldn’t need to feel embarrassed about having a small penis any more than an old person should be embarrassed by their wrinkles or anyone being ashamed of their weight. It’s not that we try not to see these things-since that really defeats the point of being naked in public settings-it’s that we don’t negatively judge people based on their appearance alone.


  5. Very interesting. I myself live in a nudist community fulltime and it is odd and even funny to see someone I know in clothes. We often remark I didn’t recognize you with clothes on! Lol!


  6. Unlike Icebreaker, I cannot say I check out pot bellies, penis size, etc. indeed I have often surprised myself by just how little I do notice. I have friends at a Naturist swim I attend every week and I certainly couldn’t tell you if they are circumcised or not – yet I see them every week. The truth is it doesn’t matter to me, so I don’t notice, I guess. A while ago the sister of a friend (both non-naturist) asked my if it was common for women to shave their pubic hair – I couldn’t answer her – I simply hadn’t noticed.

    All of this isn’t because I’m religiously fixating on eye contact or anything like that and yes I do take in the whole of a person and sometimes think how nice someone looks, there is surely no harm in that, it’s just that I’m not ogling the details as I’m more interested in the person that the wrapping. In my experience this is what Naturism does to everyone who tries it. Many will talk about greater eye contact and I think that is true, but without it being a concious effort to achieve this – so much so, I cannot tell you my friends’ eye colours either…


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