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  • Sheryn
    Sheryn

    Growing Up as a Naturist

    A sixteen year old girl tells us about her life growing up as a Naturist

    “... and everything was, like, hanging out, and we were so embarrassed.” She pauses and surveys our faces - my friends look disgusted, some are giggling, and others don’t know how to compose themselves in light of this shocking story. I’m not laughing.

    This is how people reacted to hearing that a friend of mine accidentally visited a Naturist beach abroad. They were laughing at the expense of the people going to the beach, simply for being real humans. I’m used to people’s nervous chuckles, and faces contorted into grimaces when confronted with the topic of Naturism. If only they knew...

    When I was born, my parents made a conscious decision to bring me, and later my sister, up in a Naturist environment. It seemed only natural: a healthy attitude to the human body; a lack of bodily qualms and, in recent years, a way to navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence. In a world where the pressures of conformity and ideals of beauty are pushed upon young people at such young and vulnerable ages, my Naturism has served me well as I can combat them.

    It is not just for these reasons that my parents chose to bring me up as a Naturist however - there is also a social aspect. At our club there is a great feeling of community, as well as a fantastic social scene and plenty of facilities, including two awesome swimming pools.

    For the first few years of my life I was part of a different Naturist club, where there were no families but this place offers us a family orientated environment, as there are loads of facilities for young people, where we are valued as members, and don’t feel the urge to drift away from Naturism, as some teenage Naturists do. When we were little, my sister and I would wander around the grounds for hours at a time, exploring and playing. Magically, the small walled garden became an enchanted secret garden, the pond a ‘fairy pond’, and the woods a great forest, full of wildlife – truly special childhood memories.

    As for the members, some have become like an extended family to us.  Unforgettable memories have been formed there: clothing optional discos; live music that made the floor vibrate, and spending time with my family in a place free of the humdrum of our everyday lives. I have met one of my best friends there, and we share a different kind of friendship because we can talk about Naturism, at a special place where we can spend time escaping the stress of school.

    The summer holidays are often a time for sticky swimsuits, tan lines, and the ritual of the towels (trying to get changed on a beach whilst shielding yourself with towels, so as not to be seen naked). As a Naturist this is not the case, since I was little I have always camped for at least a week in a Naturist environment, until three years ago when we flew to Spain and El Portús - my first overseas Naturist holiday. I had never been on a Naturist beach, nor experienced the pleasure of simply stripping off and diving into a sparkling sea. No number of superlatives could even begin to describe some of the best holidays I’ve ever had - a safe, warm haven where I could remain undressed for most of the 2 full weeks I was there. Best of all? No tan lines! Naturally this aspect would come under scrutiny at school when discussing the holidays. My friends seem to enjoy showing great patches of pallid white skin on their legs and arms from their ‘textile’ holiday, which are, bizarrely, something of great pride. 

    Naturism is something that I do not outwardly discuss with my friends. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t feel like people my age would truly understand my Naturism, and it is clearly seen as ‘odd’ to my school friends. I have often found that people don’t understand the Naturist philosophy and the emotional wellbeing it gives - some seeming to see it as something overtly sexual or gross. My view is that there is nothing indecent about wearing no clothes; it is behaviour that can be indecent, not whether someone wears clothes or not. Perhaps if people realised this, there wouldn’t be so much stigma around the naked human body.

    In my opinion the media doesn’t help this stigma; it distorts reality instead, displaying airbrushed models with unobtainable features. Mounting pressure from social media has only added more to this already unscrupulous portrayal of ‘beauty’. Here, Naturism has been  a gift to me, as I know what the human body looks like at all its ages, and with all its imperfections. A real body! Body confidence doesn’t mean being vain or conceited.  It’s the feeling of acceptance, not disgust when you look at yourself in the mirror. Naturism has gifted my sister and I with this philosophy. As Michelangelo once said: “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognise the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”

    Naturism has shaped me as a person. I’ve made one of my best friends, met incredible people and visited fabulous places. ‘Grateful’ does not even begin to describe how I feel about being part of this world. It’s something that I wish to take into adulthood and pass on to my children. I only wish more people my age would take part!

     

    Thanks to Mark Bass for the photo. See more of Mark's work on the Members' photo gallery (log in required)

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