As we drove out of the Naturist club and the gate shut behind us I was surprised to find myself feeling, well, sad. After all, it was only an experiment, something new to try and explore. As we drove back home my husband and I exchanged frequent looks, and our grins could not be any wider. Did we really just do that? Yes, it was a bit scary at first. But we had done it and we were hooked. Naturism had found me.
So, why did I decide to go to a Naturist club in the first place? My husband had seen a TV programme about it and suggested that I might be interested in watching it. So I did. Then he asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I thought about it and realised that I did; to try something new that we had never tried before, maybe get an all-over tan, but most of all the chance to feel at one with nature, and the possibility of shedding the shame about being naked instilled into me by two generations of women. I wanted to see if I could do it. And yes, I could!
The next step? Telling people.
I couldn’t wait. I was still on a high from our visit when my friends came round the next weekend. So, on Friday evening, glass of wine in hand I told my three best friends where we had gone that week.
The reaction from the first friend was, “Well done you.” She was interested in giving it a go herself. Unfortunately life and covid have prevented that from happening so far but it’s still on the cards. Her only concern about doing it was to do so with our boys. She is worried about how their seeing her naked will affect them.
The second friend was somewhat more negative; no problem with me doing it however she was absolutely adamant that it was something she would never be able to do herself. She was unhappy with her self-image and found comfort in covering herself up. Making comments about needing to lose weight and tone up, nothing could convince her that she did not need to change herself to give it a go.
The third friend couldn’t believe it. “What? Not even wearing a bikini?” Like the second friend she was dead against ever giving Naturism a try herself.
Despite these three different reactions nothing changed in our friendship. I wasn’t suddenly the pariah or the weirdo (well, no more than before!)
A year later, when my friends would come around to visit, my husband wouldn’t bother to get dressed. My friends have got used to it and there were frequent jokes from both sides. It has become so normal to them that they only comment if he is actually wearing something.
The second friend continued to be adamant that she was never going to try Naturism until one evening she was flicking through a pile of BN magazines. Having seen the normal bodies in the issues, she realised that you don’t have be perfect to enjoy what you were born with. I took my chance and asked if she was reconsidering it, and she said she’d sleep on it. The next morning was gloriously sunny and she agreed to join us for a day visit to to Heritage, the club where we are now members. After a nervous start she was sunbathing on the lawn, clothes in a pile next to her, telling me, ‘Oh Nettie, this is amazing. Thank you for bringing me here.’ When we got home she couldn’t wait to go back again, and the following week after another day visit she signed up and joined the club herself. Talk about once the bug bites you..!
Our next-door neighbour had often seen us loading up the car with the tent and had asked where we were off to. Initially we were elusive, saying it was a campsitebut not giving any specifics. We were worried about telling them in case they reacted badly. If a friend thinks being a Naturist is wrong then you lose a friend. Living next-door to someone who feels like that is a bigger issue to deal with.
But eventually we told her. Her reaction was the typical, ‘You are so brave, I could never do that,’ - whilst in the same breath mentioning about her going topless sunbathing in Spain.
Perhaps the most interesting response I have had was from one of the mums from school. Our youngest and her eldest are best friends and one day in the local park, whilst the boys were off playing, we were talking about anxiety and differentways of dealing with it. I said to her that I had a little secret and told her that we were Naturists. I explained how it feels when the gates shut behind you and all the everyday worries disappear, the sensation of sun on your skin and wind sweeping all worries from your mind. I tried to describe to her the freedom and wholeness I feel when visiting our club.
Her reaction was one of curiosity. One of her first questions was whether it was something that we had been doing all our lives. She was quite surprised to find out that we were fairly new to it. She asked if I had ever had a bad reaction from telling someone, to which I told her that I hadn’t. And she asked about suncream. As we left she told me not to be surprised if she had more questions the next time we met.
My first visit to a Naturist club was the first step to discovering a new me, one who does not look for something new to be unhappy about every time I look in the mirror, the me that does not try on ten different outfits before choosing one and is still unhappy, the me that looks out more than look in.