I wish I could say I had been a closet nudist all of my life, but the truth is the exact opposite. I don’t remember being nude around any of my six siblings or my parents after the age of 5 or 6 when my mother would give my sister and I a bath together. I grew up with a lot of shame and insecurity, which centered around my physical body, as I got older. I spent 20 years on the diet circuit, trying to look like society’s idea of the perfect female. I thought, as I’m sure a lot of women do, that if I looked like the models on TV and in magazines I would be happy.
In the summer of 1995 I met someone who became a very good friend. He was also a nudist. The very idea of anyone living that kind of lifestyle I found shocking, although I tried not to show it. Shortly after we met, he invited me and some other friends to a barbeque at a local clothing-optional park where he was living. I thought, “Oh well, no guts no glory” – since it was clothing “optional” I figured I could handle this. When I arrived at the park I was so nervous and scared I was almost in tears. After I had calmed down enough to look around I saw lots of nude people enjoying themselves in the rare Pacific Northwest sunshine. They didn’t seem to notice my unease. What I found particularly odd were the children and teenagers running around, having fun, nude. I thought how wonderful it was for them to grow up unashamed of their bodies, not like me, who had known nothing but shame for most of my life. Those kids that day gave me the courage to give this lifestyle a try.
Well, my life hasn’t been the same since. My second day on the tanning lawn saw me nude on the lounge chair. Swimming nude is indescribable. That summer, parts of my body saw and felt sunshine for the first time in almost 40 years. The other people I met at this park were warm, kind and sincere. They looked me in the eyes when we spoke. I didn’t feel judged or compared. I felt safe for the first time in my life.
I’ve learned a lot since that day in 1995. The sense of freedom being a nudist has given me has allowed me to learn acceptance of others and myself. Now when I meet someone I don’t base my opinion of them on their shape, size or how many piercings they have. I’ll never look like the models on TV or in magazines, but I don’t want to anymore. I like myself today. I will change, or not, because I want to, not because I’ve been influenced by the media to look thinner, younger or prettier by buying the products advertised. I can’t imagine going back to wearing clothes 24 hours a day. I believe that being a nudist has helped me become a better person.