Don't Forget the Sunscreen!
Vacationing at a Nude Resort
You might think that a group who espouses openness to the point of shedding all clothes would be relatively indifferent to the opinions of
others. But at least on one point, nudists seem to be sensitive and quick to engage non-nudists, and that topic is swinging. For those
unfamiliar, swinging (sometimes called The Lifestyle) is the practice of regularly exchanging / sharing sexual partners between otherwise
committed couples. In a place like the United States, where a unique blend of the sexualization of mainstream media and the continued battle over
private sexual issues has created a cultural psychosis, nudism (proponents commonly call themselves naturists) is associated with swinging
because a sizable group of people believe that nudity and sex are inextricably linked. But within the nudist community, there seems to be a
strong dislike of swingers and an express wish of the former to distance themselves as far as possible from the latter.
This is all being explained to me by a man sitting across a table who I have only known for a few hours. Seated next to him is his wife, who,
like her husband, is wearing nothing more than a beach towel. I am wearing swim trunks, because it has been somewhat difficult for me to adapt
to eating my dinner completely naked. My wife, clad in a semi transparent sarong, is seated on my side of the table and seemingly having the
time of her life. I think he is explaining this to me in hopes that it will put my wife and me at ease. In fact, it actually does a little,
because while I would have been hard pressed to admit it, one of my concerns about taking this vacation centered around some irrecoverable
awkwardness if we were solicited in any way.
But here we were, sitting in an open air restaurant called Papagayo's at the far southern end of Orient Beach. Night had already descended on
the bay and a gentle breeze was blowing in from the open Atlantic Ocean. Several months of planning had brought us to this point, and sitting there
listening to the waves and drinking, I began to relax. This was definitely going to be an adventure.
Almost a year ago, my wife had decided for her 30th birthday that we should do something big. Not only was it a major milestone for a woman (at
least in her mind) but it would also be our five year wedding anniversary. We had not taken a large vacation since before our daughter was born,
and she would be almost 2 1/2 when this summer arrived. My wife only had a couple of requirements: wherever we went, it must be warm, and
preferably, she would like to try topless sunbathing. That second point might seem a little odd, but since having our daughter, my wife had put
a great deal of effort into working out and had unquestionably reached the best shape of her life. As someone who had been shy and reserved in
high school and college, I suspected that she now wanted an opportunity to show off a little but her shyness prevented her from doing it in any way
around people we knew. She dressed conservatively at work, and to this day refuses to let people see her in shorts. So vacation was shaping up
to be her escape from shyness, if only for a week.
We began to look at potential destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, but most places that we initially found seemed oriented towards Lifestyle
people (e.g. Hedonism in Jamaica). Realizing that the French remained a little more relaxed about nudity than the U.S. and Britain, we focused
on French beaches and this ultimately led us to Club Orient, a beach resort on the island of Sint Maarten / St Martin, French West Indies. This wasn't just a
topless beach, it was a resort that catered to nudists. Initially hesitant, we finally thought "What the hell?" and in the spirit of you only
live once, we booked a room and airline tickets in February for a trip in June.
So here we were, surrounded by a room full of nude or near nude men and women who ranged in age from early twenties up to 80 years old (or
possibly older!). The restaurant had a singer that night, and its small dance floor quickly filled with smiling and laughing people. At one
point we watched as a group of four or five older women performed a line dance. Naked. And it was a blast.
Whatever mental conception you have in your mind about the people you would bump into at a nude beach, it is very likely incorrect. I say this
because we encountered everyone. Young couples on their honeymoon, retired couples enjoying their waning years together, gay couples, families
(seriously, this weirded me out a little, but I mark that up to what remained of my conservative nature), all colors, shapes, and sizes of
people, and people from all different backgrounds from a mechanic to an energy commodities broker. Our dinner partners continued to explain,
having visited this resort for several years running, that within the total group of Beachgoers there were three general cliques. First, he
explained, were the purists. Think sun worshipers here. This group enjoyed nudism and being at the nude beach because they personally believed
it was the most natural, healthy way to be. This group generally frowned on things like tattoos and piercings. For the next group, who we will
call nontraditionalists, nudism served as an element of their personal expression. Tattoos, piercings, and body jewelry are common among the
nontraditionalists. Finally, the third group that contained everyone who wasn't a purist or nontraditionalist, and this made up the majority of
people. This final group contained a lot of people who weren't necessarily nudist but were just trying something different, such as ourselves,
as well as limited nudists who only disrobed in this way on vacation, but took two or three such vacations each year.
Almost everyone was friendly to us, and once people became aware that we had never visited a place like this, they seemed to go to pains to make
us feel welcome. Most nights we would have dinner with one couple or another, chatting and drinking into the night, something that my wife did
not enjoy doing at home. In the mornings, many people would get up early to walk the length of the beach naked before the gendarmes came out
(after about 8:00 AM full nudity was limited to the southern end of the beach). Resort guests all had reserved beach chairs and umbrellas, and
the bulk of the day involved lounging by the waterside reading and watching people. And there were plenty of people to watch. Underweight
people, overweight people, some of the most amazingly in shape and attractive people, sunburned people (ouch!), people with lots of hair and
people with no hair (anywhere!), people with plastic surgery (both good and bad), and always people laughing and smiling and having a good time.
There was only one instance of awkwardness, and unexpectedly it involved me instead of my wife. Near the end of the week as we were lying on the
beach she noticed that I was getting a lot of attention from a man down from us. He walked by a couple of times and according to her had
conspicuously looked at me (or parts of me anyway) with more attention than was warranted. The gentleman's boyfriend was not present. I finally
noticed it too and just took that opportunity to go swimming again.
And the swimming! Growing up in a rural area, I had been skinny dipping before but always in a lake or creek and always with the fear that
someone might walk up unexpectedly. But here, it was the norm. The crystal clear water felt amazing, and within only a few minutes I had
convinced myself I would never be able to swim in clothes again. Admittedly, sometimes a school of fish would float by in hopes that we would
throw out bread or some other snack, and my first reaction would be to grab myself protectively. But the memory of swimming with my wife in the
clear Caribbean will remain with me until the day I die. I spent a lot of time snorkeling, and saw starfish, devil rays, eagle rays, tons of
tropical fish, conch shells, and even one small shark. Additionally, I found a woman's top, which she had worn to the water but then lost. I
felt like it was one of the few places that probably wouldn't be too embarrassing.
Ultimately, our week at the nude beach turned out to be everything we had hoped. It certainly changed my perception a little. We may never
return, but only because there's so many other places we would like to visit.
Below are some links for those readers who have considered a similar adventure themselves:
Club Orient Nude Resort
Orient Beach Forum, the forum we read prior to taking the trip.