In the spirit of Independence Day, I decided to exercise my freedom to get naked, in public! I've been wanting to try a Never b4 that's a bit out of my comfort zone and taking it all off in broad daylight with hundreds of people around certainly fit the bill.
There have been times in my life when I've shown a lot of leg or a little cleavage but I've never been brave enough to sport EVERYTHING. Perhaps doing this for the first time at 40 wasn't the best decision for the viewing public, but one great thing I've noticed about turning 40 is that it's come with this invigorating feeling of "I have nothing to lose."
Gunninson Beach, New Jersey -- -- the most popular "clothing optional" beach on the East Coast -- was my stripping stage. Mentally, I was ready but physically, I needed prep time.
- Shaving: the legs and armpits were mindless rituals but suddently without a suit that "tricky bikini area" was suddenly uncharted territory. I had no border to follow. No edge to trim along. Where to start? Where to stop? What's the right style? Did I need a scissor, too? As I stood in the shower, I laughed out loud knowing there were probably hundreds of websites that could have guided me. But in the end, I just winged it, trimming enough to look groomed (I hoped) and leaving enough for discretion and sun protection (again, hopefully).
- Suntan Lotion: having been a lifeguard who was, summer after summer, unable to muster a full-blown Coppertone tan, I knew I needed at least one full coat of 50 SPF lube over the entire length of melanin-challenged body. Thank God for spray-on lotions or else some hard-to-reach, and never-before-exposed places would be mighty crispy today.
- A Beach Buddy: Should I go alone or ask someone to join me? As someone that always wears a towel in the gym locker room, I'm clearly not comfortable being nude. So, laying naked on a blanket for a few hours with one of my best girlfriends just didn't feel quite right. Honestly I envisioned doing this Never b4 alone, but my broken-ankled husband, the very person that threw down the gauntlet for this challenge by forwarding me the recent New York Times article about Gunnison Beach, insisted that I have someone with me. The one person I felt comfortable calling had to work on Thursday so even though my husband wasn't much interested in crutching around naked in 90 degree temps, he volunteered to be my bare-it-all beach buddy (or so we thought, at the time).
We had 2 options for getting to Gunnison Beach: the SeaStreak Ferry (yes, Streak!) or our car. Even though the s-Streak was nearly irresistable from a photo-op standpoint we opted for the longer car ride (1+ hour) so we could explore the entire Gateway National Recreation Area where Gunnison beach was nestled. We timed our arrival to be well after the noon-day sun so my lilly white skin wouldn't turn redder than a blush from embarrassment.
While our timing may have been perfect, our vision of a boardwalk to the water's edge was completely wrong. The boardwalk ended nearly 1/4 mile from the surf and crutching that distance in sand just wasn't going to happen -- naked or not. The bright spot (in my husband's protective mind) was that the majority of beachgoers were couples so he finally felt comfortable with me dropping trou alone while he explored the rest of park in the car.
Alone, I trodded acrosss the hot sand, out of the staid "clothing required" section into the mysterious "clothing optional" world. My normal M.O. at the beach is to seek out a spot next to other pale-faces like me. Yet, in a clothing optional world, I didn't want to look too closely at anyone to assess their tan. Yet from my fleeting glances it seemed everyone looked pasty. Perhaps my assessment was swayed by the glow of the normally hidden body parts but regardless of the cause, it was clear that my normal strategy for selecting a good blanket spot, wasn't going to work here.
90% of those around me now were nude so I was starting to feel ridiculous and hot in my tank top and shorts. So, without further ado, I found an open spit of sand between a bunch of guys that were clearly only interested in their own company and a cluster of sunning couples. Thankfully, I'd had enough forethought to put on bikini bottoms so my shorts were safe to take off...and then off came my tank top!
Whew! No one noticed me topless.
But I wasn't about to wait for anyone to glance my way so I laid down immediately and tried to read Barack Obama's book. Ha! Like that was going to happen!!! I stared at the page but all I could think about was "should I take my bottoms off now, or wait?"
Then, suddenly I realized that my most comfortable "on back, knees bent" position for sunning myself wasn't going to be so flattering without my suit bottom's on. Also, I noticed that I had laid down facing the water whereas everyone in front of me, was turned the opposite way (facing me!) because the sun had dipped down in the western sky and they were catching every last ray they could. Ugh! I couldn't take my bottoms off with all their faces pointing right at me.
I sat up, feeling less topless this time and twirled around to face the same direction as everyone else. No one was in front of me now, so I whipped off my bottoms, laid down flat absolutely naked (and probably stiff as a board in my nervousness)! I feigned to read more but eventually decided to just close my eyes. This is when I felt the refreshing tickle of the ocean breeze and noticed how much cooler it was without the nylon of my suit against my skin. It felt good and I finally started to relax. Unfortunately, that's precisely when the green flies swooped in to attack my ankles, my thighs, my shoulders, my everywhere!
Slapping and flailing wasn't effective -- and certainly couldn't be flattering -- so I sat up and stayed up, opting for a good swatting position rather than a flattering pose. I had rolls I wanted to ignore but when I looked around, so did most everyone else. I also noticed that even though no one around me on the beach was in perfect shape, those that were naked looked better than those in bathing suits. Even the nicest of suits just seemd to pinch and squeeze in unflattering ways. To me, the naked old man with the big beer belly looked better than a similarly suited man with his beer belly hanging over a bright and tight banana hammock.
I lasted an hour in the sun with the green flies before packing it in to explore the rest of park with my husband. During our tour, I was surprised to learn how this spit of land had played a critical role as a missile defense area during both world wars and throughout the cold war as well. Many remnants stand to remind visitors like us that this beautiful place played a very active role in protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day.
Even though I never mustered enough bravery to get up and walk around Gunnison beach in my au naturel state, it felt great to exercise one of our more controversial freedoms near a place that was pivotal in defending those very freedoms. It was a powerful, and fun, way to start the July 4th weekend.
Happy Independence Day Everyone!
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