Having been a member of Irish Naturist Association (INA) and active naturist for almost four years, there have been many occasions where I wished that close friends and family could feel the same as me about naturism – the sense of freedom, relaxation, body-acceptance, benefits of vitamin D, self-esteem and the overwhelming feel-good factor that I always get. I wished that I would be able to tell them that I am a naturist. If only life was so simple!
The reality of course was a feeling of fear and nerves any time I dwelled on the idea. The fear of not knowing how someone would react was the most concerning – would they cut me off or how would their opinion of me change. But surely by keeping naturism a secret I risk giving people the perception that I am hiding something or doing something wrong. There’s a strong case to suggest that the more people that reveal their involvement in naturism, the more positive the opinion among textiles becomes. A naturist friend of mine once told me, “if friends cannot accept you as naturist, for what makes you happy or for who you are, then perhaps there were not good friends to begin with”.
In Ireland it’s a fact that many naturists keep their naturist activities a secret from their parents, partners, children and friends. The difficulty of this is that when you can’t be totally honest you become involved in a situation where you need to make excuses or lie. Thankfully I was open and honest with my partner from day one about my love of naturism and although it was not something that appealed to her, she appreciated my honesty. One important point to highlight is your choice of words, as some people relate the word “nude” to sex. I simply used the words “naturist” and “clothes free” when describing my involvement with INA.
Over time I told three other friends of mine but never face to face, just over email/social media chats. In fact the first friend I told was a female in her forties who lived over 5,000 km away and her reaction was very positive “good on you” and a feeling of “I wish I could do that”. It certainly felt good after telling someone other than my partner and I remember saying to myself that I should have told her long before now. I followed up by telling two other friends who were both in their thirties, although living in Ireland, they lived a considerable distance away from me so I told them over social media chats. All three friends asked me lots of questions, why I like being a naturist, how long had I been a naturist, what type of people do I meet, did I ever meet someone I knew and where do I practice naturism in Ireland. All three asked the same question about a member of the public seeing me when I was on the beach. My answer was simple, I never go out to cause offence to anyone and there’s always the added security and safety in numbers when I attend INA events as I am always in a group. By now I had received three very positive responses … Why did I wait so long?!?
In August ’17, as part of “Be Naked Day”, INA proposed a challenge to just tell someone you know about your participation in naturism. I thought about it and felt this would be a good opportunity to actually tell a friend, face to face. I was planning on going to a popular naturist beach, Sallymount, Co. Wicklow on that day and had a friend that lived less than 10kw away that I had been meaning to meet up with from some time now. This could be an opportunity, I thought.
However, this time around felt very different as I thought how I would be able to see his initial reaction, read his body language and listen to the tone of his voice – all of which were absent from my interaction with the previous three friends. Yet again I began thinking and predicting what his reaction would be. This was someone who I worked with in the past, I used to be his boss for almost 10 years and we were both in our early forties now. How would his perception of me change, from a professional and personal point of view? As these questions wondered through my mind, I did consider not telling him but something inside me kept saying ‘what’s the worst that can happen’.
We met in a coffee shop at the agreed time, after two or three minutes of small talk, I told him I had some news for him and explained how I was a naturist. His first reaction was “What?!” as he tilted his head and converged his eyebrows, I could sense he was asking himself the question did I say what he thought I just said. I spoke about the amazing benefits that I have felt since joining Irish Naturist Association, especially the outings to Sallymount Beach, just south of Brittas Bay relatively close to where he lived along with the feel good factor, the freedom and how I have made some really good friends. But to be fair he listened to me and didn’t judge. I told him about my very first outdoor naturist experience which was at Sallymount Beach and that I will never forget how great I felt afterwards as I drove home. It was an amazing experience that I instantly became addicted to. Then he said: “WOW, fair play to you!, I would never have guessed!!”. He did make a comment that he knew about the naturist beach just 10km away. He also passed a comment on how popular it appears to be in mainland Europe.
I followed up by telling him about some of the special event Spas I attended in a naturist environment in Ireland along with the trips to some other spas in Europe where it was simply natural to be naked.
I showed him my International Naturist Federation card and the first thing he noticed was the 2013 stamp and asked why I was telling him today. I opened the INA newsletter on my phone and showed him the flyer for “Be Naked Day” and spoke to him about the challenge. He laughed and said “who knows, maybe someday I’ll join you at the beach…”
It really felt good to have told a friend, face to face and to have received such a positive reaction, no silly jokes or anything like that. Time for my next challenge…….