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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rate Me Nude

The revolution, if you aren’t aware, is over. Wide-eyed idealism has evolved into a slight droop of the shoulders in the face of paying bills and raising a family; ponytails have been cut off in favor of more acceptable ’dos; Woodstock ’99 was hardly Woodstock ’69. And you have to pay ten bucks to get into Hippie Hollow.

“Have you ever been here before?” asks the woman who trades me a parking pass for two fives.

“No.”

“But you are aware that this is a clothing-optional park?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And are you all over 18?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Have a good time.”

I park the car just a few rows back from the entrance to the park, but by the time I get to the gate all four of us—me; Jackie, a female friend; Maggie, a friend of Jackie’s; and Scott, a boyfriend-type of Maggie’s—are already sweating. I met Maggie and Scott for the first time a few minutes earlier. I pass the time walking toward the park by imagining myself asking some of my well-established guy friends to come hang out with me at a nude sunbathing park, and I find it impossible. The best associates for a visit to a nude park are people who you know very well, or not at all, I decide.

“Are you gonna get naked?” Jackie asks, grinning.

I am about to tell her that I hadn’t quite made up my mind yet, but before I can, we see our first inhabitant of the park: chubby guy, late 30s. He’s wearing a blue ball cap, glasses, a too-small green polo . . . and nothing else. What looks like a skin-colored Hacky Sack bounces around just beneath the hem of his shirt as he walks. I clam up and fix my gaze to the back of Scott’s head. Jackie pokes her head into her big shoulder bag like an ostrich. Scott and Maggie continue chatting amiably, and I’m confused as to why they’re not as uncomfortable as we are.

“Maggie used to be a stripper,” Jackie whispers to me later. “She and Scott come out here all the time.”

This becomes even more obvious once we decide on a spot to lay down on. Maggie unties and removes her top with expert technique and then, just as swiftly, steps out of her bikini-bottoms. I’m not sure where to look, so I stare at her breasts. I wish I had sunglasses on. By the time I turn around, Scott is completely nude as well. Both of these people, it’s important to note, look great without clothes on, which perhaps explains the speed with which they undress. I force myself to observe men’s-room/locker-room etiquette with regards to Scott.

“Clothing optional” is how the woman at the front described this place, but I’ve decided that that’s not really accurate. “Nudity expected” is really more like it. In the five minutes it took us to walk to our spot, we’ve seen about 30 people or so, and they were all naked or mostly naked. (They were also mostly what appeared to be gay men.) Jackie strips her top off, and suddenly I’m overdressed.

“Wanna go swimming?” she asks.

“Absolutely.”

The water is clear and refreshing, and I’m relieved not to be standing there wondering if I did enough squats last month to legitimize baring it all. We swim around for a good half-hour, and on the way back I decide that I can do it. I untie my bathing suit and slip out of it as we head back to the shore. Jackie is naked too, and quickly climbs out of the water while I loiter around, waist-high, pretending to still enjoy the lake. Finally I suck in, climb up the rocks, spread out my towel, and sit down.

I’m not body-conscious necessarily—I work out and ride my bike as often as I can. It’s not like that matters anyway; almost everyone here is pretty out-of-shape. But I don’t really compare myself with the cluster of potbellied senior citizens standing too close to each other; I compare myself with the group I’m in: a former stripper; another young athletic female; and a guy with abs you could grate cheese on and—it’s impossible not to notice—a penis the size of a child’s arm. I am suddenly very aware of the position of every part of my body.

What to do? How to alleviate this burgeoning awkwardness? I consider a bottle of cheap whiskey that has been sitting in the sun and opt for the SPF 30 sitting next to it instead. I squirt some lotion on the parts of me that have never seen sunshine and rub it in quickly—but not too quickly, lean back, close my eyes, and soak in the sun. While I listen to Scott and Jackie chat, something strange happens. I suppose public nudity is like a new pair of underwear: uncomfortable at first, but as time goes by, much more agreeable. Before I know it, I’m not thinking about the best way to squeeze in some crunches unnoticed. Fast-forward 15 minutes and I’m traipsing around the rocks like I’m a five-year-old on summer vacation.

We all do some more swimming, and when we get out, Jackie produces her camera. Scott and Maggie are excited and begin posing lewdly. I once read that you should never have your picture taken with a drink in your hand, and I wonder if there’s a suggestion about nude pictures. Propriety waves goodbye when Jackie and Maggie pose on either side of me with their breasts in my face.

“Cheese!”

“Titties!”

The scenery on the way out the view is very similar to the scenery on the way in, but I take it in with very different eyes. Two overweight naked Mexican guys kicking around a soccer ball? No big deal. It takes me a few minutes to really register that the guy walking in front of us in the running shoes is tan all over and completely hairless from the neck down. Three or four hours earlier I might have detached my retinas by turning my neck away while straining my eyes toward the spectacle. We put our clothes back on when we reach the edge of the park, which now feels like a line between fantasy and reality. After having my clothes off for so long, my t-shirt and shorts feel itchy and constricting. The sign posted at the exit is standard:

THANK YOU FOR VISITING HIPPIE HOLLOW
PLEASE COME AGAIN


Scratching at my uncomfortable collar, I wonder how many people I can cram in my car for next time.

10 Comments:

Blogger Cibbuano said...

Mein Gott!

Brilliant!

I've GOT to link that...

It sounds incredible and awkward all at the same time.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

That sounds like utter hell. Not so much the embarrassing part, but what if it gets caught on some branches or something?

Or like mosquitoes?

Or like if ants go up there? You know? You know!??!

11:52 AM  
Blogger Cibbuano said...

What are ants going to do? They're naked to?

6:09 PM  
Blogger D to tha L I C T said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Christopher Zane said...

That's a good question, Derelict.

I'm sure some of the more curious hippies would stop by and offer you a joint. Who knows, you could end up in a freaky threeway with two broads wearing dreads below the waist.

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derelict, I'd worry about the same thing. How did we ever survive teaching swimming lessons to those girls? I just tried to control my thoughts, but sometimes Jimmy has a mind all his own.

2:37 AM  
Blogger D to tha L I C T said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:48 PM  
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