November 28, 2007

The Five Year Old Naturist

I was five that summer. The woods were full of kids, running from house to house. The neighbor kids were all boys but I fell behind the pack, pounding along the mossy footpaths lacing the forest. One afternoon I followed my older brother outside. He meet up with his buddies and I was soon forgotten as they engaged in the mysterious art of being boys. The air was stifling and my green polo shirt stuck to my back. While the boys played in a clearing, I climbed a tree to reach cooler air. Easing out on a long branch, I positioned myself about 15 feet over the boys, lazily observing them. Bucky, a kid my age, wiped the sweat from him forehead and pulled off his shirt with a sigh of relief.

I looked down at my sweat-stained polo. In a single movement, I ripped it off and flung it to the ground below. The wind hit my sweat and a delightful tingle went up my back. I closed my eyes and puffed out my chest in relief. Cool air wrapped around my torso and snaked up into my damp armpits. The tiny hairs on my stomach prickled with shock. I took a deep breath and smiled.

"Hey! What are you doing?" My brother startled me out of my reverie. "Put your shirt back on!"
"Why?" I asked, surprised.
"Because you aren't supposed to take it off!"
"But Bucky took his off."
"Girls can't take off their shirts. Come down here and get your shirt on!"
"I don't want to wear it. I'm hot."
"Get down here right now!"

My brother was red with anger and embarrassment. His friends looked at me with dumb grins. Bucky held up my shirt helpfully. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. I wrapped my legs tighter around the branch and scowled. "I'm not coming down!" My brother threatened, pleaded and reasoned with me but every word strengthened my resolved to bare my chest. Soon they tired of me and moved on. After I was sure the boys were out of sight, I slid down from the tree and picked up my shirt with distaste. I pulled the shirt over my head and headed home. I knew I had done something wrong but I wasn't sure what. There was a feeling of shame that I couldn't understand. My shirt stayed on for the rest of the summer.

Fast forward twenty years. While hiking through a state park, I accidentally wandered onto a nude beach. Unknown to me, I had discovered Black's Beach while hiking through a State Park in San Deigo. I've since learned that Black's Beach is the largest nude beach in the United States and quite the gathering point for "naturists." I was about 50 yards down the beach before I noticed something amiss. There was something strange about the beach volleyball players. With a gasp, I realized me and my fanny pack were dreadfully out of place. I stopped short to collect myself. 'Just play it cool, Hollywood,' I told myself. 'Keep your eye on the horizon and put one foot in front of the other.'

To walk across the mile long beach meant cutting an hour off my hike back to the hotel and I was already going to be late for our dinner reservation. 'I'm a mature adult. This isn't a big deal.' With a deep breath, I continued walking. I cleared a handful of sunbathing nudists without incident. I was feeling proud of my open-mindedness when a man five feet to my left rose from his towel and raised his arms in a massive stretch skyward. It was impossible not to stare in shock. Losing all care of dignity, I turned and ran back the way I had come, opting to hike back to the hotel over the cliffs. I hoped my excuse for missing dinner would be accepted by my friends.

I miss the five year old me.

15 comments:

Colleen said...

Ah, yes. I had the same experience at about the same age. My brothers told me I couldn't take my shirt off because I was a girl (in that condescending tone brothers have). So I went inside and asked my mom. Luckily she was on the phone, so she would have said yes if I'd asked to dye my hair pink.

MarysMom said...

My daughter is five now and when she gets hot (mostly around the house) she would take off her shirt. Most of the time, I'd let her be but then, my husband comes into the room and comments on the naked girl and a shirt goe back on her 10 seconds after.
She had asked me why we always have to have clothes on and my reply was "to be polite to other people's feelings." Good or bad, that's my answer.

tracie said...

I'm so happy I know someone who has actually been to Black's Beach! My grandmother tried for years to get us kids to go check it out with her when they lived in San Diego. Finally when I was old enough to think it would be an amusing adventure to visit such a place with Grandma "Electra," I agreed, but all of a sudden Electra was full of excuses... I felt a little betrayed to realize her talk of visiting the beach had been a bluff, much like when I realized she had lied to me about seeing Santa fly through the sky as a child. She will LOVE this story, though!

Marie said...

I did the same thing when I was four and saw my dad and brother working in the garage without shirts. I couldn't understand why I couldn't take mine off too. Of course I also couldn't understand why my mom insisted I close the bathroom door every time I went in.

Shiloh said...

Love this post Hollywood. Great writing, as usual. :)

Angela said...

Because I'm a prude--but a gender equal prude--I make my boys keep their shirts on too. Hey, if we girls have to, then you can too.

Jamie J said...

There's a 4 generation picture of me, my mom, my grandma and my great-grandma when I was about 4. I am shirtless. I refused to put it back on and my mom just gave up eventually! :) I don't do that anymore...

Oh and supposedly Black's Beach isn't legally "nudist" anymore. But it still is...

me said...

My family visited some friends in Mallorca, and they took us to the beach. Ahem. A "clothing-optional" beach. We'd gone to Spain to pick up my sister . . . from her church mission . . . she hadn't yet been released . . . . So it made a pretty memorable trip. I'm quite nearsighted, so I just took off my glasses to walk with my sister. She looked at the ground, and I looked around at shapeless tan blobs. :) Blind leading the blind, hooray!

amanda said...

I think most of the beaches in Spain are topless (both genders). We went on vacation there, and when we asked about a non-topless beach, people just looked as us in a confused manner. And kids just went naked, which was totally acceptable up to about 10 years. So boy or girl, you would have been just fine in Spain without your shirt on.

Vivian Love said...

We were on vacation in Cancun, Mexico once and there was a topless beach on La Isla Mujeres. (off the coast of Cancun)...anyway I remember lots of beautiful European women there who were topless and they looked fantastic...that was until they lifted their arms...hairy. Yuck! Kinda ruined the whole look. And BTW, I kept my top on the whole time. I think you have to have the body to go topless, IMHO. Great story, Hollywood!

Suzie Petunia said...

There is a very, very small part of me that would like to romp around at a nudist beach sometime.

Karen said...

I think I would have died at that beach! I'm such a prude.

I remember taking off my shirt when I was even a few years older than 5. My cousins did it, and it WAS cooler. My mom was not happy.

bill said...

that johnny is always taking care of his siblings...

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