I knew I could get you to read at least the first sentence of this column with that headline. Read on. I have treats for you.
We are all obsessed with the human body. And nowhere do you find the body more on display than at the beach. If you really want to go all the way, you have to go to a nude beach.
In our parents’ days, we heard of nudist colonies, places where young and beautiful beatniks smoked weed and drank wine and frolicked in mud baths in the altogether, all together. We all saw the compelling posters.
I don’t know about you but I spent a long winter building up body fats and dry skin, including an occasional itchy rash. My doctor said my skin looked “dry” and urged me to use skin moisturizer, something we tough guys often forget as we are putting on the Carharts.
Like many of us mountain people, I split for tropical climes this off-season, seeking moist air, beaches and a chance to air out the wrinkles and folds that had been under many layers of protective clothing. Maybe it’s because the islands are blowing up, but I found shockingly cheap airfare to Maui and got on that plane.
When we touched down and they opened the cabin doors for arrival, the plumeria-scented breeze was like an instant balm. The lips felt moist. The red spots vanished, and the air was full of oxygen and deeply nuanced scents.
After a couple of days chasing turtles in the tourist hotspots, we decided to attend a locals’ traditional party on a not-so-secret beach on the far end of the island. A quick stumble over a lava hill led us to a strip of sand with gentle waves and scattered with locals. A closer look revealed that many were “pants down.”
You know what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
So I went pants down and headed straight for the water, where other like-minded nudists were bobbing about. Swimming naked is liberating, to say the least. Without too much graphic detail, salt water beats the pants off of synthetic fabrics every day. The ocean is the wetsuit. And the wetsuit suits me.
After the bobbing, it was time for a dash back to the beach chair. Not too fast. Must avoid flapping about and drawing attention with quick movements. Not too slow. Don’t want to risk evocative strutting, either. No, the nude-beach cadence should be slow and carefree.
I snuck a look around. I couldn’t understand why everyone was not staring at me. It was as though a rare species of albino sloth seal had emerged from the ocean and no one noticed. I made it to the chair, popped up the umbrella, plopped down and made a nonchalant gaze directly in front of me into the endless ocean.
Glancing around, I saw other ghastly species mingling among the beautiful people. No one is perfect, and nowhere is this more obvious than a nude beach. Most of the people you wouldn’t mind seeing naked were clothed, and most of the people you’d prefer to see clothed were naked.
The hairless apes were at this particular beach for a weekly gathering of the tribe. There were many old hippies, smoking joints in their wrinkled leather suits. I saw a lot of lonely looking guys but some had their gals with them. It made me wonder, where did these old hippies come from? How did they get here and how did they live? Maui is expensive, and these retirees did not look like the working type.
Late in the afternoon there was a steady stream of new recruits arriving, bringing drums and drinks. A small group started the drum circle with a bleached, mistimed pulse that went nowhere but somehow changed the atmosphere to something more electric. More and more drummers showed, and before long an exotic African couple were leading the ensemble with a simpler, more compelling tribal beat and rudimentary commands that really got things going in the right direction.
I almost forgot I was naked and started moving my hips. As the light lengthened there was a higher ratio of clothed to non-clothed partygoers. I slipped on my shorts and walked closer to the circle. Having my eyes suddenly behold a nude man when I forgot where I was because of the music is unsettling and startling. I would have to get used to it. There were still more fissures on display than on the Big Island.
This scene was going off and it was time to split, time to weave our way through the naked crop, some sitting, some prone, some up, some down, some sideways. Some sitting on a towel, staring into a cell phone as if to say, “I feel naked without my device.”
I saw a lot of cell phones out there on Maui, mostly on the popular public beaches where waves, wildlife, sand and sunsets were right there, front and center. All you had to do was look up. But some couldn’t, and it made me a little sad. Because to be human means we all share the same flesh, the same habits and the same lameness. Some are better than others at covering it up, but everyone eventually sags and the grim reaper comes for us all.
Steve Skinner thinks we should bring back streaking, starting in the Experimental Forest. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.