Contrary to common belief, it’s not actually illegal to be naked in public, but baring is still daring for most of us. A lack of events encompassing nudity – or perhaps lack of exposure to such events – keep us away from public de-clothing; for many, naked bodies belong only on secluded Brazilian beaches, and the idea of spontaneously stripping in front of an audience is the stuff of nightmares.
But search a little deeper, strip back the inhibitions and you’ll discover this: an indoor swimming pool brimming with people who quietly believe that being in the nude is the most natural state for human beings. Whether they’re floating in the water or flashing on the poolside, this hubbub of threadless individuals is sprightly and splendid. You might even call it liberating.
For many months now, I have borne witness to these intriguing gatherings. As lifeguard for the naturist group in question, I have watched from my high chair as people shamble in for a swim, totally starkers; I have nattered, I have chortled, and I have learned. A lot. In fact, being naked is far from a transparent state, and being a mere bystander hasn’t prevented me from making some observations. Some will no doubt reinforce stereotypes of such covert congregations, but I hope others will come as a pleasant surprise …
Ladies are uncommon
You bet, it’s mostly middle-aged blokes – although it’s far from exclusive. Women are actively encouraged to join due to the gender imbalance, so you can be sure that there will be ripples of enthusiasm if a leafless lady makes an appearance.
It’s pretty popular
Turnout averages well above 60 people, with newbies showing up every week. You can usually spot them a mile off, sheepishly shuffling onto the poolside.
It’s difficult to avert the eyes …
There’s nothing intrinsically sexual about a naked body, but being surrounded by them certainly takes some getting used to. I learned to keep my line of vision at a steady eye-level to avoid awkward gawping.
… which has led me to notice: it’s well-kept down there
Trimming and shaving are much more common than you might think!
There’s a little bit of hanky-panky
Although it’s a refreshingly (and perhaps surprisingly) platonic environment most of the time, let’s just say it can sometimes get a little, er, steamy in there. I keep a close lookout for the exchange of suggestive glances and am quick to park myself assertively near any suspects.
I kind of want to join in
There’s something contagious about the atmosphere – think modern-day Roman Baths, without it actually being people’s monthly wash. Everyone is very comfortable with themselves; it’s fabulously friendly, and the whole thing feels so normal. Of course, members of the group would argue that there’s nothing more normal than being naked. They’re unclad and unabashed, and it’s quite frankly BRILLIANT.
They prefer the term ‘naturist’
While the word ‘nudist’ is not exactly offensive, I was informed that ‘naturist’ better encompasses the ideals of the society: embracing nakedness as an organic state, and feeling more at one with the natural world. Peace and free love, man.
Some people bring their kids
Occasionally someone will make a rather cute family outing of it, or spend the session splashing about with their toddler. Teenagers remain unsurprisingly absent, though.
It’s like being part of a secret society
Really – the windows are covered up, you sign in on a special list, and pay a small fee to get in, all contributing to the general air of mystery which shrouds the session. Members of the public will occasionally take a sneaky peek.
It can look painful …
Watching somebody belly-flop into the water, landing somewhat awkwardly on very vulnerable body parts, can certainly be wince-worthy.
People are shocked when I tell them
The common questions I get are ‘do you have to be naked too?’ (no, and I’d ask for a significant pay rise); ‘are they all gay?’ (no, although there are obviously some who identify as such); ‘are they all weird?’ (yes, but only if you categorise being naked as weird. Otherwise, they’re just a bunch of normal, nice people who happen to enjoy the same activity in the buff).