OK, I admit, that is a lofty title, and probably not worthy of what you are about to read. Someday, I’ll pen a book called The Cure for Civilization (TM), but for now, let me explain what I mean by “civilization.” Too often, this complex, messy world we live in—this life geared toward comfort and ease—is anything but. Bills. Taxes. Credit Scores. Insurance. Politics. Silly laws preventing you from enjoying the breeze in the buff. It’s nothing but a constant barrage of anxiety-inducing stress and I’ve got plenty of it.
Stress is a killer. Animals only experience it when they are being hunted. When a gazelle senses a lion ready to pounce, adrenaline shoots through its veins, its heart rate goes up as a result, and ALL non-essential systems go down. These include pain receptors, but also, the animal’s immune system. How can you worry about germs when you’re about to get eaten? On the African Savannah, evolution’s survival mechanism works great, at least for the gazelle. But for humans eking out a life in the 21st century, it isn’t. Stress shuts off our antibodies like a switch, which is why I often find myself taking ill after a particularly bad day at work. Heck, I suspect I came down with COVID early in 2020 during a supply shortage while looking for chicken wings for my restaurant.
I am not one to advocate for homeopathy. Most of that is bunk. But I can’t help but feel a great sense of relief, a panacea, while out in the wilderness wearing nothing but what God gave me (I’m really an atheist but never mind). Discarding the trappings of civilization—our clothes, our keys, our iPhones—gives me an exuberant thrill, a release from the stresses associated with modern life. It’s like that movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, where a single Coke bottle causes no end of problems for a primitive tribe of Africans; the hero has to walk to the end of the Earth to discard it.
I adhere to the American philosophies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, one of whom stated (sorry I can’t remember which) and I paraphrase: We don’t own things, things own us. To be truly FREE is to rid yourself of all the things that worry you. I also sympathize with Christopher McCandless, the middle-class college student who abandoned his car and burned all his money to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. He craved the same freedom from civilization I do, and I have no doubt he would have embraced the nudist ethos if given the opportunity. Sadly, Chris met an untimely end after eating a wild potato, which shut down his digestive system, resulting in eventual starvation. You can read about his life and death in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.
For all my bluster, I am a MAJOR wimp. Sure, I’d love to live like Ralph, Henry, Chris, or any of the survivalists on Naked & Afraid, at least during the daytime. I walk barefoot over gravelly roads and bony roots without a qualm, and the occasional bug bite (even after that one time I stepped on a bee) won’t deter me from casting away my protective layers. A little pain is more than worth the price of truly feeling alive! But, come nightfall, I prefer laying snug in my bed with my laptop and a good book. And this brings me to the point—ah yes, THE POINT!—of this post.
I finally revisited Lake Como Nudist Resort with the wife and we got in before 2:00 for the all-important golf cart tour. The receptionist was fairly pleasant this time around, a lot more than Dolores Umbridge, and after pulling a Karen over my last trip, Melissa Dodd, Director of Operations, offered us two free passes. A man who looked like Wilford Brimley in a bathrobe gave us the mandatory tour, and afterward, my wife and I explored the resort with our dog, Mocha, in tow.
We met many interesting people at Como, most of whom had their foot in the grave with the other on a banana peel, but we weren’t the only ones in our forties and we even spotted the rare nudist child. With every passing decade, it seems, nudist patrons get younger and younger, and I have no doubt that in another few decades they won’t seem that old at all! A pleasant-looking woman, who I can only assume underwent a double mastectomy (either that or she was born without nipples) led us to the dog park, and while I probably shouldn’t mention her Barbie-like physique, her utter disregard for appearances was a beautiful thing to behold. I imagine most women going to great lengths to hide the ravages of their cancer treatment, but she could NOT have cared less, and I like to think that’s what nudism is all about.
Next to the dog park, we came to a homegrown vegetable kiosk and a lady selling eggplants. She was entirely naked but her husband was fully dressed, which must have given my non-naturist wife some confusing messages. And he wasn’t the only one. I noticed a decent number of attendees who could have just stepped out of a Dillard’s dressing booth. Sure, not everyone acclimates to nudism right away, but the temperature was hovering at about 75 F and these folks were living at the resort! I don’t get buying a house in one of the few places on Earth you can legally get your kit off and doing otherwise. But who knows. Maybe their spouses dragged them into it and they were keeping to their stubborn, textile-loving ways. If it were me, I’d have burned my clothes on day one, or given them to Salvation Army, keeping just a pair of jeans and a Spider-Man T-shirt to visit the cinema.
The pool is a tad small for the crowd and my wife complained about the limited facilities. Twenty years ago, when we were hitting Paradise, there was a lot more to do, but that was before the place got overrun by swingers. Give me a hundred mil and I’ll turn Como into a MECHA for nudists the world over—think Disney World with naked people—but I’ll leave that fantasy for another post. Hungry? Como has a fairly new cafe, but their fryer was broken, so we sat by the lake with their only menu option in hand: Spinach Reuben wraps.
The nature trail is the actual reason I go to Como and is in fairly pristine condition. We didn’t need a machete to get through the brambles and there was nary a mosquito or anything else with pincers in sight. Even my fussy wife was pleased. I was mostly excited to show her the exotic locations that inspired me to write The Feral Girl. And while she insisted on carrying her beach bag, the dog’s leash, and a sarong about her waist, I felt that here, at last, I’d found my escape from civilization. I could pretend to live as humans were meant to, simply and without all the modern trappings of life weighing me down. For a little a while, at least, I could pretend that I was free.
Next time, we’ll play Bocce ball.
A friend of mine who once studied New Testament Greek told me that the word ἀλήθεια alethia means something like “unveiled”. I must say that reading the posts on your site about naturism has been a true unveiling for me.
In recent days, I have been trying to navigate the complex terrain of naturism, in its recreational, ethical, environmental and spiritual manifestations. I’ve even come across Christian naturism . . . In the course of my search, I came across a short Swedish film made in the 1930s. It starts with a brief lecture by the medical doctor Johan Almkvist, who wrote an influential book called Hälsa och nakenhet (Health and nakedness), and is followed by some footage of Swedish naturism (at 8:20), poignant scenes indeed considering what was happening in Germany at the time. I hope you find it heartening . . .
Here is the link:
Many thanks again for your courage and endeavour.
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There are dozens of videos like this floating around the web, many of them in English. And I mean old-fashioned-nudist films from the 60s and earlier. It’s a bit sad to see how young and fit these people look. It may be that the filmmakers cut people without a certain body type, but I really do not think that’s the case. I believe nudism once attracted younger folk in better shape. I am not sure why it’s so different today.
I will definitely give this a watch! Thanks for the comment.