“Our first opportunity to strip off outdoors presented itself during a holiday on St. Martin, where we discovered, along its vast coastline, Orient Bay, a world-renowned nude beach and resort where nudity is required from dawn to dusk. Always up for a challenge, we decided to take the plunge, starting off in the clothing-optional coffee shop to ease our way in.”—Ross Konikoff
West Side Stories
By Ross Konikoff
Note: Ross Konikoff, whose humorous, first-person essay follows, has won the “2015 F. Theresa Gillard Prize for Creative (Hubristic) Nonfiction.” The editors congratulate Mr. Konikoff, who will now have a periodically-running column on the magazine, and thank all other writers who contributed essays for consideration.
“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.”―Charles Chaplin
“Too much nudity is a turn off. Especially if all that flesh is on one person.”―Jarod Kintz
“I’m glad I don’t have any foreskin, because at a nude beach I’d feel overdressed.”―Jarod Kintz
MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—1/12/2015—It has been said that nudity is easy for the beautiful. While this may explain my wife, Deborah’s, abandon, my own fearlessness I attribute to denial and poor vision.
Early on, Deborah and I discovered that neither of us was the least bit reluctant to unattire at a nude beach or a European-style spa. In fact, I enjoy being unveiled amongst other nudies, not for prurient reasons alone (my personal favorite) but simply because it feels strangely liberating. Were I assigned to create a detailed universal regimen for a healthy lifestyle, I would go so far as to prioritize nudity—right up there with daily exercise and a healthy diet. Nudity is much more appealing and certainly less tiresome than chewing on alfalfa sprouts, quinoa, and lentils, although you could masticate all three while jogging naked, thus killing three endangered birds with one kidney stone.
Our first opportunity to strip off outdoors presented itself during a holiday on St. Martin, where we discovered, along its vast coastline, Orient Bay, a world-renowned nude beach and resort where nudity is required from dawn to dusk.
Always up for a challenge, we decided to take the plunge, starting off in the clothing-optional coffee shop to ease our way in.
No such easing appeared necessary for the other patrons, for every sightline lead to cellulite and genitalia. Fortunately, under the watchful gaze of the Nude Restaurant Inspector General, the wait staff was required to drape their privates. I grow annoyed when a waiter puts his thumb in my soup, so I shudder to imagine the potential for inadvertent dunking should the dress code become even the tiniest bit less restricted.
After we placed our order, a British tourist at an adjacent table asked the waiter if he had Spotted Dick, triggering a near physical confrontation. Fortunately, an eavesdropping UK/US interpreter piped up with a clarification and peace was restored. Soon, we finished our coffee and set off to walk the hotel grounds. It was quite a sight for the uninitiated—the open air changing rooms and showers congested with pilgrims of all ages, builds, and colors, casually disrobing, showering, then dressing again, all standing cheek by jowl by cheek.
According to the brochure, the Orient Bay Resort caters parties and special occasions, even nude weddings, events at which it must be a cinch to identify the Best Man.
“Well, Tarzan, shall we?” asked Deborah.
“Umgowa.” I replied, wiping the remains of a prune Danish from my chops.
Off we went then, toward the beach, in search of the perfect spot. As recent arrivals, we found we were the center of attention as we set up our chairs and umbrella. Now came the moment of truth, disrobing under the close scrutiny of every baby-blue within range. Making the most of it, we stood proudly in the sun, executing a semi-synchronized strip, followed by a polite bow in all directions (almost succeeding in eliciting applause from a few encampments and once again substantiating the old showbiz axiom that 90 percent of the performance is in the bow) before settling in place to begin broiling our alabaster derma to burnt umbra.
There was the occasional gawker, someone unwilling to disrobe but more than willing to do a slow walk-by. Two particularly outrageous offenders were a portly, middle-aged Dutch couple wearing matching “I Love Amsterdam” t-shirts and unsponsored shorts, who made a late morning appearance, causing a stir. Just off their cruise ship for the day, the barrel-chested, red-faced, slightly mustachioed man, along with his barrel-chested, red-faced, slightly mustachioed wife, came ambling down the beach. Stopping every few yards, the Burgemeester blatantly pointed his video camera at couple after couple, archiving each specimen as de echtgenote looked on, giggling.
Some of us ignored them, some yelled and waved them away but, as the couple zeroed in on us, Deborah’s response to this outrage won the hearts of all around us. Rather than grab a towel and cower behind it, she opened her legs and stared directly into the camera, a display so brutally stark that the brazen pair turned a shade of mahogany and scurried off.
We then noticed that one savvy, bikini-clad entrepreneur had set up a massage table under a large umbrella in the middle of the beach, her hand-drawn sign advertising the availability of either 30- or 60-minute massages for a buck per minute. There were no takers until Deborah decided to give it a lash.
I paid the girl, Deborah climbed up on the table and the kneading began. Within five minutes, a surfeit of men closely resembling a frenzy of Reef Sharks had encircled the table, transfixed by the sight. I must admit, I was the most captivated of all, pushing my way to the front, determined not to so much as blink as my wife enjoyed her (inadvertent) foray into lesbian, soft-core porn. I watched closely as thoughts of permanently relocating to the island danced in my head. I had every confidence that were we to take up residence on St. Martin, come election time, Deborah would be a shoo-in for Mistress of Tourism, becoming the new face of the Netherlands Antilles.
Once things calmed down again, we spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off in the ocean and meandering up and down the beach alongside other couples, resembling nothing so much as an R-rated Easter Parade. That evening, our farewell dinner included a toast to the nude beach and a pledge to someday visit again.
Fast-forward several years, and we had come into possession of a small apartment in South Florida, a perfect getaway spot for those times when our occasional domestic spats began registering on the Richter scale.
While perusing a tourist pamphlet one afternoon, I learned that another of the most popular nude beaches in the world was no more than a 20-minute drive from our apartment. Given our expertise in nude beach etiquette, I thought it might be time to give it another go, American-style.
Deborah wasn’t keen on the idea at first, having purchased several tropical-themed bathing costumes for the trip but, eventually, she relented after securing a promise from me that I would try to relax and be more tolerant of “minor annoyances.”
The next morning, we slathered our bodies with SPF 50 and set out for Haulover State Park. There, we dragged our kit a fair distance down the beach in order to observe the milieu from a safe starting distance. Once settled, we jumped into the water and frolicked like dolphins at play. (Fortunately, there were a few dolphins frolicking nearby, against which to make a comparison.)
Again, there were gawkers, generally groups of two to three adolescent boys, hormone- infused perspiration oozing from their pores, generating only low-level annoyance. Day One went so well that Deborah’s apprehension disappeared and we returned again the day following, this time setting up nearer the center of the action. Lounging in closer proximity to others required a keener eye on my part, to ensure that my rules of conduct were strictly observed by those nearby.
The following rules of engagement I take verbatim from my Manifesto of Nude Beach Etiquette:
- When a man checks out another man’s naked wife, assuming he, too, is naked, he must stare for no longer than three to five seconds at a time. He may choose to look back a thousand times, which is fine, even flattering, but any longer and he earns a not-so-subtle visual rebuke.
- Any man who has not removed all his clothing is prohibited from all but a quick glimpse.
- If a naked man is without a female companion, or is with another naked man, both straight, each is allotted slightly less maximum stare time.
- If he is with another man and they are gay, all rules above are formally suspended since they are looking at me or noting the design on my umbrella.
The women on the beaches of Florida exhibit solidarity regarding the Brazilian bikini wax as the look of preference. Every woman on the beach was devoid of the stuff, as were most of the men. As far as I’m concerned, the clean, unobstructed presentation of genitals works well for women but, on a man, all that equipment bouncing around with no garnish looks just plain silly.
At one point, we noticed that something down the beach to our left was drawing the attentive stares of the entire crowd. We stood, scouring the beach for what it might be that was captivating the crowd, finally spotting a tall, very pale Asian girl who had just peeled her bikini bottom down, revealing a stunningly shiny, jet-black, jaw-dropping mass of pubic hair.
It was as though Ra himself nestled between her thighs.
This unfortunate girl, just in from the mainland and sporting nature’s bounty, represented a visual paradigm shift for the hip and hairless Miami swingers. Neither straight nor gay could avert his or her eyes from this hirsute display. She had most likely spent all morning gathering her courage to take it all off. As she tossed her last bit of coverage into her tote bag, she looked up and saw that her worst fears had been realized. She must have felt terribly betrayed by friends who’d encouraged her, saying, “Don’t worry. They’re all naked too, so they probably won’t even notice you.”
She quickly sat down in her chair, and held a towel over herself for the rest of the afternoon, never once venturing to the water. We later debated the odds that she’d gone directly from the beach to either the J. Sisters Salon for The Deluxe Depilation Package, or to her travel agent in order to book her return passage on a slow boat to Asia, in the hope that word of her scandalous exposure would have died down by the time she returned home.
The following day we placed ourselves dead center, surrounded on all sides by other singles and couples. Judging by their self-conscious behavior, our neighbors all seemed to be second- or third-timers, as were we. Later, a flow of primarily gay men began arriving and infiltrating our area of the beach, one nasty looking character in particular deciding to spread his towel not ten feet away from us, presenting himself as the only object between us and our formerly unblemished view of the ocean.
Once revealed, he shone white as a ghost and was devoid of hair from stern to stem. Turning to stare at us directly, he seemed to scowl, then lay face down on his towel, head towards the ocean, spreading his legs as wide as possible, presenting us with a sight more commonly observed at the Colorectal Surgery Institute of Miami. All we could deduce was that we must have claimed his favorite spot on the beach, and he was trying to intimidate us into moving or, at least compel us to atone.
He most likely saw us as rubes, out on our first nude adventure following our hay ride to the big city. How wrong he was! This was our second nude adventure following a hay ride to the big city, so I was damned if he was going to disrupt our tranquility.
For a while, I sat patiently, trying my best to enjoy the beautiful blue water and white-capped waves lapping gently at the shore, all the while fixing my gaze no lower than two feet above sea level. Eventually, however, I proved unequal to my task, and gave in. He’d marked his territory and we were trumped. Unable to tolerate this non-strutting ass any longer, I leapt to my feet, grabbed my chair, and dragged it 20 feet to the right, while flashing my sternest “follow me” look at Deborah. She sighed, got up, and dragged her chair next to mine. I went back for our umbrella, giving ass-man a final scowling of his life, despite the fact that unless he had developed the power of sight with that thing, it was, admittedly, a futile gesture. We spent the remaining hours of the afternoon enjoying our ocean vista minus the large bowel obstruction.
The next morning, still smarting from our beachside rebuke, we mobilized far from the madding crowd. Our solitude was short-lived however as, out of nowhere, a chubby, middle-aged man, dragging an enormous wagon of equipment, trudged over and began setting up 20 feet away. This chap, dressed in Bermuda shorts, a pink polo shirt and fishing hat, and draped with a pair of binoculars, had seemingly decided we looked lonely and needed company. I sensed trouble again and should have decamped at once, but I was on probation with Deborah, having previously forced her to move on several occasions simply because I was upset by one annoyance or another, so I tried, once again, to ignore the interloper, hoping this time for a different result.
His shelter, once fully erected (more on fully erected later), was an elaborate, full-sized camping tent with an attached portico, shaded by a huge, chartreuse umbrella. Flopping down on his lawn chair, a family sized cooler open next to him, every indication pointed to the likelihood of his not budging before sunset.
Binoculars will never win you friends on a nude beach, but add to that a frozen, deranged smile and I knew it was just a matter of time until something gave. Sure enough, as soon as he settled into his chair, he began brazenly breaking every rule in my Manifest. When Deborah strolled down to the water for a swim, he watched her as would a starving cat, preparing to pounce on a juicy canary.
I was fuming now as Deborah returned, noted my anger, and then reminded me that this was, after all, a public beach and he had every right to stare. I stopped monitoring him for about an hour but then curiosity got the best of me and I took a quick peek. He sat just inside his tent, sans-culottes, staring at Deborah while performing a manual override of the regulation sexual act. Pointing towards the tent I said,
“Get a load of that!”
Deborah looked over, acknowledged the situation, and said,
“Oh, leave him alone. I don’t care.”
I was out of patience and stood up, threw my things onto the chair, and began dragging it down the beach. Again, Deborah dutifully rose and followed me. Our departure was swift and decisive. We continued marching till we were hundreds of feet away, back amongst the other couples, beyond even the telescopic range of our self-pleasuring admirer. It was comforting to, once again, be surrounded by other pretty girls with their paranoid husbands, although I suppose Deborah was right (again), arguing that the poor guy was just some lonely introvert, getting his kicks the only way he could. By the time she finished haranguing me, my cold heart had thawed slightly. Following a flash of empathy within, I silently expressed hope that Deborah’s admirer had at least been able to finish before the sight of Deborah’s cute derriere disappeared over the dunes. He had, after all, put in the time.
The next and final morning of our vacation, I suggested that we assemble in the relative safety of the gay men’s portion of the beach. The men there would definitely not be staring at Deborah and wouldn’t be very impressed with me either, for that matter. We got a few dirty looks while setting up, but we were mostly ignored for the rest of the day, exactly the response I was hoping for following the annoyances of the previous days.
As the morning progressed, we observed the much less inhibited demonstrations of affection expressed by the male couples around us, kissing and touching themselves and one another in overtly sexual ways. Somehow, I found this less offensive and distracting than the pervert in the tent, and Deborah didn’t seem to mind it. I assumed the sight of so many well-endowed and physically fit men surrounding us, despite their personal preferences, must, by nature, have a powerfully stimulating effect on any woman lying naked amongst them, under the hot sun.
As there is a best man at every wedding, there is usually a best man at every nude beach, a man, genetically nominated by the extreme size of his manhood. There is a generally accepted minimum-maximum range that most men fall within, but every so often an abnormality appears that necessitates acknowledgement and respect. One such example stands out, and it occurred that very afternoon. The tempo of the beach slowed noticeably when, down the beach came walking a tall, skinny, very dark-skinned man, his hair woven into long dreadlocks, generally fitting the description of your stereotypical Jamaican man, acting very self-consciously nonchalant, and through his body English, emphasized his wares. His organ resembled, in the words of one of our great American philosophers, “… a baby’s arm with an apple in its fist.” The straight men stared enviously, the gay men stared droolingly, and the women stared curiously, wondering, I imagined, what a thing that big would feel like. It was fascinating to watch as each couple first caught sight of Superman, and then nudged his or her partner. I’m not a certified lip reader, but it became obvious that the two most commonly mouthed phrases upon first seeing this man were, from the women, “Oh my god!” and from the men, “Holy shit!” Being the jealous type, I was surprisingly fine with Deborah lingering all day in this highly concentrated pool of female sexual stimulation since I would later be the beneficiary of this arousal.
As the sun began to sink, we suddenly realized that most of the gay couples were out in the sea, paired up in waist-deep water, one behind the other.
We looked at each other in amazement after realizing, almost simultaneously, exactly what was transpiring. There they were, thrusting into their partners in what almost seemed a choreographed erotic ballet, performed to the relaxed tempo of the ocean. I could almost hear James Earl Jones narrating this as a PBS Nature Series: “The Mass Mating Ritual of the Sea,” made possible in part by a generous grant from the Astro-Glide Foundation.
Our conversation over dinner that evening revealed that, for both of us, the act of dressing had taken on a higher level of mindfulness, since we’d spent the greater part of the week naked. On the morning of the seventh day, we arose, showered, then dressed observantly, slipping on this piece of rigging, those bolts of swathing, that bit of frippery, before driving to the airport.
So, there you have it, our six days of walking the earth unclothed, the state in which we had come into the world. We’ve been back to Florida several times since our six days down the rabbit hole, yet neither of us has ever again heard the siren song of the nude beach bewitching our pants off. As tempting as it may sound, the opportunity to broil under the brutal rays of the sun while being ogled, masturbated to, and compelled to witness a coterie of gay couples copulating in the surf, no longer seems to be our cup of tea. This does not, however, preclude the possibility that, some day, when the intensity of our marital disputes begins registering on the New York State Geological Society Richter Scale, it may be our cue for another day of mad unpredictability al fresco.
As it says in the old King James, “Like as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder on Egypt and on Ethiopia.”
Three years? Those must be some great beaches.
Note: Click on the cover of Ross Konikoff’s latest novel-on-Kindle to buy the book: