Naturism (nudism and naturism to me are interchangeable words, I prefer and use the word naturism)… This was probably the one word that I least wanted to hear come from my husband’s mouth back when we were dating, and what scared me even more about him saying this one little word was he was using the word: US, in the same sentence. To say that I was scared and freaked out at his suggestion would be an understatement; I was completely against even thinking about the idea at the time. Fortunately, one of my husband’s best qualities is that he is persistent, and for that I can only say I am so thankful he was. Were he not so persistent I know I would probably still be the same insecure, self-doubting woman with extremely low self esteem that I was when he first brought up the subject of naturism with me. Naturism has freed me from the shackles of body shame and low self-esteem and has helped and still is helping me to become a stronger, more confident, and better person, wife, and mother. It was not an easy journey though. Below is my story of how I became involved in the naturist way of life, and what naturism has done for me.
So that one understands why I had such a negative response to my husband bringing up the subject of naturism, one first has to understand how I grew up and the things I had said about me and the things that others told me in my life.
Let me start out by saying I grew up in a home where nudity was just not something that was thought of or discussed and was considered to be something dirty and shameful, and outer appearance/looks was the most important thing. As far back as I can remember I was always ashamed of my body, though I never really understood why until after I started researching the naturist way of life with the encouragement of my husband. Nudity in my family was something that was strictly relegated to when you were in the bathroom taking a bath or a shower, or when you were dressing or changing your clothes, and always with the door shut and by yourself. Definitely not something that was to be done in mixed company by any means.
As I said before, outer appearance/looks was the most important thing to my family, and by this I don’t mean just clothes. If you had a little extra weight, wider hips or waist, a little extra padding on your butt or smaller breasts (for the person’s body size [proportionality wise]) than what they thought you should have, then you could almost count on getting made fun of on the basis of your appearance. For me, I ended up having many jokes, comments, and criticisms made about my appearance. I have always had a little extra weight compared to the rest of my family; my hips and my waist are larger than the rest of my family’s, and I had smaller breasts and a larger backside than the rest of my family. Some of the comments that stick in my mind to this day are being called “Heifer” instead of Heather, being told I had a ghetto booty, being told I better not eat this or that because it might make me get fat, and always being told I needed to go on a diet or start exercising more (despite the fact that I already exercised a lot). So, as you can see, I didn’t exactly grow up having the best self image and self esteem that a person could have and was extremely self conscious about my appearance.
I met and started dating my husband, George when I was almost 16 years old. I think I probably had him more frustrated with me than he had probably ever been by a girl because of the way I was always putting myself down. I was always saying I was too fat or that I need to go on a diet, or that I was not good looking or pretty enough for him. He constantly assured me that I was not fat, that I didn’t need to go on a diet, and that I most certainly was pretty enough/ good looking for him, and that he liked me just the way I was. I usually didn’t believe him or told him he was just saying that because he was my boyfriend. One of the things that I first noticed about George when we first started dating was that he was quite tanned and that he seemed to wear as little clothes as possible, but that was the furthest my mind ever went thinking about that. Around the time I was 17 ½ I gave birth to our son and moved in with George.
I guess he felt that it was about time I learned about a part of him I didn’t ever know about, though when I think back on it now I guess it should have been pretty obvious (i.e. lack of tan lines and comments from him about hating clothes). One evening after he had got home from work and showered, rather than getting dressed in the gym shorts he usually wore around the house, he remained naked. I told him to put some clothes on, to which he replied, “I’d rather not.” I jokingly asked him do you think you are a nudist or something, to which he replied “well its about time that you noticed.”
I thought he was joking, but he gave me this look that made me realize he was serious. I told him it was okay for him to be but don’t expect me to be joining him anytime soon.
Over the next five and half years, he slowly worked on opening my mind to up to the idea, helping me improve my self esteem and self image, and getting me to become comfortable with my own body, nudity, and eventually to social nudity in mixed company. I think I have probably read just about everything there is to read on the internet about naturism, self image, self acceptance, self esteem, and body image that there is to read, not too mention many books, and even a video about the nudist/ naturist way of life (AANR’s Let Yourself Be Free video). While all of this helped me to improve my self esteem and self image and helped me to be more comfortable with myself and his nudity, I still looked at it as something that was okay for him to do, but don’t expect me to participate.
In March of 2004, he told me he wanted me to go with him to a nearby beach called Heartland Cove up at Smithville Lake. He told me that a naturist group called Heartland Naturists had this listed on their website as a beach that they used for nude recreation. After three months of me finding one reason or another not to go there, he finally got me to go with him.
While we didn’t get to go nude that day, because I was unwilling to, despite saying I would and because of a couple of rude people fishing up there, he finally got me to agree to attend one of the Heartland swims with him. This was only after a very long discussion of my fears and concern over being nude in mixed company and with an agreement between the two of us that I could wear my swimsuit in. (I was still unconvinced that there was not sexual things going on and that it was not a bunch of model looking girls and well hung guys, despite everything I had read about naturism and George telling me that everything I thought I knew was not the case). Two weeks later we attended what would be my first time of being in mixed company where everyone was naked and it wasn’t just the two of us. When we first got to where the swim was being held he started to get out of the car and I froze. He finally got me to get out of the car and we went inside he paid for the both of us and then he proceeded to undress and I started to change. I had brought my swimsuit with me like we agreed to as a condition of my attending however I made the mistake of leaving the top half of my swimsuit with him and he had purposely left it out in the car. I freaked out when I realized this but decided to go ahead and go on in with him, at least I had my bottoms and informed him I was going to wear them no matter what. I then changed into the bottom half of my swimsuit and wrapped my towel around me so that I was covered from my armpits down and we proceeded to walk into the room where the pool was. Once I finally got myself into the water I noticed how good it felt to not have the top half of my swimsuit on, something I had never experienced before. A few minutes later the Heartland President, Marge came over and introduced herself to me along with several other women who were also there at the swim that night. They all talked with me that evening and assured me that what I had been told was very much the truth, told me about how they became involved in the naturist way of life and answered questions that I asked them in response to different things they brought up. After the swim ended we got out and dried off, said good bye to everyone and got into the car. No sooner had George and I got in the car and shut the doors before I blurted out how stupid I felt because I wore my swimsuit bottoms and didn’t just go nude like he did. George laughed and asked me what did I mean by that, I told him it felt so freeing, so different, and wonderful not having the top half of my swimsuit on and that I wished I hadn’t worn the bottom half of my swimsuit. He asked me why I just didn’t take them off then, to which I just sheepishly replied that I was afraid someone would have said something about me having done so. Needless to say at the next swim I didn’t bother to wear either half of my swimsuit. After the first swim I gradually over the next 6 months started to wear less and less clothes around the house till about April of 2005 when I started dressing (pun intended) as my husband does in nothing but his skin.
Over the last year one of the things that George has noticed as time goes by is that I am not putting myself down as often. As funny as this will sound, I can look in the mirror when I am nude and I am just fine. I don’t notice as much each and every little imperfection that I have, but when I wear clothes it makes them become instantly noticeable and causes them to stand out to me when I look in the mirror. Since I became involved in the naturist way of life I feel better about myself as a person, as a mother, and as a wife. I am more confident about how I look, even though I still don’t and probably never will look like what my family thinks I should or what society says a woman should look like, I now realize that these are unrealistic standards and attitudes for the overwhelming majority of society. Over the last year I have seen exactly two women and one man at naturist events or resorts that fit the “model” look that society say you have to look like to in order to be considered beautiful or attractive. This is out of probably close to 150 to 200 people that I have seen a total of three people that fits society’s and my family’s ideals of perfection. Naturism has helped me to see that all people, myself included, and even those that society holds up as ideals have their imperfections, those little things that we all would like to change about ourselves. It has taught me how to accept my body as it is, not to say that I still don’t work on the things I would like to change because I do. But to accept that for now they are a part of me and that I have worth and meaning to others, to my children, and to my husband regardless of whether I fit society’s or my family’s mold of perfection appearance wise. Naturism also taught me how to accept others as they are, to look at how a person is on the inside rather than judging them based on how they looked on the outside. I feel that I have a newfound sense of freedom in my life because I no longer feel ashamed of my body the way that I used to. I am free from that shame that I felt because of buying into what others said and told me I should look like. I no longer feel like I am letting my husband and children down because I don’t look like the perfect wife and mother (if such a thing even exists). I am proud and accepting of my body as whole something that I have never been able to say about myself before. I respect others and myself more since becoming involved in naturism. My body image and self-esteem are tremendously improved; I no longer have the overwhelming sense of insecurity about myself the way I used to. To quote the title of one of the first articles/ materials I ever read about naturism, which incidentally was, wrote by one of the Heartland members: Naturism has helped me to become A Soul Set Free.