My writing life has not been going well of late. A book reviewer from the Pubby book-review exchange recently gave me a review with nothing but very positive words for the book Cissy Moonskipper’s Travels, and yet, he only gave it three stars out of five. It seems dishonest. Four stars mean you liked the book. Three is a tepid response. I would never give a three without explaining why I didn’t like the book. I prefer honest reviews to weaselly wording and tepid responses. I’d rather be told why it is not good enough flat out. I suppose, as someone who dabbles with being a nudist, I would prefer naked honesty.
Naked honesty to me is a metaphor. An important metaphor. It stands for not hiding anything, whether it is something embarrassing, something to be ashamed of, something to be proud of, or something you hide because society tells you that you must. Just like when you are standing in front of a crowd of people, some who know you, and some who don’t, and you are completely naked so that they can see everything. Warts, tattoos, scars where you burned yourself on purpose, bulges of fat, birthmarks… everything. That happens in real life in gym dressing rooms, public showers in campgrounds, and other situations like that that people who aren’t me take for granted as being innocent.
I use naked honesty in this blog a lot. Also in my novels, and in my artwork. As a survivor of a sexual assault when I was ten, committed by an older teenage boy, dealing with naked truth is a critical thing to me that I need to talk about. I found comfort and healing in contact and conversation with nudists. I was deprived of the ability to be comfortably naked from the age of ten to the age of 35. That deprivation interfered with being in the shower room with other boys during P.E. classes and after sports practice and competitions. It also interfered with my ability to befriend others and confidently talk to girls. I had to struggle to identify myself as a heterosexual male. I narrowly avoided meltdowns and anxiety attacks in numerous situations like those seemingly innocent ones I was just now describing. It made me a bit of a social outcast. And it definitely interfered with my love life until I was 38 and finally able to marry.
So, basically, I healed myself with explorations of nudity. I thought about it. I found ways to expose myself to it without risking any crimes or mortal sins. I associated to a limited degree with naked people. (I had a nudist roommate for a year in grad school. And a former girlfriend was a big help in that her sister lived in a clothing-optional apartment complex in Austin, Texas. I never was myself naked when she dragged me there. But I learned a lot about nudists from nudists there.) I began drawing nudes.
You may have noticed that my drawings of nudes tend to be either children or child-like young adults. I can assure you that they are never intended to be any sort of child pornography. They are innocent nudes. I never drew a child nude from a live model without clothing. I have done portraits of nude children from photographs, but only with parental consent forms somewhere in the process. Live nude models I have drawn were consenting adults posing in an art class, except for one case when the request was from the boyfriend and the young lady herself while she was doing the posing. That was awkward, but that boyfriend was my efficiency-apartment roommate who had previously explained to me about being a nudist. I never drew him, but he was naked most of the time within the apartment. I also drew nudes from photographs in nudist publications. I don’t draw genitals very often, and never in a way that is inviting the viewer to think “pornography.” I can draw adult nudes, and have done so, but it is less comfortable because of the sexual aspect and how it tugs at that old traumatic fear.
It is psychologically very freeing to be socially nude around other nudists who simply desire that same naked honesty from me that they are presenting me with. Nudists look at each other eye to eye rather than staring in ways that are only appropriate in certain more private situations. It is not about sex. And lewd behavior in public is always against the rules in the places and situations that nudists share together. After a while, seeing naked people around you seems perfectly normal.
There is also a downside. If you spend all your time dealing in naked honesty, you become overexposed… even if you never show off your own penis, and nobody ever seems to be paying attention to anything you write, draw, say, and do. Your deepest, darkest secrets are out there. Everything is exposed. If you read this far in this essay, you already know my darkest secret… being the victim of a sexual assault.
I worry that someone will read my work and put together who he was, this person who did a horrible thing to me and made me fear that he would kill me if I told anybody what he did to me. And his life ended a few years ago, and I was finally free to talk about it and begin to make peace with it… and forgive him. (not for him… I forgive him for me… I need to be able to get past it… and be naked without fearing what his ghost will do.) And I hope no one ever learns his name. I have forgiven him. And his family doesn’t deserve to have to know about this thing he did. As far as I know, I am his only victim. He has a good family, that I know don’t deserve to be linked to something he only made the mistake of doing once while he was alive. No matter how terrible that all may seem to you.
I am not a pedophile, even though I am a Democrat because of how I vote (and I won’t believe that Joe Biden is one either, no matter what they say on FOX News.) I am in no danger of becoming one (I was never one when I was a teacher with access to underage people who looked up to me, and I certainly can’t be one now as a retired teacher without even any grandchildren around me.) So, my obsession with nudism and innocent nudity really should not be a problem.
But I know I have been focussing on it too much. Other writers have stopped following me on Facebook and Twitter once they discovered I was associated with nudists and nudism. I have gotten criticism on some of my novels because of nudity in the story and nudist characters. But that doesn’t really represent even half of my books. I do write about many other themes as well. Still, viewership by potential readers is down on WordPress since they removed ads from my blog for too much adult content. I need to focus on other things more to get a healthier balance.
But I still stand before you metaphorically naked. What you see is what I am. I say what I have to say in all honesty, naked honesty. I conceal no secrets from anyone that aren’t secrets that belong to someone else to tell. And it is freeing, this kind of truth. It makes you naked. But it feels right.