I have learned a lot more about nudists in the last few months than I probably ever wanted to know. The book I wrote about a boy being invited to go camping with the family of a girl he liked, and then finding out it was a nudist camp, was written as rough draft back in the late 1980’s about life experiences I had in the early ’80’s. Some things I learned back then have proven to still be true. Some things have changed. The things that have changed, are mostly about me.
Naturists are happier than normal people. They shed a lot of their hang ups and worries with their clothes. Sunshine and cool breezes on bare skin have a healthy psychological effect. I know this from having experimented myself. Socially nudists are able to comfortably “live in their skin”. Their confidence in self translates into sensible nude social behavior. It is not about sex. Sex is private behavior to a nudist, not public. When nudists interact, the conversations occur eye to eye, not eye to somewhere else. And the acceptance of how others look when naked is a critical factor in nude social interaction being beneficial. Most nudists are not beautiful or ugly. They are a spectrum of everything in between. And they don’t talk about body parts or make comparisons. Nudist men talk about sports teams and vehicle repair and politics the same way the guys in overalls at the Nutrena Feed and Farm Store. Nudist women talk about… well, the stuff women talk about in the secret language of women that guys like me don’t understand.
So those things about the nudist community have not changed over time. True in the 1960’s is true today. The thing most of you don’t realize is that there are lot more nudists in the world than you are reasonably ready to admit. And the nudist community has a lot more old naturists than you probably thought possible. Naked wrinkles and beer bellies are a thing.
What I have learned about myself by joining the nudist community (though only once at only one of the several nudist camps available in sunny Texas) is that the nakedness and thoughts about nakedness in my novels is there for a reason, and it will not go away. I am trying to be a Young Adult novelist, which means my novels are basically aimed at a junior high and high school audience. I have to dance a carefully straight line between the need to be honest with naked reality and Amazon’s prohibition of adult content in YA novels. Sherry Cobble luring young boys into going camping naked with her family is on that borderline. It is not sexual content. But it is naked content and the barriers have been physically set aside. The humor caused by sexual tension can’t cross the line into bawdy or lewd or pornographic. Nor would I want it to.
But people who write fiction do it not because it’s fun. It is necessary. We have lived lives that leave us damaged in ways that can only be fixed through fiction. The world has to be reshaped in words by people who can’t live with the world the way it was. The truth is, I was sexually assaulted when I was a child, one traumatic event that clouded and warped my self-confidence, my sex life, and my self-concept. Healing has been a life-long process. In fiction, it means characters having to deal with the naked truth and make peace with it. This I believe I have done in so many different ways as a teacher, a husband, a father, and a story-teller, that it simply has to be shared. I will publish Superchicken on Amazon soon, and hopefully Edward-Andrew’s nudist adventure will pass the Amazon test. I have some nutty nudist notions in my nerdy old noodle, but in a novel, they can all be made new.