Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Naked ambitions on a Greek island

Sunset strip: The nudist beach attached to Antiparos Camping on the island where both Tom Hanks and Madonna have houses.


The nudists appear totally normal to me now, but five years ago, when I first came to the beach with my sister and her boyfriend, I was not so relaxed. I remember it clearly. We sat not far from the nudists, but not so near as to be imposing, and began our beach routine. I became increasingly aware that wearing swimwear somehow excluded us, and I felt like I owed it to their nudity to undress. One nudist in particular frightened me into revealing myself. I like to call him Nordic Sea God: a Swede, around 60, an artist, and equipped with a handlebar blond moustache. He sat under his own shade like the beach's royal authority and eyed our swimming costumes with derision. I was afraid he might come and whip the bikini top straight off my chest.

Looking nervously at my sister's boyfriend I disrobed, while he did the same. Nordic Sea God's face lit up. The faces of several other nudists did the same: yes, you're just like us, they seemed to say, creatures bearing disappointing forms. It was time to go for a naked swim. Whereas I can't recommend anything more highly than nude swimming, walking out of the sea afterwards is a different matter. You are suddenly aware that the point will come when your unsheathed form will rise into full view and that the whole beach is facing the water, like an audience. As I came out of the sea that first time, I was met by Nordic Sea God's Swedish accent booming: "What a pale woman!"

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