Nakedness is Normal – isn’t it?

So today is Naked Gardening Day 2024 apparently, the annual (and flourishing) celebration of nudity and horticulture. I wouldn’t mind betting there are members of this fine Vivaldi Community who will be happily participating – as indeed would I, if I lived in a more liberal country. It’s still quite old fashioned here, and getting your kit off is frowned upon and considered a Mortal Sin by the dominant Church (no prizes for guessing its identity). The other problem I have is the lack of a garden, living as I do in a very nice apartment on the fifth floor of a twenty year old block. I have a nice little balcony overlooking the communal courtyard garden (there are four conjoined blocks arranged around the square courtyard that contains a good selection of plants and bushes, a kid’s play area and seating to relax on) but its size restricts me to three or four plastic window boxes on the railing, so my gardening duties take about five minutes a day watering their contents – whether clothed or not.

I suppose I could still participate in WNGD anyway, but it hardly seems worth it for a five minute appearance that in all probability no-one would notice in any case. And if I did, I fear the reaction would not be a cheery wave and an approving thumbs-up but a volley of abuse yelled across the intervening space, followed by a complaint to the building’s residents’ society committee and subsequent visit from the security team (such bodies exist in every apartment community here, even the new ones under construction all over the city: probably a throwback to Communist times). And it’s not as if I’m the only resident naked – there have been times when I have noticed, when watering my flowers, people across the block on lower floors making coffee, or hanging laundry, or chatting on their mobiles, through un-curtained windows. All perfectly natural – but it’s indoors, you see, in the privacy of their own home and not outdoors where anyone can see them. You could (and I would) argue that the balcony is as much a part of the apartment as the kitchen or living room, the bathroom or the bedroom, but I have no doubt somewhere in the extensive residence agreement that I scanned but understood not a word of twenty years ago, when I moved in, that specifies otherwise.

That’s not say that naturism is unheard of here. There are perhaps a dozen official clothing-optional beaches along the coast, all of them a good size (which is to say a kilometre or more in length) and sandy – but beware the cold Baltic sea! Some of them are very well used in the summer months, others – those further away from a village offering accomodation – less so. There are even three riverside beaches around the city, two of them witihin a half hour bike ride of my block that I have visited, and very pleasant they are too. But the practice is certainly not mainstream, and if mentioned at all the beaches are either condemned as sinful (they are not) or the people using them mocked as a bit weird and depraved (they are not either). It all reminds me of British television sitcoms back in the 60s and 70s that did likewise – all snickering and raised eyebrows and sly grins. I find it all very sad.

The thing about outdoor nakedness, naturism or whatever alternative term you wish to apply, is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with sex, depravity and evil. My favourite term is the one favoured in America: social nudity. It implies that any group activity that humans enjoy clothed can be equally enjoyed naked (perhaps even more so). A cursory look at any genuine naturist website – from a bona fide naturist organisation, resort or hotel, yoga school or whatever – and you will see just that. Ordinary people cleaning the house, watching tv, talking to friends and neighbours, playing chess or cards or volleyball. And everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves (except for the housework, obviously).

The argument is also that in many ways it’s more healthy for you. More sun and hence natural vitamin D, less sweat and potential skin diseases (skin cancer not withstanding – don’t forget the Factor 50 sunblock). It also helps with body acceptance and other mental issues, apparently, and I can well believe it. I have never, ever seen any arguments, fights, trouble or questionable activity of any kind in the visits I have made to CO beaches. Nor have I seen any supermodels. But I have seen all kinds of people, young and old, family groups from grandma down to new-born (even unborn: pregnancy is never a barrier – nor should it be).

A couple of examples prove the point. Some years ago, I saw a young couple, mid-twenties probably, playng beach tennis. Two things stood out. First, this was not a CO beach, just a normal holiday beach, crowded with families, and they were the only people as far as I could see that were naked. No-one took a blind bit of notice of them. Second, the girl was beautiful, the closest I have seen to a supermodel, but the guy, although good looking, tall and well built, was missing his left arm from the elbow down. And again, no-one noticed. And he clearly possessed no hang ups about his missing wing.

The second example is more recent, last summer, on one of our local beaches. Next to us was an elderly couple, I would guess around 80, both white haired and heavily overweight. Not a tanline in sight, thorouglhy enjoying the sunshine. Every so often they would hold hands tenderly and go for a brief swim in the river to cool down. There happened to be a military parade that day in the city that featured a small air display, and we were treated to several helicopters and flights of various fighter aircraft making low level passes overhead. The two oldies were like kids, standing up and jumping and waving excitedly as the flights swept past. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen two such happy old people – it brought a tear to my eye. Not a shred of embarrassment or body shame to be seen.

In my eyes, this is all exactly how it should be. Nobody should be made to feel bad because they’re a few kilos overweight, or display some scar tissue and stretch marks: they should be a badge of honour, of a life well lived. The colour of your skin should matter no more than that of your eyes or your hair. What’s left of mine is now white, and I have some fine scars on my hands and arms from my sporting youth and surgery a couple of years ago to repair a ruptured bicep – nothing to be ashamed of, any of them. Nor the half a dozen new ones on my abdomen from last autumn’s cancer surgery. Rather, they are my badges of honour, souvenirs from a long(ish) and life.

We all come into the world naked, and for the life of me I can’t fathom why society has placed so many taboos and rules around it. So I hope this years’ World Naked Gardening Day is a success, and its activist cousin the World Naked Bike Ride too, and continue to attract participants and break down barriers.

It’s normal.

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  1. It may be normal but not for me. I do not see the point and certainly not a Naked Bike Ride.
    It maybe fine for some in summer or hotter climates but in winter no way and never for me . Sorry.

  2. Hey Bob, nice read; I enjoyed it. And, yes, it might help society to conceal less our natural human form from public view. We might all grow up with better self images and more confidence to realize that none of us (or hardly anyone) enjoys supermodel status with the body we are given. Then, perhaps, we might redirect some of our self-improvement energy towards more achievable goals than obsessing with our body image and trying to look like photoshopped images of someone else.


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