The Naked Truth

A New Year’s resolution reveals more than one writer expects.

DAVID HOLLENBACH

This is the time of year for self-appraisal and life-changing resolutions. Two years ago I made such a resolution when I decided to walk across Virginia to explore the land, meet interesting people and, most importantly, to get out of a rut I’d dug for myself.

As a writer, I spend hours in front of a computer, hunched over a keyboard. If I get an assignment to interview someone who scaled Mount Everest, I don’t climb a mountainside to talk with him. Or even a hilltop. I speak with him over the phone from the comfort of an office chair. Or a recliner. I can conjugate the hell out of a verb, but don’t expect me to meet you on the second floor if the elevator is out of order.

So there I was, lethargic and plump as a chicken roaster, lolling in the conveniences of easy living. For years I’d considered visiting historic sites, museums, festivals and so on, but whenever I actually drove past one of the events that intrigued me, I just kept going. It is easy to break promises to yourself when you drive through life at 65 miles per hour; it is harder when you approach them at a crawl. During this walk, I vowed that whenever I encountered something that I wanted to do, I would do it. Which is how I came to be nude in a parking lot in the tiny town of Ivor with a chance to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records—a dream of mine since I was a kid. I just never imagined I’d have to get naked to do it.

I’d always wanted to be a world record-holder. I didn’t care what it was. As a gawky pre-teen, I built card houses that stood taller than me, hoping to break the world record at that time of 27 stories. But then Bryan Berg started building card skyscrapers and pushed the record up to 75 stories. I couldn’t compete with that.

But here, in the parking lot at White Tail Nudist Resort, I would have my chance. Judging by the large number of cars, a sizeable contingent had come for today’s record-setting attempt, but they were in the clubhouse or wandering the grounds, not lingering in the parking lot trying to psych themselves up. Glancing around one last time, I thought, “No more stalling. Time to strip.”

I wadded my clothes into a big ball, tossed them onto the front seat and strode toward the clubhouse. It felt strange to be walking in open air with the wind whistling between my legs. Stranger still as a couple in their 50s headed my way. He reminded me of Wilford Brimley, that take-no-guff grandpa, and she a prim librarian. I feigned serenity, nodding and smiling as they approached, steeling myself for their response. But they continued without a hitch, as if passing a naked man was nothing out of the ordinary. But here, at White Tail, that was indeed an everyday occurrence.

Entering the pool area, I was glad I’d already logged over 1,000 miles walking across the state. My beach ball of a gut had deflated to a volleyball. I felt conspicuous, though I needn’t have worried. I was just one more slab of flesh in a sea of beef. Whoever said the human body is beautiful never visited a nudist colony. He probably made the comment on a college campus in springtime or flipping through the glossy pages of a pop culture magazine. But even those hard bodies get airbrushed before anyone sees them. At most nudist colonies, however, the median age hovers above the mid-life marker and, no matter how hard you pray, there’s no airbrushing to be found. Every fold, wrinkle and bulge is on display. Gulp!

Today we would make a coordinated effort to break the world record of 13,678 skinny dippers. All across North America, people would shed their clothes at 3 p.m. EST and wade into the waters at a skinny-dipping spot officially sanctioned by the folks at Guinness.

A DJ played music and a group of women line-danced near the pool’s edge while we waited. As the hour approached, everyone waded into the pool and a photographer set up on a roof to take a panoramic photo. The DJ counted down and everyone hooted, hollered and raised hands. We were confident, ecstatic and jiggling like Jell-O.

Afterwards, we formed a line and all exited the shallow end of the pool at the same spot. An official from the American Association of Nude Recreation clicked a hand-held counter as each of us passed him by: 258 naked bodies sloshed past him that day. It would be several weeks before the results from across the continent were tallied. When the final count was in, it was 14,110.

We had smashed the world record! And I had been part of it. I even have photographic proof. Though that isn’t something I’ll ever hang on my wall. •

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