Updated: Oct 4, 2018
by Darcy Liddell:
Happy sweltering summer everybody. It's so far been an exciting time here in France.
On the heels of celebrating Bastille Day, the entire country caused a seismic tremor as the national soccer team scooped up the World Cup in Russia with great style and athletic grace. Allez Les Bleus! It's been an incredibly festive, pride-filled time across the land, as you can imagine.
On a personal note, the summer gifts keep giving. My husband has informed me we would not be taking our annual trip to the beach, something we have been doing for 22 years. You can't see me, but right now I am doing a little victory dance. Yay! No trip to the beach! This is like the best summer ever.
This may seem odd to you. I mean, outside of gingers and snowmen, who doesn't love the beach? Well, I blew the dust off a piece I wrote regarding this very subject, exactly 16 years ago. Upon reading it you will discover it sheds more than light on my anti-beach stance. I hope you are all enjoying your vacations as much as I am mine.
GREETINGS FROM THE NAKED PLACE
I just showered with three elderly German men. Never thought I'd string those particular words together to form a sentence, let alone mean it. Oh, perhaps I could see wheedling it into conversation as the droll punchline to some esoteric Euro-politico joke, but my humor runs more along the lines of "a priest, a cowboy, and a duck walk into a bar," so no, not even in jest did I ever imagine I would one day say, "I just showered with three elderly German men." And yet, I have. And yes, I did.
It's day four of our two-week vacation here at the Naked Place, and I'm so upset that it has finally stopped raining. I had made a promise to myself and my badgering better-half that once it let up I'd go take a damned shower. I'd been maintaining a borderline level of hygiene since our arrival, but the cabin's solar-powered amenities can only do so much and with temperatures on the rise I'll soon be forced to shed the sweat suits and bulky sweaters I've been cowering in up to now. Never thought I'd curse the sunshine either. I was indeed ripening almost beyond repair so it was time to suck it up and march myself over to the public bathing facilities for a good hose down. (And to think, my pre-marriage summer getaways consisted of yacht-hopping in St. Tropez and general debauchery on the island of Ibiza. Oh yes, I've come a long way, baby.) In a tiff, I threw needed items into a toiletry bag, wrapped up in an armor-like robe and morosely plodded off to the shower house, muttering all the while something about good for nothing frogs . . . and the War.
This was not my idea. Cedric, my French husband, was the brains behind Operation: Drop Your Drawers. It's a tradition I married into actually, so it was a, "Like it or get over it already" situation I found myself in. His family has had a cabin in Europe's largest nudist colony for some sixty years now (that's five generations of buck-naked in-laws I have to contend with, merci beaucoup) and Ced, much to my chagrin, loves this place. Well, I love him too, so here we are on the Silver Coast in the Medoc region of southwestern France and isn't it a hoot. 'Montalivet' (as in "oy-vei! What have I got myself into?) isn't just a nudist beach but a whole frigging naked town. People do EVERYTHING in their birthday suits here, which, to my New World way of thinking, is wrong in the absolute. But to deny my husband this much-cherished annual event would be like him suddenly informing me that peanut butter was strictly off-limits. There are some things so intricately woven into our pasts that they become almost sacred. He'll never truly grasp the concept of a buttery substance made from peanuts, and I will remain forever in the dark on the wonders of the Naked Place. Tit for tat, so to speak.
Now I know what you're asking yourself because I asked it too. "Egads! Who would do such a thing?" He told me about this place when we first started dating and my initial reaction was, "Oh my god! Your grandparents are swingers!" But it turns out they're just European. Seems they aren't shackled by the deeply ingrained taboos we Yanks are and so see nothing at all wrong with: riding bikes, playing tennis, cleaning roof gutters or dining out 'tout nu'. For theirs is a far more sophisticated god than ours and this is clearly His Divinely Minimalist Plan. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this Holy Host has a Heavenly Mistress tucked away on some plush cloud, to boot. C'est natural.
My first foray here, a few summers back, I spent the days eyeballing everyone, thinking, "Oh I am so on to you people! You call yourselves 'naturalists' but isn't that just a polite word for . . . wife swappers?" I didn't even try to hide my smugness in pegging them as the shady sorts who'd be the first to participate in a raunchy key party if only they had the pockets to carry them. But they seemed to not notice me or care one whit what my snippy body language had to say on the subject and simply carried on with their gardening and whatnot. Leaving me to sheepishly wonder if perhaps I were the one with the one-track mind. I soon discovered it was just regular folk who preferred doing ordinary things unencumbered by attire, end of story. And yet, I garnered little comfort from this wholesome knowledge.
To get to the facility I had to cut through a small patch of woods and traverse the town center, which has all the standard commerce you'd find anywhere else: a few restaurants, a hair salon, a post office, a couple of clothing stores (go figure), a cyber café, a handful of specialty shops. There are also two grocery stores where, yes indeedy, produce is squeezed, wines are scrutinized and all sorts of foodstuffs are reached for on the lowest shelf by people wearing nothing but SPF 30 and melodious flip-flops.
In the Land of the Clothed, you take for granted how often people have to bend over to pick up stuff.
In The Naked Place, there is no escaping this fact. Everywhere you turn, someone somewhere is doubling over to get something. I constantly have to restrain myself from blurting out things like, "Hey lady! You don't need to get that hat, I'll buy you a brand new one!"
When I finally made it to my dreaded destination, I slinked in hoping to go unnoticed. After casing the joint with a swift left-right-left recon motion, I breathed a sigh of relief on seeing the place was empty. The God of Blaisé must have taken pity on my priggish American soul and tossed down this bone of kindness. "Merci" I whispered, and then went about my business. This wasn't my first time here but it was my premiere outing alone, which changed everything. Without my husband nearby to serve as a human shield between me and the world at large, I felt exposed and vulnerable before I'd even begun peeling out of the onion-like layers of fabric I had on under my robe. To stay calm I tried using the mantra of, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger' until I got on my nerves and told myself to just shut the hell up already.
It's a decent enough place as far as shared services go. A simple, clean brick building which houses four doorless shower enclaves, two to a side of a benched changing aisle. Logically, I made a bee-line for the one farthest from the entrance. The cubicles are only semi-private, as they have six shower heads in each, so I was fully aware that I could be invaded at any moment. But for the moment there was no one, and then it felt so good. Really hot water, the way I like it with enough pressure to please a pachyderm. Just as I was working in the shampoo and thinking this whole skin scene was doable after all, I heard the entrance door click shut. "Incoming!" I hollered in my head and was about to hit the dirt until I luckily remembered that it would be ceramic tiles I'd hit so stood there like a trembling ninny instead. The scuffling of comfortable shoes on the sandy floor was all I could make out. Then another wide yawn of the door followed by a guttural conversation already in progress. The voices were definitely those of mature men, but how many, and where were their wives?
When I recognized that it was German they were speaking, I called upon the 1/4 of my lineage that was of like-kind and begged for ancestral guidance in this most troubling of times. "Schnell!" a voice cried out from the beyond as I scrambled to get the last of the shampoo out of my hair. I could hear at least one of the men ambling his way towards me while still chatting with his friend. "Schnell, damn it! Schnell!" And schnell I did, but not fast enough.
"Guten Tag," said a white-haired man with a polite nod of the head as he casually entered the open stall directly across from mine.
"Ya, guten tag yourself there, buddy. Now move along. That's right, nothing to see here. Just move along," I brazenly thought but only managed a feeble return-nod lobbed in his general direction. Disappointed in the weak advice my dead kin channeled over, I realized it was down to me to come up with a plan of escape. Of course, I knew the smart thing to do would be to behave in a very 'la dee da' fashion but just couldn't do it. Rarely if ever am I la dee da in my approach to regular circumstances, so why should I expect a cool & breezy attitude to magically kick in in this most irregular of moments.
Just then, Herr Dingle #2 made his way over to join his now well-lathered counterpart. Perhaps 15 years the younger, I'd put him at about 65. Equally lean, craggy and tanned to a crisp as his shower mate, they struck me as two anatomically equipped strips of jerky. A slight wave of the hand from him to me as he stepped beneath the steamy jet-stream, but I acted like I had soap in my eye and so was not at all rude in failing to return the gesture. And with this one childish stunt, I'd found the solution to my problem. If I couldn't engage them on their relaxed, let-it-all-hang-out level, then I would completely disengage from them; i.e., I'd simply pretend they weren't there at all. Look, I didn't say it was a brilliant strategy, but I was working on the fly in the buff, cut me some slack.
Stepping out from the security of the pod, I quickly grabbed for my hanging robe . . . and there he was, Herr Dangle #3. Lobster red with a belly sponsored by Oktoberfest in full frontal stance about two feet from me. It was like a scene from a wild-west showdown minus the guns, the hats and of course, the duds. I stayed frozen for what seemed an eternity with my hand in mid-reach as we gave each other the once-over.
"Guten Tag," he smiled apathetically.
"Ya, ya, ya, haven't we covered this ground already?" I mentally barked. "And watch where you edel that weiss, you could hurt somebody with that thing." I was so on top of the situation in my mind but truth was, I was choking.
"The plan, just stick with the plan," I admonished myself.
And with one smooth move, I scooped up my robe and spun around to face the wall which was now four inches from my nose. No 'how do you do's' were needed because those men and their Teutonic penis' WERE NOT THERE! Only part of me accepted this delusion as fact. The other half, which was sinking like a rock in the cesspool of reality, was thankful there just happened to be a window directly behind me so that when I pivoted away I at least appeared to be looking at something other than just a brick. I feigned great interest and mimed searching for something 'out there' while I gathered my things and clumsily backed out of the building. So what if I didn't get around to conditioning my hair and who cares that I'd just made a colossal ass of myself. Lord knows it wasn't the first time and there was certain comfort in being back on that well-trodden path. And as for the wicked razor stubble on my legs, well, let that be a little gift for my husband in bed tonight.
I'd made it out alive, the rest was mere fluff.
By the time I got back to the cabin, I'd finally simmered down and was back in love with my husband. He was sitting on the porch with our gorgeous 3-month-old daughter, Tess, in his arms. I was suddenly moved to realize she's the exact same age he was when he first came here, and they looked so beautiful together.
Little by little I seem to be unclenching on this whole unbearable lightness of being bare gig. Although I do vaguely recall mumbling to myself on the walk back something about getting a decent pair of lederhosen . . . and the War.
Incidentally . . . so the duck says to the cowboy, "If he walks like a priest and talks like a priest, then that explains why he ordered a Virgin Larry.”
Now that’s funny.