Here on Wagoners Abroad, we frequently write about embracing the culture. Most of the time, it makes for notable experiences and fun. Sometimes though, we need to force ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Flashback to 2013:
As I’ve written about before (here, and here), food can be an area where I’m especially reluctant. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an area where Heidi is uncomfortable, but today, we experienced a part of European culture that took us way afield of our comfort zone. Read about the plan The Naked Truth – Naturist Experiment.
I can safely say there was a fair amount of anxiety on both our parts. Of what do I speak? Sunbathing culture; specifically, nude sunbathing culture. Yeah…Just typing that makes me a tad nervous, and I can bet that you, the friendly reader, are already experiencing an eerie sense of foreboding.
I freely attest that it was Heidi’s
crackpot brave idea for us to free ourselves from our inhibitions and experience nature in our skins, unfettered by the bonds of clothing. In other words, I wasn’t too keen on the idea. She is persuasive though, and I was soon conned talked into it.
Once we agreed that we should do it, it was a simple matter of picking the right day. We could do a short trip to the naturist beach while the kids were at school. The weather has been nice, so that was not a concern.
I will be honest about my feelings and experiences, as I describe the event. It’s still a bit difficult for me to discuss, but I’m working through it.
When I heard Heidi say, “Alan…it’s time.”, I knew that it could not be put off any longer. That mysterious hail storm that I had seen on the news did not materialize, nor did the solar eclipse. Not only is it bad to be exposed to solar eclipse rays (something about the polarity of the solar photons, or some such), but it’s also bad luck.
Fortunately, there’s not a lot of planning required when you go “Euro sunbathing”. A towel, some water, sunscreen, and that’s about it. You don’t have to worry about the clothing aspect.
We arrived at the beach, and made our way through the topless beach to the most uninhabited spot on Playa Natúral. It’s amazing how perfect I wanted my towel to be while I was debating on whether to run away or not. Heidi to her credit was the first to remove a piece of clothing. She went with the bottoms first! That was a surprise to me, but I don’t know what personal demons she was grappling with at the time.
I took off my shirt, readjusted my towel, and then took the plunge. I took off my shorts, and was just awkwardly standing there in my birthday suit. Now the temperature was a comfortable 80°F (27°C), but it surprised me at how cold it feels when “normally covered” skin becomes “naked skin that everybody can see” skin. That plus the slight breeze coming off of the Mediterranean made for what I’m guessing was a 20-30° reduction in temperature.
Basic human physiology provides a mechanism when this occurs. The medical term in Latin is Decrementum Maximus, or in layman terms, Maximum Shrinkage. There was a bit of that going on, but I worked through the feeling, and immediately laid down…face down.
My next biggest concern was the burning of my delicate skin, so the sunblock was applied. As we both lay there, I knew what Heidi was thinking:
Who will turn over first?
Experiencing a brief moment of “What the hell!“, I turned over, and with my goods on display, I started counting down the requisite number of seconds until I could consider this experiment finished and put on my clothes. That number of seconds is estimated to be about 120, give or take.
With the front and back adequately sunned, there was one more task to perform in order to call our experiment complete:
- Frolic on the beach
It has been a long time since I’ve frolicked. So long in fact that I can’t remember when, if ever, I frolicked last. To be frank, I was not in a frolicking mood. There were no volleyball nets around, and I didn’t bring the paddle ball set with me, so our only other option was to walk along the beach.
When asked about this, Heidi confirmed that it was probably the thing to do, but made absolutely no effort to get up and so, I was forced to walk to the waterline in order to ascertain the temperature of the water. I walked approximately 30 feet to the shoreline, and it felt that all eyes were on my big white hiney. I verified the water was very cold, and made my way back to our spot on the beach, and it felt as if all eyes were on my front this time. The horror!
The items were complete:
- Sun the back side…check
- Sun the front side…check
- Frolic on the beach (or equivalent)…check
With that, I got dressed in a quick nonchalant manner which belied my “Quick! Cover my parts!” attitude, and we made our way back to the car. Whew. Success! I was not ridiculed (at least not obviously), nobody went blind, and the police were not called. All in all, a good trip.
So your probably wondering whether we’ll embrace “Euro sunbathing” on a regular basis? Not likely, but we did it. We conquered our fears and passed the test.