Earlier, I promised more information. Let me take you back to before it all began. (Sorry – I am having trouble making the links open in a new window).
One of my favourite spots in all New Zealand is a lovely little village in the Coromandel just north of Whangamata.
On the road towards Whitiangi is a right hand turn that takes you to Opoutere. (This picture isn’t of Opoutere, but it was the closest I could find on Wiki Commons).
There isn’t much there. Several houses, a youth hostel, a holiday park, some art studios. Oh, and 5km of white, sandy, unspoiled beach. When I first visited Opoutere, I was completely unable to rest. I could never sit still and do nothing. But when I went through the main gate at Opoutere YHA, it was as if a curtain of leaves closed behind me, and the outside world simply did not exist.
One year, the regular manager wasn’t there. And I got on really well with the relieving manager. One day she asked if I wanted to join her down on the beach. We went down there, and she stripped off. Being one who, for some reason, always liked the idea of nakedness, I did the same. Opoutere beach is generally known as a “free beach” – at least the more notherly end.
It is important at this point for me to say that I have a condition – neurofibromatosis. In my version of it, I have fibrous growths or lumps all over my torso, and in a few other places. So despite being partial to nakedness, never felt all that comfortable about doing so in front of anyone else.
If you are really interested, this is an image that comes close (mine is just a little worse than this). Please feel free to have a look through the other images of the condition on this site, but please – please – be aware that some of the images are disturbing. And they make me incredibly grateful I got off so lightly).
But there was nothing but total acceptance, and mild interest.
When I got back home to Wellington, we caught up again (turned out she lived in Breaker Bay), and she introduced me to the scene at the beach there. Understandably, a bunch of naked men and women are a little wary of new people – because so often “perverts” try to ingratiate themselves into the scene just for a good look. But what got me accepted was that I was friends with one of them (a guy who I used to work with) and that the dog of one of the women there liked me. The dog was often the litmus test of “good people”.
So, I found myself amid a group of people. What amazed me was the complete lack of body image issues. There were really buff men and women, overweight people, one or two rather obese, people with odd bits and pieces, and me.
Because everyone is naked, there is no judging based on clothes. There is no judging based on body image. And you look people in the eye when you talk to them. You take them as they are – as people. The only judging is based on the content of their character. And it was amazingly energising. To be part of a group where all anyone cares about is whether you are a “good” person, was a key part of my adult development.
Everyone being naked is an equaliser. Gender, sexual orientation, race … all these things become irrelevant because you are kinda forced to treating people as people. But it’s not for everyone. It was for me.
Even now, I find nakedness (only around home these days) liberating. None of the normal social mores we are faced with apply. You are free to be you, and there is nothing else masking you. I often think that this was part of the chain of events that lead me to my outlook on people. That I try very hard to treat people, not by how they look, but by who they prove themselves to be.
And after being with the crowd for a year or so, I ended up back home one evening on Wellington Anniversary weekend. The weekend I was arrested.
The lesson I hope this can serve, and the message I hope people can take from this, is that how you look, whether you are male, female or other, your sexual orientation, none of that matters in your relationships with other people. If those other people make it matter (to them), then find some other people.