On my first morning sailing to Hawaii on a clothing-optional cruise, I couldn’t decide what to wear. It was a cloudy, breezy day on the Pacific and too cold for me to be naked. I worried, “Would wearing a bathrobe or sarong to breakfast make me stick out?” Being my first nude cruise, I wanted to blend in. That morning I learned an important rule from my fellow nude recreationists, be comfortable and be yourself. At breakfast I found all states of dress and undress. More importantly, over the next two weeks on-board I found it easy to be myself, dressed or not–and the sun did come out!
I was invited on this 20th anniversary Bare Necessity cruise by Tom and Nancy, the founders, who wanted to offer their 2,000 plus passengers quality learning experiences during the eight days at sea going and returning to Hawaii. I could hardly believe myself–an invitation to teach sacred, sensual embodiment to naked people while sailing to Paradise! I figured my frank, positive talks on sex would fall on good ears (or buns!) on this trip.
My first lecture was on sex and aging, and I was having trouble picturing myself naked on stage with a microphone in my hand. From the podium I watched the sea of mostly naked bodies, a couple hundred or more, file into the ship’s auditorium. Everyone carried a towel to put between their butt and the seat cushion following the universal nudist etiquette, or UNdress Code. I smiled. Aren’t you supposed to imagine your audience naked before you speak in order to put yourself at ease? Wearing a silk Indian sarong my mother gave just before my cruise, I succumbed to my uncontrollable urge to ‘flash’ my audience. Now how many speakers can brag about doing that?! Laughing, someone from the audience piped up, “How many of us can say we’ve ever been flashed by a speaker?!” The ice was broken!
During the talk I asked these seasoned nude cruisers for their insights for my next book, Sexy Aging: Stories of How Loving Gets Better. Being sixty, savvy and feeling sexy, I shared how my journey to more pleasure and intimacy has increased with age. I posed them questions, “What do you enjoy about your loving now that you didn’t experience when you were younger?” “How has sex changed as you’ve aged?” “What advice might you give a young person today about enjoying sex as they age?” I felt like Oprah running around with a microphone following their lively responses, except my guests stood up stark naked. We relished how aging allows us to slow up, express more, and go deeper. “Now I have time to enjoy my erections!” “Now I feel my orgasm, not just in my genitals, but throughout my entire body and into my partner.” “My wife loosing a kidney has made our loving more precious than ever.”
Later I lead a large group in a tantra puja called Playful Touch in Paradise. We gifted each other with imaginary pearls, whispered appreciations in each other’s ears, danced like dolphins, invited Sirens out to play, and graced each another with safe, heartfelt, sensual but non-sexual touch. Group play is magical. Each of us, supported by safe and conscious community, embraces our humanity and freedom.
As a single person among mainly couples, I was warmed by the abundance of camaraderie and inclusion. Strangers welcomed me to their dinner tables, and I met new folks easily at the pools, sauna and hot tubs. It seemed these people had shed more than their clothes for the journey–they’d left behind position, rank, defenses, and ego that keeps us separated and apart. From the onset, I experienced a communal warmth that invited open-hearted conversation and camaraderie, often about meaningful and intimate subjects. Your body size, shape or age didn’t seem to matter. Several women had only one breast, other passengers where in wheel chairs or on oxygen.
On this cruise I discovered unadorned pleasure. We came together to enjoy rather than to judge, to share rather than to perform, to show up rather than to show off. I snorkeled naked with the fish, played bare-bodied on the beach, did naked yoga on sea sprayed rocks, and nestled my bare body in moss covered rocks under trickling fresh water. In my life drawing class on the boat we drew the nude, nude. Go figure! In dance class we let it all hang out doing the salsa and meringue. Have you ever listened to a string quartet…naked? Many times I heard, ‘”Once you’ve experience a nude cruise, you’ll never go on a textile cruise again.”
When I was a girl I remember how good the grass felt between my toes on a summer day, cool and inviting. On this vacation I discovered how good it feels to go barefoot all over my body in the joyful company of other caring and respectful adults.