The Atlantic coast. Along the Medoc peninsula, beaches stretch farther than the eye can see, from the Pointe de Grave down to the Basque Coast and Spain. Wide, sandy beaches. Dunes to the east, roaring waves to the west. Am strolling happily along the water edge, ankle-deep in the water. In the distance an old couple is walking towards me. I can see them holding hands. And their matching, tan-coloured bathing suits. How sweet, I think to myself. They are getting closer. The swimsuits are a bit see through, it is embarassing they don’t seem to notice. Wait. There are no swimsuits. These people are naked! I turn to the side. Here come two men, muscular, tanned all over, heading towards the wave, with… oh all their… tackle for me to enjoy! Then it hits me. This is a nudist beach. This is what the two massive campsites on each side of this seaside village are about. No signs on the beach, no warnings for the unsuspecting tourist. Did I miss anything? Overlook warnings on the brochure? What am I supposed to do? Running away would definitely look silly. Plus, my knees are as weak as my flesh. The point is : is one allowed fully- clothed on a beach where everyone is stripped ? My lovely white dress seems awfully conspicuous all of a sudden. I am the only clothed person around yet I feel like the ultimate pervert. Panic hits me, and a mixture of shame and inadequacy at not having a clue what to do. I need to make a fast decision lest I lose my dignity. Never mind my fancy swim pants, but my dignity?!!!
Truth be told, I do enjoy a skinny dip from time to time. There is no sensation as ecstatic as the wind and the water on your bare skin, without the wet, sticky constraint of a lycra suit. So I have, on occasion, taken to baring it all when noone is around, like the time I stripped and swam in Pornic, Brittany… Then from the ocean where I was merrily floating around (ha, the benefit of big boobs!), I noticed there was a hiking path running along the cliff. There, for some unexplained reason, my colleague Laura, who occupies the office next to mine in Paris, 400 kilometers away, was standing there with her friends, enjoying a welcome break from all her walking. So much for taking liberties with convention.
Back to the Montalivet beach. Nudity all over. Shouldn’t I live up to my own moral turpitude and embrace my destiny? Here is my chance to sunbathe with no marks. So here goes the middle-age housewife, having her first proper nudist experience, stark naked in front of a crowd of complete strangers.
« Hello », they nod as I walk into the waves. « How are you » they smile, not seeming to notice this is not a cocktail party (pun unintentional) . « It is much warmer once you are in » “Oh” I say… !. My social efforts focus on their faces, as my eyes are invariably drawn to their middle-section. All the while I remember this joke with a silly giggle : this man is looking over the fence of a nudist camp. « Are there men AND women in there ? » asks his friend. « I can’t tell » says the man. « They don’t have any clothes on! »
Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, literally, nudity brings down not only frilly knickers, but barriers between people, including the need to appear anything. Next time our Minister of Economy visits the working-class, he may be better inspired to go in his birthday suit. That would spare him the remark he received from one of the factory workers on his expensive tailor. Beside, it would definitely rekindle the interest in the next election round. Such a habit would, in turn, spare our President the many comments on his sartorial mishaps. The man is notorious for his unability to tie either his necktie or a knot with a woman. Makes me wonder if the rest of him runs askew as well, like his running of the country. Nudity would put an end to this pressing question.
So what is, you may rightfully ask (I love this expression as you must have noticed), is this column’s bottom-line, ha ha? Don’t trust the tourist brochures. Ask around before you find a beach. Wonder why the rates are such a bargain. But, above all, for your sake (not sure about God’s) don’t die without experiencing the feeling of your naked body on zee beach with noone caring about what you look like. Dare to Bare! Enjoy yourself! This is France! One of the few or only countries in the world where public parks display signs ‘Please Keep Your Top On’…targeted at women.