Stylist’s digital writer Megan Murray has never been nude in public before – until now, that is. Here’s what happened when she decided to bare all for the first time ever.
Everyone has had some variation of the same nightmare at some point in their lives. You know the one I mean: it starts with you walking down the street, or doing a presentation at work, or even back at school, blissfully untroubled by the state of your clothing.
Then, all of a sudden, a cold realisation creeps over you: you’re naked, nude, completely starkers – and you’re begging for the ground to swallow you up. Like I say, I’m pretty sure everyone has had the same nightmare at least once.
If you haven’t, though, I’m sure you can at least empathise – everything in the world around us has taught us that being naked is terrifying, embarrassing, vulnerable.
And, for most of us, the thought of parading down a poolside in the buff is enough to bring on a stress rash. So when I, a nude novice, was asked to attend weekly two-hour naturist swimming session at Energybase Gym in Bloomsbury, London (all in the name of journalism, of course), I found myself flooded with dread.
As I’d never been naked in public before, and had no idea what to expect, I decided to reach out the group’s organiser before setting out on my rather terrifying task in a bid to get the inside scoop.
Colin explained that he and other volunteers have been running the session for years, offering a place in London where naturists can enjoy being completely free in a pool with as little fuss as possible. The vibe, he assured me, would be relaxed, welcoming and about community.
Despite all of my misgivings, it was. However, edging around the corner of the pool changing rooms clinging to my towel, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sight ahead of me. I had presumed the session would be much like a normal day at the pool, with a mix of genders and most people’s heads half in the water as they pound through lengths, hardly noticing my existence.
In reality the session is, yes, about enjoying the feeling of swimming naked (which totally beats a stretchy swimming cossie creeping up your bum) but it is also a meet-up for like-minded naturists. Many of the pool’s attendees have known each other for years and are part of other naturist groups (some have been on holiday together). And many of them are men. In fact, on this occasion all of them were men – and a lot of them were stood around the pool chatting, rather than bobbing around under the water. Which made walking up to the pool, throwing off the towel and climbing in all the more unthinkable.
I must admit, it was a strange moment as I looked out over a pool packed with naked men. But, rather than run away, I began reasoning with myself internally. ‘This is me,’ I thought, ‘and so what if they get an eyeful? It won’t bear any lasting effect on my life, right?’
Eventually, I found the strength to remove my towel and bare all, despite the fact about 50 strangers were stood around me. And do you want to know the craziest thing?
This fear of being naked – and, really, the fear of our bodies – is so ingrained in us that we have nightmares about exposing ourselves and how this will spell the end of the world. But, actually, when I bared all it made me realise that my body is nothing to be scared of, and other people seeing me at my most stripped back (literally) didn’t cause tectonic plates to slide and earthquakes to rumble.
I won’t pretend it wasn’t intimidating and very bizarre being the only woman in a pool of 50 naked men, but I genuinely think that spending a few hours letting it all hang out helped me feel more comfortable with my body – and I also feel really proud of myself for being brave enough to do it.
The group never made me feel sexualised or uncomfortable. In fact, they all seemed like lovely people who just enjoy defying society’s inherent embarrassment of nakedness for two hours on a Sunday.
I can’t speak for every naturist group and experience but I think it’s pretty incredible that they’ve created this accepting environment. And, while I can’t promise I’ll be heading back every Sunday, it’s definitely opened my eyes to trying other naturist activities.
Next time, though, I’ll be sure to bring some mates with me.
Images: Holly McGlynn Photography