NEXT! Magazine NEXT! Magazine
living longer, living better
July 2006

Melissa's Adventure

BY MELISSA CLEMENT

Shrieks of laughter and the sounds of splashing water come from the clubhouse area at Whispering Pines. It’s a scorching day. People are cooling off and having fun in a secluded swimming pool. With bare feet, I pad over to the pool, where men are playing a spirited game of volleyball. Women on towels recline in beach chairs, their heads buried in magazines.

It looks like any other summer weekend getaway. Then a dripping man climbs from the pool as his wife tosses him a towel. I take a look and suck in my breath. He is buck naked.

For a few minutes, I am, well, taken aback. I don’t know what I had expected. I was the one to make reservations at the Whispering Pine Nudist Resort near Ocean Isle on the North Carolina coast, and I had researched the subject before leaping into my latest “adventure.”


Nude rules

• Nudists, or “naturalists,” obviously travel light. Etiquette dictates, however, that they carry one small accessory — a towel to sit on for sanitary reasons.
• Gawking or staring is frowned upon.
• Cameras are not allowed at most resorts.
• The lifestyle attracts more men than women, but most resort owners report that they “aim” for balance, so females do not feel uncomfortable. Children are allowed at many resorts.
• Some nudist resorts or camps, including Whispering Pines near Ocean Isle, promote a “clothing-optional” atmosphere.
• Most nudist facilities forbid overt sexual behavior in public. Nude recreation enthusiasts emphasize that their no-clothing lifestyle is about self-acceptance of one’s own body and is not sexually oriented.
• A good way to gauge your interest in a “family-oriented” resort is to inquire about activities. Whispering Pines, for example, is open year-round and entertainment options include pig-pickings, pool volleyball, horseshoes, bingo, shuffleboard, canoeing, paddle boating on the lake, picnics, karaoke, Saturday night dances and Sunday-morning nondenominational worship services.


I mean, it’s not like I haven’t seen plenty of nudes before, particularly in life drawing classes, but they were posing. The nudes here are doing ordinary everyday things that people usually do while wearing clothes. Nudity has never shocked me. The role I choose in life is to walk a mile in what, in this case, happens to be someone else’s flip-flops.

Still, I thought I would be more worldly about nudism or “naturalism,” as it is sometimes called. It just takes a little time to get used to people standing around chatting and looking perfectly comfortable in their birthday suits.

Get a grip, I tell myself. Act like a reporter who is here to do a story and learn why this lifestyle is so appealing to so many that it has spawned an entire industry. Think nude cruises, spas, camps, clubs, resorts, beaches — and private housing developments dedicated to naturalists are spouting up across this country and even in Canada. Brrrr. In Europe, where they don’t have our puritanical background, nudity is common on beaches and in other public areas. No hang-ups there.

NO HINTS OF SEX, EITHER

While my mind is pondering my own reactions to about 150 nude bodies, Rachael, the photographer, and I receive warm greetings and hugs from Carol, the genial hostess who owns the resort with her husband, Jerry.

She practices what she preaches. Her petite body remains unclothed, as far as I know, during our two-day stay.

She told me when I called that I might want to wear a long man’s shirt over my bare flesh at first, instead of stripping down. I bought four super-size shirts at Goodwill.

I will admit that it’s cool and refreshing sitting in a golf cart for a ride around the 35 acres while wearing nothing but a long shirt and sandals. Wow.


Marian, a former professional dancer from Poland, and writer Melissa Clement enjoy the scenery at Whispering Pines.

Things continue to look up. I have my first interview with Marian, who walks right up and introduces himself. I am careful not to let my eyes wander, just act as if I was used to interviewing men wearing only sandals. He carries a large white towel, a requirement. Guests must sit on their own towels for sanitary reasons. A towel can also be used to cover up any embarrassing occasions that might “arise.”

Speaking of that, I didn’t observe anyone, anytime, anywhere who even hinted at sex. Believe me, naked bodies, even well-formed ones, are not much of a turn-on when you see them from end to end, no pun intended.

Besides, Whispering Pines is billed as a family-friendly resort where nude is not lewd or rude. Rules forbid even fanny-patting. The parrot, Bubba, is the only one allowed to whistle at girls.

The standard joke among men here, upon seeing a shapely nude female, is: “Wouldn’t she look great in a tight T-shirt?’’


HANGING OUT WITH MARIAN

Anyway, there is Marian, waiting for me to interview him. I ask him why he comes to this resort.

“For relaxation,’’ he says with his Polish accent, “to meet some friends and just relax and be myself. If you are going to do this once, then you are going to figure out why. If you swim in the nude, you are never going to put on a bathing suit again.

“My personal opinion,’’ he says, “if God created me like this and God is not ashamed, then I am not ashamed of my body. I am not going to go naked on the street. This is not the time and place. Right here, we are so blessed.’’

Marian, once a professional dancer in Europe, is now 55.
“It (nudism) absolutely does not make me uncomfortable,” he chats on. “I don’t know philosophy — from a man’s point of view, if you cover your body, we are thinking what is underneath. In America, we are talking too much about sexuality, but talking the wrong way.’’

One reason he comes to this resort is because the people are friendly and there is no class distinction. White collar and blue-collar workers all come and mingle, he says.

I wonder, how does one tell a man’s status in life with no collar at all? I keep hearing the word “textiles.” What’s that about?

I finally learn that it refers to outsiders who persist in wearing clothing and just don’t “get it.”

B A R E F A C T
Vacations in the buff are picking up steam, according to Carolyn Hawkins of the American Association for Nude Recreation. “They find visiting a nude resort, they can travel more and pack less.”

400 MEMBERS & A COUPLE OF HONEYMOONERS

Inside the clubhouse, Carol sits at her desk doing paperwork. She adores animals ... and is surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, talking birds and assorted other critters that she’s rescued. Carol and Jerry are successful business partners with 400 members at their year-round resort, which caters to families and the older set.

“Most people say when they enter here, they leave their clothes and their troubles at the gate,’’ she says.

The original name of the resort was Apollo Sun Club, and it opened in the early 1970s, says Carol. She and Jerry bought the business in 1993.

At the dining room table, Joe and Carole, in their 60s, are seated on towels, holding hands. They were married the day before in the garden and are still glowing. Two years ago, Joe was not a nudist — just looking for a place to live at the beach.

“There was an RV here,’’ he says. “I came by to say hello, and by 2 o’clock, I had bought it.’’ He decided to keep the RV at the resort. “I found the people here more open and friendly and accepting than those in the textile world. We are family-oriented here.’’

He is now the resort’s Web master (whisperingpinesnudistresort.com).

Joe and Carole actually met on the Internet. She jokes that she bought Joe on eBay. She wasn’t a nudist until she met him, but has grown to love the lifestyle.

“Nudity cuts down on your laundry,’’ she says. “You just wash and wear, wrinkles and all.’’

READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP

In the late afternoon, as the pool area clears, Rachael is ready to take photos of me. Covered with a towel, I slip into the pool, leaving the towel high and dry. Swimming in the nude really is a great feeling. Posing for a water photo is not. I keep floating to the top. Not a pretty picture.

As dinnertime arrives, I inquire whether guests “dress for dinner.” Yes, I am told, so I put on short-shorts and my shirt. Some members “semi-dress,” in just tops or just bottoms. One woman wears nothing but a black bolero jacket; another dons just a sarong. More men are nude than women. They seem to take to nudity easier than women.

Owner and cook, Jerry, has on a black T-shirt long enough to protect vital parts from the flame of outdoor grilling. His steaks and vegetables are excellent.

Ray, in his late 20s, sits down on his towel at our table. He says he grew up in New Jersey, where his family members were regulars at a nudist camp. “So, how did that influence you?”

“I did the same thing regular textiles do, play, hang out,” he responds. “I had more friends at the camp, though. I think I had a better self-image than regular kids ... who were ashamed of themselves, you know, when they go to gym and had to shower.

“Lots of boys were ashamed of their bodies. I never was because that was the way I was brought up. I was happy in my own skin and my own wild life. I see things a lot different.’’


Wearing only tops: Honeymooners Joe and Carole.

SATURDAY NIGHT KARAOKE

It’s Saturday night karaoke! A resort member, who says he’s a policeman in the Cape Fear region, sets up the equipment in the clubhouse. He is clothed — in shorts and a tank top.
And suddenly, it’s showtime.

A nude and gutsy singer — in more ways than one — barrels up to offer his voice. With perfect pitch and reverence, he belts out a hymn, “Just a closer walk with thee.’’

His name is George, and he wears a navy blue shirt, no pants, sandals and a golden tan. He says he has been coming to this resort for two years and can’t wait to get down here on Friday nights to feel really good.

The karaoke continues until the wee hours of the morning. No singing for me. I’d rather just listen, and look.

How sweet it is.


SUNDAY-MORNING WORSHIP

On Sunday morning, 20 members show up for nondenominational worship services in a small screened chapel in the meadow. The gathering starts with coffee and cake and a business report of contributions of $800 to go toward members and friends in need.

Lay minister Gerald is filling in today for their regular Baptist pastor, David. Gerald is clothed, as are most of those attending.

The newlyweds, still holding hands, are congratulated. There’s a prayer and blessings before Gerald speaks from the book of Matthew about the teachings of Jesus. He warns of the dangers of gossip and the need for kindness among neighbors. All join in with the Lord’s Prayer as the 45-minute service comes to an end.

REFLECTIONS ON IT ALL

It was at church that I met Julie. Julie says she managed a Raleigh law firm, but is now happily retired. She and her husband, Bob, both in their 70s, have been resort members since 1982. Although they live only a few miles away, they keep their RV at the resort for a weekend getaway, where they can indulge their love for nature and nudity.

“It’s quiet and so relaxing,’’ Julie says. “You meet people who come back every year. It’s like a family reunion.’’

Clearly, Sunday afternoon is a time to reflect on the experience and the motto, “Dress in what fits you best — your own skin.’’

I ask co-owner Carol, a mother of four, how she became a nudist. She says it was a lifestyle her husband chose. She began by going nude around the house, vacuuming and washing dishes —until doing it in the buff seemed natural.
“Nudity became second nature to me,” she says. “We forget that we are not our bodies. We are who we are inside. Your body shape shouldn’t have anything to do with who you think you are. That’s true for textiles, as well as nudists.”


A karaoke performer opts to wear a patriotic-inspired
top (only) for her turn at the mike.

I have to say that I’ve never met any kinder, nicer, more open and honest people than those I encountered at the resort. Shedding clothing is a great equalizer. You can no longer announce who you are or want to be with what you wear. For me, nudity does feel good, but not with others around. I guess I am just what Carol calls “a closet nudist.’’

Vanity, more than modesty, may be the reason. After all, I know all too well that I don’t have the same body I had 45 years ago when I modeled bikinis. Drats.

I suppose I am doomed to always be an accursed textile.

Getting there

It’s a long and winding road to Whispering Pines Nudist Resort, near Ocean Isle. Here are the directions from Fayetteville:

Travel on Interstate 95 south. Take U.S. 74 east to Whiteville. In Whiteville, take 130 east to Shallotte for about 35 miles. You’ll be at a traffic light in Shallotte when you then make a right on to U.S. 17 south. Proceed to 17 bypass, then make a left (heading south) and a right on to N.C. 904. Drive for 1 1/2 miles, then take your second right on to Russtown Road. Proceed for 1/2 mile; take a second right (Richardson), for another 1/2 mile and the pavement ends. Continue on a dirt road for about 200 feet, dead-ending into Sun Street. Make a right. The gates are 200 feet down, on the left.

To learn more, log on to whisperingpinesnudistresort.com. Or call (910) 287-6404; toll free (888) LUV-2-TAN.