Susan: Jan, that stew you served for dinner was just so wonderful! I’ve known for years that you love cooking, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed every time I’ve been able to appreciate your way with food. But this time I think you’ve surpassed everything else.
Jan: Thanks, Mom, I guess I do love cooking, but I don’t think what I do is really that special.
Susan: Oh, don’t sell yourself short, dear. I’ve been around a lot longer than you have, and I do have some sense of what’s great food, what’s good, and what’s merely adequate. There’s no doubt in my mind what you do is in the first category. I just can’t imagine how you got so good. It certainly wasn’t from me – in spite of all my years of trying. Have you ever thought of opening your own restaurant?
Jan: Dave and the kids have always been very complimentary of my cooking. And it seems like they always expect me to do better than whatever I did last time that really impressed them. I’d hate to disappoint their expectations. But as for opening a restaurant, please. I know people who’ve tried that. Almost all of them say it’s really hard work, and most of them have ultimately not been successful, after a few years of trying. Besides, around here, in a smallish town, I can’t imagine there’s much demand for a quality restaurant, even if I were crazy enough to try.
Susan: Really? Your town doesn’t seem to be that small. What’s the total population here?
Jan: Oh, about 20,000, I think. It’s big enough to have a pretty good selection of stores, a few nice neighborhoods, some good schools, and most other amenities of civilization. But I can tell you from our experience, there are only a couple of decent restaurants – not even anything like the Thai restaurant where we ate a few days ago. Perhaps that’s one reason I put the effort I do into how I cook for our family. Not to mention that I’m a foodie and certainly enjoy a good meal myself. Living in a town this size means one has to develop one’s own skills in a few areas where one can be a little bit proud of the results.
Susan: Well, all I can say is that I’m so proud to have you as a daughter. It’s not just your culinary skills. You’ve always been quite talented musically as well. You’re still giving piano lessons to a good number of students aren’t you?
Jan: Yes, even though our town isn’t that large I have been able to accumulate a few students – about a dozen or so right now. The teaching doesn’t bring in much money, but I do get a lot of satisfaction out of the progress most of my students have made.
Danielle: Maybe that’s because Mom’s a real tyrant in how much she expects her students to practice! Believe me – I know from personal experience. She insists that I practice at least an hour every day. She can’t be sure that her other students do that, but since she always knows whether I’ve practiced or not, I don’t have much choice.
Susan: I know how you feel, Danielle. No doubt there are many other things you’d like to be doing, such as putting more time into swimming practice and just hanging out with your friends. But I guess you can blame me for your mother’s insistence on piano practice. When I was about your age I really admired other kids who were really good at something like either music or sports. Unfortunately for me, as the youngest in my family, my parents just didn’t seem to expect as much from me as they did from the others. So when I had kids of my own, I was determined that they should not fritter away their time watching TV or hanging out at the mall or whatever. That’s why I expected your mother to work at becoming a good pianist.
Jan: You should be fair to yourself, Mom. It was something I wanted to do myself, because I enjoyed music and admired people who were good at it. But it is true that you made sure I never skipped daily practice, even when I’d rather have done something else.
Susan: Yes, but some of your interest in music was because I made sure we had a fair amount of good recorded music to listen to and that we often went to local recitals and concerts when possible.
Danielle: OK, Gramma, it’s good to know why my Mom may be kind of a tyrant about things. But, um, would anybody mind, since we’re all here, if I just changed the subject to something I’m kind of curious about, even though it might be a little sensitive or difficult to talk about.
Jan: What is it you’d like to talk about, dear?
Danielle: Well, you know, Mom. It’s what you and I were talking about this afternoon. You said that Gramma already knew about this, so she wouldn’t be surprised or upset about any of the basic facts.
Susan: What is it she’s referring to, Jan?
Jan: It’s about nudism – or naturism as Dave calls it – and how it’s something he’s been interested in and now wants to actually experiment with openly. I think Danielle should tell you about the discussion we had. Is that OK with you, too, Dave?
Dave: Yes, of course. I’m tired of keeping my interest in naturism a secret from people who are important to me, and who’d be affected if I become more actively involved in naturism. I’ve already told Jan it would be a good idea for both Danielle and Sean to be informed about this. It’s also fine to include Susan in the discussion, since Jan told me it’s something she can relate to as well.
Jan: I’ve also told Sean most of what I’ve told Danielle, and he’s also quite interested in learning more about this. So, Sean, are you OK if we all talk about it now?
Sean: Sure, Mom, no problem.
Jan: Good. Danielle, how about you take it from here?
Danielle: Um, OK. See, this thing about nudism or naturism all came up because a few days ago I found this magazine lying on a table in the living room. It was full of pictures and writing about people of all ages who aren’t at all ashamed or embarrassed about being naked around others – people who enjoy that, in fact.
Susan: That’s my fault, I’m afraid. Jan gave me a few of Dave’s naturist magazines to look at and read. She wanted me not to leave them around where Danielle or Sean could find them, since she wasn’t sure the time was right to discuss any of this with them. But while I was looking through one of the magazines Danielle came along and wanted to play a piece for me she’s been practicing on the piano. So I put the magazine down and forgot about it.
Jan: I suppose it’s just as well that happened, since we shouldn’t be keeping secrets from each other too long about important things. So I’ve forgiven Gramma. Go on, Danielle. What else did we talk about after you showed me the magazine?
Danielle: Well, first Mom said that Dad was interested in what this magazine was about, that he’d like to try being naked at home, and probably also doing the sorts of things that the magazine covered. That is, being naked to do things like hiking, camping, playing sports, visiting resorts just for people who like to be naked, going on vacations to places where it’s OK to be naked, and so on. Oh, and one story I read was about musicians who perform naked in front of audiences, who may or may not be naked themselves. Naturally, I found that pretty interesting – though I couldn’t imagine actually performing naked myself.
Jan: I read the same story and felt the same way. How could anyone actually concentrate on their performance while they don’t have any clothes on? Sounds really weird to me, but obviously not to everyone. Sorry to interrupt, Danielle. Go on.
Danielle: Of course, I’d never seen a magazine like this before, though I sort of knew nudists actually do exist. At first I was a little bit “shocked” that there were magazines like this that had pictures in them of people without any clothes on – people who didn’t seem to mind anyone else seeing them naked. I wondered whether this was just another kind of porn, like Playboy, only slightly different. I had the magazine for only a short time before I showed it to Mom and she explained to me about Dad’s interest in naturism. However, very soon after that discussion I started searching around on the Web for information on naturism. It turns out that there’s quite a lot – even on Facebook and places like that. The more I read about it the less unsettling and disturbing it seemed – though still fairly weird.
Jan: Danielle told me about all the stuff she was finding online about naturism, and even showed me the things she found most interesting and informative. She also admitted to me that she’d occasionally looked at actual porn, too. But I wasn’t too surprised about that. I’ve looked at online porn myself, and I know that most people do at some time or other. Just like Danielle, the more I read about naturism, the less outlandish it seemed, although it still seemed kind of weird. I saw that naturists who write about their own experiences usually insist it’s not at all sexual, just as Dave has also insisted to me.
Dave: And I firmly believe that too.
Jan: And I believe Dave’s correct, at least in terms of his own interest in naturism. But you never know what other people really think, even if they don’t admit it. Perhaps they don’t even know themselves. In any case, I thought naturists should be taken at their word, unless there’s reason not to.
Danielle: That’s what I decided too. I mean, naturists often point out that genitals are just standard body parts, like ears and knees and any other parts. Although they have a sexual function, everyone’s seen others’ genitals in pictures, and their own every day. Why should it be bad in a nonsexual context to see pictures of genitals? Or for that matter, even on an actual person, if the person doesn’t mind.
Dave: The naturist view is that innocently seeing or even discussing genitals has been an unreasonable taboo in our culture. And the taboo is definitely still there, though it may be a little less strong than it used to be. After all, these days movies do occasionally show genitals briefly, in nonsexual contexts, like when taking a bath or shower, or skinny-dipping in a river somewhere – as well as in more sexual contexts. I think it’s too bad that even in nonsexual contexts a movie can get an R rating for even a very brief show of genitals. I’ve long thought our culture is very silly about this.
Danielle: I guess the taboo on mentioning genitals is weakening. Kids my age now refer to genitals rather freely. You hear people say “dick” or “pussy” all the time, even in front of others of the opposite sex, though that does feel kind of “naughty”. Same as with most other sex words. Mom tells me that used to be pretty unusual – but it certainly isn’t now.
Sean: That’s for sure.
Danielle: One of our culture’s silly taboos requires certain body parts to be covered up almost all the time – including female boobs, which aren’t even genitals. So it’s still pretty unusual – aside from sexual situations – to see such parts on a real person of the opposite sex or usually even of the same sex, other than oneself. But it’s normal and routine for naturists or nudists. This shouldn’t really be anything to freak out about. Especially if it’s someone of the same sex.
Dave: Is it any wonder that these taboos are very frustrating for nudists or would-be nudists?
Danielle: No, it isn’t any wonder at all. Pardon me for ranting, but these taboos kind of bug me when I think about them. I mean, if I decided that I wanted to try out nudism, like Dad does, I’d be afraid to because of these taboos. Heck, if I wanted to be naked, it certainly wouldn’t be because I want to go around asking everyone to look at my pussy. If I were a nudist, or simply didn’t feel like wearing any pants sometime, all I’d want is for people not to let the sight of my vulva offend them or even be something to take particular notice of.
Susan: Yes, these are all very good points. Danielle and Sean, you probably don’t know that it used to be quite normal for people to see others completely naked in single-sex dressing rooms, in gyms or swimming pools or the like. I gather that’s more controversial now, which is unfortunate. But attitudes vary from place to place and time to time. It’s funny how attitudes fluctuate over time. At least within the family I was raised in, seeing those “taboo” parts was often just normal.
Dave: Yeah, it sure is funny, isn’t it? The basic problem is that attitudes do fluctuate even over the span of one generation, and much more so over longer time periods. But at any given time, people think that the rules have always been about the same.
Susan: Sean, What’s your reaction to your father’s interest in nudity? Have you had a look at his naturist magazines?
Sean: Um, well, yeah, they let me check out all the magazines. And like Danielle I then went searching on the Internet for more information. Naturism actually seems pretty tame to me, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. We’ve all spent some amount of time looking at porn on the ‘net, and it’s even been discussed in my sex ed classes. But all the stuff on naturism seems totally different. In fact, if it’s really so non-sexual, I don’t quite know what could be so interesting about it to some people – like Dad for instance.
Danielle: I think Dad’s just curious about it. Some people just naturally have more curiosity than others. If they notice something “strange” or unfamiliar, like nudism, they want to know more about it. Trying it out seems like the best way to satisfy the curiosity.
Sean: I suppose so. Most of the information on naturism says you can’t really understand it until you’ve tried it. Maybe Dad is curious enough, but I don’t know if I’m sufficiently curious now to try it. I mean, there’s no big deal about being naked by yourself. I know what that’s like. But totally naked in front of other people, whether they’re friends or strangers or anything else? Could that be fun enough, instead of somewhat – or very – awkward and embarrassing? I have to wonder why guys wouldn’t have erections all the time in that situation – but the claim is they don’t. So I just don’t know how I feel about it yet.
Jan: That’s pretty much my attitude too, Sean. But there’s more to this story, and I think Danielle wants to say more about it.
Danielle: Yeah, the next thing Mom told me was that Dad has already been spending a lot of his time naked at home recently – as long as Sean and I weren’t around, or anyone else either. Since this was before the summer break from school, there was plenty of time for him to do that. Obviously Mom and Dad are used to seeing each other naked at certain times. What’s different is that now she sees him naked much more of the time.
Jan: And that wasn’t much of a problem once I got used to it. But I asked him to not be naked when you and Sean were around. Since we hadn’t had the conversation with you kids that we’re having now, I didn’t want you to get the “wrong idea” about why he was going naked.
Danielle: I can imagine what you mean by that. But now that I’ve learned what I have about naturism I don’t think there should be any problem. It wouldn’t bother me at all if he decides to be naked as much as he likes as long as it’s just the four of us. You’d feel about that pretty much the same way, Sean, no?
Sean: Sure. It’d be no problem at all for me. Dad’s naked body looks just about like mine, after all, only a little bigger.
Danielle: But I can see some obvious concerns if anyone is around except for our family here. I’d certainly worry about what friends of mine might think about seeing Dad naked. Their parents might not like it either.
Jan: I’d definitely worry about that too.
Danielle: But there’s still more that Mom told me. The next thing really did surprise me, though.
Susan: Was it about me?
Danielle: Yep. You alluded to it a couple of minutes ago. Apparently, until just a few days ago, you’d never told Mom that open nudity wasn’t very unusual in your family when you were growing up. Your family didn’t consider themselves to be nudists or naturists, Mom said. Being naked wasn’t a constant thing, but it wasn’t very exceptional or remarkable either for anyone in the family to be naked at home simply if they felt like it, for no particular reason. Is that generally how it was?
Susan: That is correct, yes. Our family lived on a farm and there was a nearby stream that was convenient for getting cooled off in hot weather. None of us bothered with swimming suits. If we had friends of either sex visiting, same thing. That was just the norm. Up until I was old enough to go to school, during the summer I was probably naked at least as often as I had anything on. Like most of my siblings I usually slept naked, although in winter there were plenty of blankets. We had only two bathrooms, so it wasn’t unusual to shower with others.
Sean: That is surprising. Was it like that as long as you lived at home?
Susan. No, for better or worse it wasn’t. I was the youngest child. So by the time I started school, my older siblings often had friends around. Consequently, none of us, including our parents, felt entirely comfortable being naked as much as we’d been earlier, even when nobody but family was around.
Sean: Did your family consider yourselves to be nudists?
Susan: No, being naked was more a matter of how we felt at the time rather than a matter of principle, as it is with people who consider themselves nudists or naturists. Because there were increasingly more friends of my siblings around, all of us just gradually stopped being naked nearly as much as before. By the time I was in middle school, the few times I went naked at home I tended to be the only one, even if nobody but family was around. I now think that was rather unfortunate, but that’s just how it was.
Danielle: And how is it now with your siblings and their families?
Susan: Well, our parents are both dead now. All of my siblings live far away, so I don’t keep up with them very well. Since I’m the youngest, all the rest are older, and only my next oldest sister still has any of her kids living at home. So I don’t really know to what extent nudity has been common in any of their families. To the best of my knowledge, none of us have actually been nudists as adults. In particular, your mother was raised in a very conventional family as far as nudity is concerned. Even if I’d still been used to nudity myself, I was quite aware that your Grampa Bill was pretty conservative in that respect.
Jan: In other words, what Gramma is saying is that the subject of nudity was hardly even mentioned in our family when I was young. It wasn’t explicitly spoken of disapprovingly very much, but it just wasn’t even something worth much discussion. So for better or worse, that’s why I feel pretty ambivalent about nudity now. But I am trying to be sympathetic to letting Dave explore it for himself. Was there anything else we discussed about nudity, Danielle?
Danielle: Um, I can’t think of anything in particular. However, I’d like to mention one more thing. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any kids I know fairly well who are in nudist or naturist families – with one exception. There’s a girl named Shelley on my swimming team. In most respects she’s pretty shy, so I don’t know her all that well. But she’s not shy at all about being naked in the changing room before and after swimming practices. And she doesn’t have any tan lines on her, so she must be naked a lot at least at her own home.
Sean: Does Shelley go to our school?
Danielle: No. I think she lives about 15 miles outside of town, so she doesn’t go to the same school as anyone else on the team. We never see her at the mall or elsewhere, except when the team is together for practices or swim meets. However, other girls on the team who know Shelley better than I do are sure she’s a nudist. She gets teased about that sometimes, but doesn’t really seem to mind. As far as I know she hasn’t talked about being a nudist to anyone on the team. However, I’m thinking I should try to get to know Shelley better. It would be pretty interesting if she really is a nudist.
Susan: Oh, yes, by all means do that. If you’re correct that she’s a nudist, no doubt she’ll be able to tell you much more about what it’s like – unless she’s reluctant for some reason or other to talk about it. Worth a try, anyhow.
Dave: I’d definitely second that. You can tell her I’m interested in naturism if you think it might encourage her to talk about it. But you don’t have to.
Danielle: Oh, I’ll do that, Dad. Thanks.
Dave: This has been a great discussion, but now I have a suggestion. Although there’s still an hour or so before sunset, it’s still plenty warm. And the pool we’re sitting so close to looks awful tempting. Anyone else care to go in with me for a dip? In any case, a little later I’ll start a fire in the fire pit and we can sit around it to talk more about anything that comes to mind.
Susan: You’ll go in without a swim suit, I presume? At least I, for one, would happily encourage you to.
To be continued.