Bob Matthews: It doesn’t look like you were performing for anyone in particular, but that was quite a lovely piece you were playing on the piano. I don’t know a whole lot of music, but it sounded kinda familiar. What was it?
Joyce Coburn: That? Oh, it’s Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Just the first movement. It’s the only part I can play decently. The second and, especially, the third movements are much harder. Only a real virtuoso can do them well. The violin is my instrument, actually, and I’m not too bad with it. But I appreciate the compliment anyhow.
Bob: Well, I really meant it. If the violin’s your instrument, you must be awfully good at it. By the way, I’m Bob – Bob Matthews.
Joyce: I’m pleased to meet you, Bob. I’m Joyce.
Bob: Joyce – that’s a pretty name. I don’t know whether anyone’s mentioned it to you yet, but I want to make sure you know that every one of us in Sara’s congregation is very pleased that she arranged for all of us to get together like this. At first when she brought up this idea with us of having some sort of get-together over dinner with this bunch of nudists she’d just gotten mixed up with, we all thought it sounded like a pretty crazy idea. I mean, what could our group and yours possibly have in common, no?
Joyce: Well, I must admit it sounded a bit implausible to most of us too. Not that we thought it was crazy or anything. Just, as you say, we probably wouldn’t have much in common. I suppose there must have been at least a few people in your congregation who were saying, “Heck no, that doesn’t make any sense at all!”
Bob: No, actually I don’t think any of us felt quite that way. We’re pretty open-minded folks, after all. It was just the weirdness of imagining what it would be like for a bunch of old geezers like us, who’ve all – except of course for Sara herself – been used to wearing clothes our whole lives, to be sitting down to a spaghetti dinner with a bunch of young folks who wouldn’t be wearing any clothes.
Joyce: Yeah, I guess that’s pretty much what most of us felt too. But we all thought it was a fine idea, as long as you folks were willing to do it. I’ve been here only about half an hour, but it seems already that instead of people just standing around mostly talking only to others in their own group, it’s not that way at all.
Bob: That’s great to see, isn’t it? But, you know, Sara never kept it a secret that she and her late husband Albert were nudists. They were never naked at any of our meetings or events. Or even when they were with only a few of us in their home or one of ours. At least, I can’t recall anyone having mentioned being with them when they didn’t have clothes on. But I suspect it would have been OK with most of us in any case. There just wasn’t any doubt that both Sara and Albert were fine people, whether or not they socialized naked with other nudists. So anyhow, as far as I know, none of us thought there was anything bad about being a nudist. It just wasn’t something that appealed to any of the rest of us.
Joyce: I’m very glad to hear that, but I’ve assumed that must be how it is, considering what a warm welcome you’ve given us. I want you to know that I and all the rest of us really appreciate how generous it is of your group to offer us the use of your meeting place for some of our own meetings. Naturally, all of you will certainly be welcome to any of our meetings – whether they’re here or somewhere else.
Bob: Sara tells me there wasn’t any objection at all when she brought this idea up with our board of directors. At our meeting on the Sunday after that, Sara presented the idea to the whole congregation – or those of us who could be there, anyway. We did have an hour or so of discussion then. Much of that was just Sara telling us about what went on at the first meeting she had with your group. She said it gave her a really great feeling. But of course, she was already completely used to be around naked people, and even naked herself. Once it was clear that none of us would be under any pressure to be naked if we didn’t want to be, there wasn’t very much left to talk about.
Joyce: This is a really nice meeting place you have.
Bob: Thank you. It’s belonged to the congregation for decades. I think it was built just after World War II, so we must have had it for about 70 years. The congregation was much larger then, so the place is way too big for us now. We don’t have to pay property taxes, of course, and we have a decent size endowment to take care of maintenance and repairs, so there’s no urgent need to move someplace smaller. I suppose we’ll just keep it until all but a few of us are pushing up daisies. But it’s really nice to know we can share it with you folks too, so all the extra space won’t be of no use.
Joyce: Have you been a member of the congregation since the early days?
Bob: Nope. My wife Anna and I moved here from somewhere else just 30 years ago, so I don’t actually know much about the earliest days. Anna’s gone now – breast cancer.
Joyce: I’m very sorry to hear that. But at least you’re still among good friends.
Bob: Yes, that’s true. But we’ve all gotta go sooner or later. That’s just how it is. None of us believe there’s any kind of afterlife. When you’re dead, you’re dead, and that’s that. We can deal with it. At your age you’re doing exactly what you should be doing – living your life to the fullest. And I think your obvious enthusiasm for being naked is part of that. As long as you have your health, you’ll be fine.
Joyce: You must have some children, no?
Bob. Yep. Three of ’em, in fact. But they’ve all moved someplace else now – looking for better jobs, and a bit more excitement than we have around here.
Joyce: I’m happy enough here. And I’m actually feeling happier than ever, now that I’ve stumbled into this great group of people I can enjoy being naked with.
Bob: No doubt about it. If you have a good circle of friends to enjoy life with, it doesn’t get much better than that, does it? I lost Anna about three years ago, but now Carol – who’s around here somewhere this evening – and I have combined our homes after she lost her husband last year. We bought a new place together. It’s better than either of us had before, so we’re doing OK. How about you? Do you have someone who’s special in your life?
Joyce: Nope, not really. I’m 25 and haven’t been planning to settle down in a long-term relationship – at least not for a few more years. But maybe I’ll do that and then have a couple of kids eventually. I’ve had several dates since I stopped wearing clothes. Different guys I’ve known for a while. I’ve been naked with them before, at various times, for obvious reasons. So being naked on a date wasn’t a big deal. And the recent dates when I was naked were at private parties where the hosts didn’t mind. The idea of not being naked with a guy on a date although you’re not in a relationship with them just seems so quaint now.
Bob: Ah, well, I guess things now are a bit different from how they were when I was young.
Joyce: Yes, I imagine so. But as far as any long-term relationship, my life’s already too busy as it is. I have a full-time job in an insurance agency office. Plus I play violin with a string quartet. I’m also very interested in amateur theater, too. And on top of all that, now I’m learning how to be a nudist.
Bob: Yes, I’d say you’re plate’s pretty full. Want to tell me more about your interest in theater?
Joyce: Sure. My major in college was drama, and that’s still as important to me as my music. Now that I’ve mostly stopped wearing any clothes except at work, I’m very interested in finding other people who’re into amateur theater and might consider performing naked in some plays.
Bob: Perhaps some people in this nudist group of yours, yes?
Joyce: Could be. I’m just starting to think about this now, so I haven’t really begun to ask around to see whether anyone might be interested.
Bob: As you can see, our meeting room here is big and has a pretty nice stage. We could probably seat 100 or so for a performance. The stage doesn’t really get much use, although we’ve had a few musical or theatrical performances here occasionally in the past.
Joyce: Have you been reading my mind? I certainly noticed the stage and was thinking exactly along those lines. Maybe I could suggest it as a place for our quartet, too. We’ve performed at the local junior college and the high school, but both of those auditoriums are somewhat too big for us – we can’t come close to filling the seats – and the acoustics aren’t great either.
Bob: Speaking of the quartet, have you performed naked with them yet?
Joyce: Oh, no. It hasn’t been very long since I started going naked, you know, and we haven’t had any public performances since then. I’d really, really love to perform naked with them. I think that would be very cool. But I rather doubt that they’d go for that. I’ve been naked for rehearsals with them, and that’s fine with them. But in front of an actual audience from the general public? It’s probably too soon to even raise the idea at this point.
Bob: But here you could perform for a smaller audience that might not have any problems with nudity, no?
Joyce: Yes, that could very well be. But since this is the first time I’ve seen what you have here, it’s not an idea I’ve even considered yet.
Bob: Speaking just for myself, I think you should seriously consider it. I’m sure the rest of our congregation would be happy for good use to be made of this space.
Joyce: As I think about it now, this hardly seems to be like any church I’ve been in before. You have a very nice meeting room, but there are no pews or anything of the sort, so I suppose people just sit on folding chairs, right?
Joyce: And there aren’t any religious pictures or statues or stained glass windows or candles – or anything at all like that. I don’t really know much about Unitarian Universalism. Is this pretty much what all U. U. places are like?
Bob: No, probably not. U. U. people are very diverse. Even in our own congregation people have a lot of different opinions about such things. What we decided is simply not have that sort of stuff. Why have anything around that upsets somebody or other? We’re sort of like Quakers: keep everything simple.
Sara Holmes: [speaking into a microphone at the front of the room] OK, folks, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. The kitchen staff informs me that they’re all set to start serving. So find a place for yourselves at one of the tables. As soon as you’ve done that, we’ll bring on the spaghetti, vegetables, fresh bread, and all the other good stuff. Bon appetit!
Sandra Green: [who’d been standing beside Sara, waiting to speak] I want to propose a toast to all of our new naturist friends. Although most of us – except Sara – prefer to continue wearing clothes just as we’ve always done, we welcome and respect all of you who prefer not wearing any clothes! Let’s all celebrate our freedom to choose our own way of living as much as we celebrate that of others who have made responsible but different choices. Cheers!
Mark Amberson: [standing up from where he’d been sitting] Thank you very much, Sandra. And I propose a toast to our very generous and open-minded hosts who share our beliefs that every individual should be able to make responsible choices about how they live their private lives – whether they believe in some particular religious creed, or none, and whether they are most comfortable wearing any clothes – or none.
Carol Edwards: [who was sitting to Mark’s right] I couldn’t have ever, Mark, in my wildest imagination, thought I’d be sitting down to dinner with a bunch of people who weren’t wearing any clothes at all. I’ve occasionally had dreams – nightmares, really – where I was the only one naked in a bunch of people who were all quite normally dressed. Is that anything like what you’re feeling now?
Mark: Oh, no, not at all. This feels perfectly normal to me. My wife, Julie, and I both had a little experience with nudity – going to nude beaches, camping in remote places, and things like that – before we married. We both loved how it felt when we could be naked, so we agreed that from the start we’d be naked as much as possible at home, and that when we had kids we’d raise them the same way. It’s worked out very well, I think. So whenever we’re naked around people who aren’t, we don’t feel any discomfort or embarrassment at all. It just feels perfectly normal. Isn’t that right, Shelley?
Shelley Amberson: [who was sitting to Carol’s right] Of course it feels normal to me, Dad. We’ve never worn any clothes at home. I can’t remember when I was still in diapers. And I can’t remember any time when I wasn’t naked at home – until I started going to school and I had to put clothes on. You and Mom explained to me that some people preferred to wear clothes. I never could understand that, and I still can’t. But you said I should respect other people’s preferences anyhow, even if it didn’t make much sense. I was always happy when friends of mine I was playing with decided to be naked too, but if their parents wouldn’t let them be naked or they didn’t want to be, that was also OK. So either way, it’s seemed completely normal for people not to care whether anyone they were with had on any clothes. Nudity was simply a different choice of clothing – none.
Carol: I have to admit that all of this – the way we’re having dinner together regardless of whether anyone is or isn’t naked certainly does seem normal. How about you, Charmaine? I understand you’re very new to this group of nudists. Do you feel comfortable being completely naked here?
Charmaine Moore: [who was sitting across the table from Carol] Um, well, let’s just say I’m still trying to get used to being naked around other people. But I think it’s getting a little bit easier for me every day. My parents were pretty worried about letting me do this, but they finally agreed to let me try it. Most of my friends think I’ve gone completely nuts, but mostly they’re trying to be understanding. Maybe they think I’ll get over this pretty quickly, once the novelty wears off. I’m not sure either, but I guess we’ll see.
Shelley: I think I deserve some credit for Charmaine deciding to try nudity to see how she likes it. We’re in the same high school and have been in some of the same classes, but didn’t really know each other very well. Then one day just before classes were over for the summer Charmaine came up to me at lunch and said she’d heard I was a nudist. I was surprised that she’d only just heard that, since I thought that almost everyone knew that I and my whole family were nudists, and we never wore any clothes unless we had to. It certainly hasn’t been a secret. But I was still happy to encourage her to try going naked, and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far. Right, Charmaine?
Charmaine: Yes. People say I appear to be gradually getting more comfortable and used to not wearing any clothes. They tell me I don’t seem so self-conscious about my total nudity as I was at first. So I’m hopeful I’ll, um, start doing more stuff with Shelley’s group, and be able to explain it better to some of my friends who don’t really seem to understand yet.
Shelley: I think I know what Charmaine’s up against. I visited her in her home recently, and I didn’t have quite the same feeling I’ve had in the homes of most friends I’ve visited. Although nobody specifically said anything to indicate they disapproved of either me or Charmaine being naked, I felt a certain coolness from the people in her family. At one point I was trying to find out from her older brother Jeff how he felt about Charmaine’s and my nudity. It seemed to me that he just didn’t want to talk about it, so I dropped the subject. I suppose her family may simply need a little more time to get used to the idea. But I’m sure they will eventually.
Carol: It seems to me that you’re being very brave about this whole thing, Charmaine. So I’d agree with Shelley that if you can give it a good try you’ll eventually decide whether or not it’s the right thing for you. I’d like to change the subject now, if I may.
Mark: Certainly, go right ahead.
Carol: I’m on the Board of Directors of our congregation with Sara, and we’ve been planning to hold a bake sale here in a few weeks. It’s not that we need to make a little extra money. It’s more that a bake sale is kind of fun. We have a number of people here who like to make baked goodies – cookies, pies, cakes, bread – the usual stuff. And we like meeting new people from the general community just for the sake of possibly making new friends. We assume almost everyone has already decided for themselves what kind of religious or “spiritual” practice is suitable for them, so we never expect to make any converts. It’s really just a social thing. Anyhow, Sara suggested at our last Board meeting that we invite you naturist folks to join us in this project.
Mark: I know. Sara has already discussed that with me.
Carol: We realize, of course, that many people who’d normally come to one of our bake sales might be a bit, shall we say, leery of interacting with people who don’t wear any clothes. But we think that experience would be a good thing for everyone. People would have a chance to meet some naturists in “real life”, so they understand you folks are really pretty decent, normal sorts who simply prefer being naked. And you guys might have a chance to interest at least one or two new people in trying out your lifestyle. So I was wondering, Mark, what you might be thinking about the idea.
Mark: I’m all for it, absolutely, no doubt about that. I’d love to do it. I’m sure there are some folks in our group who’d be happy to contribute some of their favorite baked goods, and even work at the sale. But, to be honest, I’m struggling a little with how to make the idea of buying stuff at a bake sale from naked people seem to be not quite so – I don’t know – off the wall. Any ideas?
Corey Hamilton: [who was sitting across the table from Shelley, and to Charmaine’s left] I have an idea! Wanna hear it?
Mark: Certainly, Corey. What is it?
Corey: Well, see, my older brother Brett is in college. He’s home for the summer now, and he was pretty surprised to find out that I’ve become a full-time nudist. He was aware that our mother had some experience with nudism when she lived in Germany, but he assumed she no longer had any particular interest in it. And I think she hasn’t really decided yet how she feels about it, although she’s happy that I’m enthusiastic about being naked. Brett also isn’t sure how he feels about the idea, but while we were talking about it he mentioned there was a nudist or naturist group on campus that this spring put on what they called a “Bare Fair”.
Shelley: Hmmm. That sounds kind of interesting. Please tell us more!
Corey: All I know about it is what Brett told me. He just stopped by the thing to see what it was all about. Apparently, they had things like body painting, water balloon fights, naked yoga demonstrations, and stuff like that people could participate in – if they felt like getting almost or entirely naked. Brett says he didn’t actually do any of that, but he admitted he did find it a little tempting. And also there were people selling stuff that people who enjoy nudity might be interested in.
Carol: What sort of stuff might that be?
Corey: Well, let’s see. I guess there was stuff like body jewelry you could wear if you had piercings, like in your nipples, for instance. And things to wear if you wanted to be only partly naked at times instead of fully naked – like sarongs or fishnet shirts and shorts. Oh, and stuff that you could use in body painting if you wanted to experiment with it on your own. That’s about all I can remember offhand, but I’m pretty sure there was more.
Shelley: OMG! That sounds fantastic. Dad, we absolutely gotta do that!
Mark: Yes, that certainly sounds extremely interesting. What’s your reaction to that, Carol? Do you think your folks would be OK having something like that along with your bake sale?
Carol: Ah, I guess it’s possible. I’d say we need to get a few people from our group and yours together to talk it over and figure out whether and how it might fit in.
Mark: Excellent. Let’s see what we can arrange right here, after dinner. We can have another meeting later if it seems like something to take seriously, but we can certainly get the ball rolling here. Now, let’s get down to some serious eating. This is some of the tastiest spaghetti I’ve had in a long time. Lots of garlic. Yum!