I am laying out on a lawn chair poolside. I’ve worked and lived around pools my entire life, but at this particular instance nervousness and anxiety fills my body. I look down and it hits me that I have no top on. As I look around cautiously I can see several middle aged patrons socializing around me, most completely nude. I’ve had nightmares like this before, but for once this isn’t a nightmare. In fact, to some it’s paradise…
I decided to visit Lutz, Florida’s Paradise Lakes Resort as a challenge to myself. My friends thought the idea of visiting a clothing-optional resort was so taboo, and I wanted to write about an experience that would really stand out. I know I certainly will never forget it.
When I called to ask for more information on the resort I was informed that entrance was free to “Single Ladies” after 4 p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays. As a single lady who happens to have Sunday and Wednesday evenings free, I figured I would give it a shot.
Unfortunately no one else wanted to give it a shot with me. If my friends didn’t give me a look of horror when I proposed the idea, than they sighed and explained that their boyfriends just simply wouldn’t stand for the girls to be naked without them.
“Forget them,” I said to myself. “I can do this alone. Who needs friends to visit a nude community?”
That fateful Sunday afternoon came around and I found myself feeling a lot less ballsy and a lot more tens
“What does one wear to a nude resort?” I thought. “Should I wear makeup? Why would I wear makeup if I’m not wearing clothes?”
Generally when getting dressed for the pool or the beach I run through a checklist in my head of what to wear. This time I had to run through a checklist of what not to wear. When you’re going to a place where everyone will be naked, is it possible to offend people? Should I shave? Will I smell bad?
It wasn’t my own body that I was concerned about, but the fact that I was about to do something I had been told was forbidden my entire life. Changing after swim team or even around close friends I was told to somehow cover up while I got undressed and look away from others doing the same. Now I was about to look a pool full of nudists in the ass. It was as if I was taking a trip to an alien planet instead of just driving 20 minutes up the road.
I opted for black bikini bottoms covered up with a flowered backless sundress for my first visit and set my GPS to 2001 Paradise Lakes Blvd.
As I drove up to my destination I noticed the very prestigious looking Lutz Preparatory School while making the turn into the questionable looking Paradise Lakes Resort directly across the street.
After checking in at the front desk I entered the pool and looked around for a chair. Although it wasn’t crowded I knew I couldn’t avoid the other nude patrons. Most were middle aged. Some wore clothes but I couldn’t help noticing the large stark naked man sitting around 100 feet across from me.
It was extremely cloudy and looked like it could start pouring at any moment. They say cloudy days are best for tanning, as the sun can still pigment the skin without making it hot, but somehow I wasn’t feeling the urge to whip off my sundress. Today was a day I didn’t even want to take the top off of my car, let alone be topless myself.
I found myself almost shaking with anxiety, when I soon realized that there was nothing to be worried about. Who should I fear? These nice naked people who just want to be comfortable? After a few minutes I began to relax. I took a deep breath, ripped my sundress off like a band-aid, laid on my stomach and read a magazine.
As I had been psyching myself up to strip down, bingo numbers were being read off and announced in the bar next to my chair. Soon after a band could be heard playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Too curious to see if this Beatles cover was being done au natural, I got up to get a drink.
I didn’t see the band, but what I did see was an array of different things. Naked men playing pool, couples standing around drinking and socializing, totally comfortable with or without their clothes on.
Across from my seat was the Oasis Gym. I looked up to see a naked woman on an elliptical. I wondered if that was even comfortable or sanitary, but I certainly did not judge. I went up to the bar and was greeted by Cory, the clothed bartender. He was friendly and could probably sense that I was nervous, even with my sundress on.
“Can I get some water in this?” I asked trying my best to sound natural.
“Just water? No ice or anything? That’s cool, I get that.” Cory replied.
He smiled and filled up my tumbler. I wondered if I could get away with asking for alcohol here. Not many people must try to come and drink underage, and if there was ever a time that I needed a drink it would be now.
I glanced at my bright green tumbler that read “WATCH YOUR B.A.C.,” and listed a “slow down gin fizz” mocktail recipe on the back and figured I’d better play it safe and head back to my spot.
The pool area was actually quite nice, but on a gloomy sunday afternoon it was mostly empty. I looked around imagining naked grown-ups playing shuffleboard, spiking volleyballs across the pool net, and floating in rafts as the glamorized pictures on paradiselakes.com boasted.
A hot tub gurgled a few steps away from the bar, and unlike the rest of the pool area it had a bustling crowd. A large naked woman and several nude middle aged men sat soaking and making conversation. I would have joined them them but somehow I just couldn’t leave that chair without my sundress.
The concept of being naked around these people didn’t bother me anymore, and I couldn’t have cared less that they were letting it all hang out. What made me stick out–sundress or no sundress–was my age. I was clearly much younger than all of these people, and even worse I was alone. What reason did I actually have to be here? I had broken my biggest pet-peeve as a lifeguard and come to a pool on the world’s cloudiest afternoon. I flipped over on my back and pretended to soak up the invisible sun-rays, reading the same page of my magazine for the 20th time in a row.
As naked karaoke was under way I slipped my sundress back on and made my way out. It had begun to rain and as much as I wanted to go watch the rendition of “Love Shack” going on at the bar, I had to go home. A couple belted out “As Time Goes By”-my parents wedding song-as I made my exit.
Although most of my visit to Paradise Lakes involved me wearing some type of covering and sitting alone as a nervous trainwreck, I still left that pool with a sense of accomplishment. I had done what most kids my age would never have the guts to do.
When I got back to my dorm, mentally and emotionally exhausted, I put on as many clothes as I could, but not before convincing my roommate to go back with me for another free “Single Ladies” afternoon.
That visit came later the next week. With the sun out, my roommate by my side and our bikini tops at home the experience was actually a lot of fun and extremely liberating.
I can now testify that my poolside-resume includes work as a swimmer, a lifeguard, a coach, and now a nudist. Mission accomplished.
Selene San Felice can be reached at Selene.firstname.lastname@example.org.