Yesterday under the blazing Lagos sun at Ilashe beach, I remembered the first time I functionally went to a nude beach…
It was several years ago. A time when aging youth gave one a certain feeling of invincibility and a continuously sprouting mind enabled unfledged curiosity. Before then I had been to nude beaches, but unlike that time, my earlier visits were as a spectator.
This time I was going to go nude.
It was a beach called Hanlans Point. One of the three islands in the archipelago on Lake Ontario that hugs the southernmost point of Toronto. They are collectively called Toronto Island. The first island known as Ward Island is residential, the second one known as Center Island is for family entertainment and has an endearing serenity coupled with an amusement park, areas for picnics, restaurants, schools, a lighthouse e.t.c. The last is Hanlans Point. The most serene. The one for the openminded, the adventurous, the experimental, the rebellious, the hedonistic and the naturist.
It was a Saturday afternoon. One of those Saturdays in summertime when it feels like time stands still and the angel of boredom descends to hold sway over your mind. I had two friends over. Male and female. There was prattle and there was laughter. There was food and drinks flowed. Yet my spirit was restless. So against the tide of a weary conversation I abruptly announced;
“I am going to the nude beach”
Silence. Laughter. Four eyes stared at me in surprise and then narrowed into intrigue.
“Idada, na naked babes you wan go look?”
“Nope, I want to go nude.”
More laughter. Disbelief. The she came alive.
“You? nude? I die. You be Oyinbo? All na mouth”
There were both Nigerians and as usual, to Nigerians, there were things that only Nigerians can do, things they may do, things they will never do.
I stood up, went to my room, picked up my beach mat, a baseball cap, sunglasses and a tote bag. I changed into a pair of shots, a sleeveless t-shirt and flip flops. I picked up a novel I had been reading then I sauntered out into the living room where they both sat whispering the unheard.
“Are you guys coming?”
“To where? Abeg dey craze dey go. No be sake of say craze man come from one village mean say everybody for that village dey craze. When your picture reach internet and you become celebrity like Paris Hilton, na me go be your manager.”
They laughed. I didn’t. I donned the cap and my sunglasses and knowing that they had planned to spend the night. I left.
As I drove over, I could clearly see in my mind the eyes of my female friend as she watched me leave. There was admiration. A willingness to come along. To experience. But she was held back by the blatant disapproval of my male friend. The Nigerian always wants to go with the madding crowd. Always wants to present the facade of “I’m good.” even though the core is rotten. I brushed her off my mind and left her to wallow in the sea of regret, knowing that when I returned, she will waste no time in asking me how it went while putting on an air of disinterest, lest my male friend accuse her of being spoilt by “Canada”
I bought some bottles of water and sandwiches before I took the large ferry across the lake towards Hanlans Point and stared at the water lapping beneath me. There were a bunch of people with me. Dressed in the spirit of summer. Chatting and taking pictures. I stood out amongst them. I was black. They were not.
The ferry berthed and I walked along with the others, like pilgrims going to worship. The distance from the quay to the beach itself was not short. And people usually did it in silence as though in reverence of nature. The environment was so serene and gorgeously beautiful, it dazzled you like nature at its finest and made you so aware of the awesomeness of creation.
I was locked in my mind. The sweet smell of flowers assailed my nostrils and the slight breeze caressed my skin. My flip flops flip flopped with a smacking sound on the green grass that was so well mowed, it stretched out like a carpet before me. My sunglasses shielded my eyes from the sun and hid the doorway to my mind for every step I took was met with a pounding heart. Fear had arrived.
One minute, I said to myself;
“Jude you know you won’t go along with it. Just chill there and watch as usual”
The next minute, I chided myself;
“Why are you backing out Jude? The people that do it are they from Mars? Why would you let fear rule you? Come on, you can do this!”
And when I finally arrived at the beach. Fear had won.
I stood there staring out to the left of me. People. Lots of them. All sizes and shapes. All ages. All one colour. All of them happily naked.
To my right was the part of the beach for people who wanted to allow the sun kiss their skin, the tepid water bath their skin, but all while they had their clothes or a semblance of clothing on.
I turned away from the left, starred briefly before me, where water undulated and stretched out to the horizon and different sizes of boats bobbed in it as the rays of the sun bounced off the water giving it a sleek silver look. I then ooked to my right and gazed at the families who carried on as though there was nothing like nudity a couple of feet away from then.
Even though I intended to walk to the right to stake my place amongst the lilly livered, I found myself walking to the left, making my way around beach mats on which lay unshod bodies swallowing the generous gift of the sun.
I walked on and the baked sand caked my feet and made me speed up in search of my little island amongst the sea of bodies. I tried keeping a straight face as people walked around, by, across and in front of me. It was impolite to turn and gaze at beauties and monstrosities that walked by. The shaved and the unshaved. The fit and the unfit. The slim and the fat. The chiselled and the shapeless. The smooth and the wrinkled. The spotless and the freckled. All of them in state of endearing non-chalance. A self confidence that was awe aspiring. Their nudity was a statement to the fact that they didn’t care what you thought about them. They were saying through their nakedness;
“This is the physical me and I am comfortable in this body, Think what you want, it would not change me or discomfort me. If you must be interested, then be curious about what is inside this body. The me you cannot see. So step up and discover the me that matters, since right before you now, is the me you thought truly mattered.”
I wanted to have that kind of self confidence. To be like these people. To be comfortable before the eyes of man and at peace in the arms of nature.
Finally I found a spot. It was far back and gave me a good view of the people, the boats and the lake. There was some trees right at the cusp where the sand hit the grass, thus there was some shade. A short distance away was a volleyball court and people were playing a game, naked. I lay down my mat and placed my tote bag on it. I had to take a drink of water, the sun was tasking and my body begged for nourishment, so I fed it. Satiated. I took off my sleeveless tshirt and then my shorts. No fear because I wore a pair of swimming trunks underneath the shorts. I carefully folded the tshirt and the shorts and used it for a pillow. Then I took off my flip flops and I sat on the mat.
I was the only one at that point with any clothing on and I stuck out like a zebra. I didn’t want to attract attention. Fear returned. I promptly laid back on the mat and picked up the book I had brought. Quickly I looked for the page I was at since I hadn’t used a book marker and it was then I heard her voice;
I lowered the book. She stood there over me. Sleek black hair falling down over her chest, her tanned skin taut. Not a hair on her body and her pubes. Her feet and some of her body were covered in sand. She had a volleyball in her hand and she was smiling.
“Don’t you think you are overdressed for this part of the beach?”
I felt discomfort slap me in the face. I didn’t want to be noticed and now because of my trunks I was. All I could do was manage a smile.
“Your first time?”
“No, I have been here before.”
“With or without clothes?”
“So you want to make the transition?”
“I thought I could”
“And why can’t you?”
“I think I am not ready.”
“We were never ready. We just did it.”
“I can’t do it.”
“The more you say that, the more you won’t take the leap. Don’t think it. Just do it.”
Just then another man walked up to us. He was hirsute, bald, average height and uncircumcised. He was smiling broader than her.
“Hey hon, we are waiting.”
“Sorry, just saw a newbie going through the motions.”
“Can’t take the trunks off eh?”
“If you don’t think of it as sexual, you will find it easier to do.”
“What should I think of,”
“Think nature. Think going back to the state in which you were born. Think of it as freedom. Think of it as liberation. Think of it as fellowship. Think of it as stepping into the light. Think of it as opening your eyes for the first time.”
I laughed. He sounded like a psychologist. The lady still had her smile on.
“Are you a psychologist?”
“No. Just a practitioner. Been doing this for over ten years. By the way, I’m Andy.”
“I’m Sheila, his wife.”
We all shook hands. And I avoided looking at his wife. Somehow it felt inappropriate. They both laughed as they noticed my discomfort.
“Come on dude, she is just naked. Looking at her doesn’t mean you are raping her. Its just a body. I have her heart and know her mind. That is what truly matters.”
“I’m sorry, just felt you would mind.”
“Not at all. Aren’t we all naked beneath clothes?
“Yes, but no one sees it.”
“They imagine it.”
“Imagination is just imagination without confirmation.”
“And you think confirmation makes it worse?”
“It takes away the mystery.”
“No. What it does is it stops you from being an object and makes you truly become a person. When someone imagines what you look like naked, they are desiring just your flesh and not you. When they see the flesh and they still hang around then they have no other choice but know the person inside the flesh.”
“Maybe, they hang around to have sex with you.”
“Andy wait, let me explain it to him. Jude don’t people have sex with people they meet while they are both fully clothed?”
“So the presence or the absence of clothes does not determine of sex will happen?”
“Well I think the absence makes it far easier.”
“Think of it this way. Mystery is what breeds interest or curiosity is the starting process of knowledge, so that which you want to know or need to have, if at the get go, you already know what it looks like would you be as motivated to go for it with the same vigour as if you didn’t know?”
“Well if you like what you see, you will definitely want to know what it feels like or it tastes like?”
“So do you want to find out what I feel like or taste like?”
I had to laugh to hide my embarrassment. They both laughed. There were other people walking towards us from the volleyball court.
“It’s okay, you can answer her question. I wouldn’t mind.”
“Like you want me to be honest?”
“Yes dude, go for it.”
“Okay… Yes I do.”
“Am I the first person you have had that desire for today?”
“Well… no… there was a lady I drove past earlier.”
“Was she clothed?”
“Do you think me being naked will make it easier for you to find out how I feel or taste like?”
The people had gathered around us now. I felt so small. It was like a friendly mob. They were all smiling. The question hung in my mind like a fog. Finally I answered.
“No, it won’t make it easier.”
“You see, the decision lies with me. I am the one who decides if I would want you to touch, feel or have a taste of me. My being naked is about me, not about you. It is my power. My strength. My experience. My way of speaking to my God and myself. If you chose to see it as sexual, then that is your problem not mine, because seeing it as sexual does not make it sexual. And if I choose to reveal my nakedness sexually, then it is also my choice but if people look at it as repulsive then I cannot change that either. We do what we do, because we understand why we are doing it. We do it because it makes us feel good. Makes us happy. So do not be afraid of what others will think about you if you go naked in a place that is lawfully accepted for nudity. They have come here knowing that there will be nudity. If there is a pervert here, it is them, not us. The man who sneaks into your bathroom to spy on you nude is the one who breaks the law not you, who are in your space. This is our space. For the doers not the lookers. And I know you are not a looker. I can feel your desire to learn, to do that which intrigues you. So Jude, damn that fear and just take it off.”
They all stared down at me and Andy was the first that began to clap before he went into the sing song.
“Take it off! Take it off! Take it off! Take it off! Take it off.”
And my heart raced as the others joined in. All of them smiling. Some laughing. I was afraid. It was overwhelming. What if I have an erection? What if it is too small? What if someone was looking who knew me? The What if’s piled upon one another. Then Sheila stretched her hand down to me. I reached for it. It was slender and steady. I dropped the book and followed her hand until I was up on my feet. There were more people walking towards us. They were already joining in the ‘Take if off!” even before they got to us. I looked up at the sky and prayed that God would save me and teleport me right to the safety and privacy of my bedroom. But God paid me no mind. I looked at the people. There was energy. The clapping and the singing was like a rhythm. A hypnotic one. Like the chanting of warriors before battle. It made my blood flow faster and my heartbeat race. It killed the fear.
I took it off.
And in that moment in which I stepped out of my trunks and stood naked in front of all those eyes. I felt the most vulnerable in my entire life. I have never experienced that feeling before, neither have I experienced the feeling that followed it a short while after. Five minutes or so.
It was a feeling of such exhilaration that I actually thought I was having an out of body experience. It was as though I had stepped out of the confines of my skin. As though all my life I had been strangulated and just at that one moment, the hands that clasped my throat had let go and I was taking in my first gulp of air. I felt what few people understand. FREEDOM.
And there was a quiet confidence that creeped into me. From my feet up until it filled up every crevice of my body. A feeling of acceptance of me. The me that was a compendium of my strengths and weaknesses, my faults and all. A me that was not afraid of judgement. A me that knew me and felt good and safe and proud knowing me.
I stood naked and there was no erection. Only hugs and pats on my back. And genuine acceptance into a community of people that didn’t judge you as per your size, your shape or the colour or condition of your skin. They peeled away all the exterior and were focused on the real you. The you that was illuminated. The you that was a part of nature. The you that was connected to it and felt the fullness of your place in its expansive tapestry. Like the Lion and the Antelope do. The Whale and the gold fish. No shame. No blame. No judgement. Just an acceptance of the dignity and necessity of co-existence.
In my nudity in the presence of people, I discovered my true
So yesterday as I stood along the beach at Ilashe. And stared out at the ocean. I felt a desire to strip out the exterior that covered me and for that moment feel the breath of nature wash all over me. I felt the desire to be FREE.
But I could not.
And because I couldn’t.
I felt sad.
Not for myself but for how far the journey to what is important is, for we, who say that the beginning of mankind is from us and yet somehow have through the vagaries of time, the misplacement of priorities, the enthronement of foreign religions and abandonment of culture, have ultimately lost sense of the direction of man and his ultimate destination.
Which is to be one… fully… with nature.
For nature is the physical manifestation of the awesomely varied, mind altering, ethereally mysterious, perenially evolving consciousness we know as God.