The first time I saw naked people other than in paintings or in the bathroom of my own house was at Lucy Vincent beach. The kids were little, the ocean was blue-green, and the cliffs made me feel as if we were in another country. And we were: Chilmark.
I wasn’t a prude, but sitting there with my bathing suit up to my neck and sweat pants down to my toes, knowing there was no way one item of my clothing was going to be shed, I watched and stared (which I now know you’re not supposed to do). I was never particularly proud of my body and here were all my flaws ready to flash in dayglo neon. When I finally relaxed and took off my turtleneck sweater and my over coat (haha) I saw an older couple, nude, flabby and out of shape walking down to the water’s edge. They were holding hands while they stood and they talked and gestured, and then unselfconsciously they simply dove in. How in the world, I remember thinking, could they be so unembarrassed, so unashamed, so comfortable in their own untaut skin?
Again, honestly, I wasn’t a prude. I was more impressed than abashed. Fast forward about five hours and we adapted to our new surroundings, and started going nude. Took to it like the proverbial ducks to water. The kids never questioned anything everyone else seemed to be doing. Then came an era where for the kids wearing clothing wasn’t optional, it was imperative. They sat as far away from us as possible and wouldn’t even come over for money. That’s how uncomfortable they were. A few years after that they were only too happy to hang with us again in their birthday suits, their friends also in their altogether, coming around and plopping on our blanket playing backgammon, juggling, and reading the latest beach novel.
As time will do, change interrupts ritual and in our lives, change changed our Lucy days. When our son Dan got sick we stopped going to any beaches. There was a decade in there where we just didn’t have the time, the inclination, or the freedom for frolicking.
But now we are back. So far I’ve only gone to Vincent this season in spring with my grandchild and in jackets and hats to fend off the wind and the cold. But my husband and I are so looking forward to being that flabby twosome (not really out of shape but a 70-something shape), holding hands at water’s edge for some new young couple who have just arrived in Chilmark in their full length coats and turtlenecks.
It’ll be fun to see how long it takes them to adapt.
Nancy Slonim Aronie is a commentator for NPR, the author of Writing From the Heart, and the founder of The Chilmark Writing Workshop.
The 33rd Chilmark Women’s Symposium will be held at the Chilmark Community Center on Saturday, April 26, from 9 am to 12 noon. The theme is “Dreams.” There will be speakers, small group discussions and refreshments. The event is free, but donations are welcome to cover expenses. For more information, call Bonnie George at 508-645-3214.
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Send local news, updates, birthdays and births to Jamie Stringfellow at the MVtimes. We also welcome essays such as the one here by Nancy Aronie and are looking for an occasional or regular town columnist.