By Daniel D. Ziegler

"....they had seen me nude and they still liked me.!"

Chapter 10 CRYSTAL: Thursday’s Nudist

'THURSDAY'S CHILD HAS FAR TO GO' is how Crystal relates to a feeling that
she has a specific mission in life. Although she, feels she's not at her destination
yet, nor does she quite know specifically what that mission is, she has a definite
sense of a purpose for being here. "I'm definitely on a journey," she says. "I find
myself in certain situations at work, for example, that I have very little control over,
that are not part of my job description, yet when I walk away from the situation
and look back, I realize that something has been going on, and that I've had a
positive effect on people. It's like I'm a therapist or a motivator who gives people
permission to feel. I feel that I'm being groomed for something--something to do
with people--but I don't know what it is."

Crystal continues, "I used to be afraid of my mission, of the responsibility that
went with it, but as I get older I'm more accepting of it. I'm no longer afraid of
myself. I'm not afraid of my gifts. I know that I'm being guided--that I can't escape
it, nor do I want to anymore. I'm not afraid of this intense feeling that there is
something specific I am going to be doing."

A nudist for six years, Crystal feels that nudism will have a big role to play in
fulfilling her life's mission, "I feel that nudism will have an important part in it
because nudism gives people permission to like themselves and I want to teach
people that they're okay."

Nudism has already played a big part in her life, she feels. Growing up as an
overweight child and feeling that she was "missing something on the
attractiveness scale", she always felt that she had to overcome it by creating
reasons for people to like her. "I had to be smarter, funnier, a better athlete. I had
to be better at things." But she says that she was on a path of starting to like
herself better but that nudism has been the icing on the cake. "It has helped to
speed up the process. I've learned to accept me for myself."

Crystal was in her forth month of treatment for thirteen years of eating disorders--
two as an anorexic and eleven as bulimic--when, as a reporter, she was given an
assignment to interview a couple who were hot air balloonists. "WhenI made
arrangements to meet them at a certain park, they informed me that it was a
clothing-optional park. That meant nothing to me so they explained that it was a
nudist park but that I wouldn't have to undress if I didn't want to."

Reflecting, she continues, "I had never really given the word 'nudist' much
thought. If I had any preconceived ideas, it was that of swingers. I certainly never
pictured children. Of course, since then, my thinking has changed.

"When I got out there to the office, I saw this woman--totally nude. I had seen
nude women before because I played sports but this was different, a bit strange
at first. She then directed me to the people I was to interview--who were also
nude. I felt a bit strange at first but everyone else seemed very comfortable and
relaxed, and friendly. I began to feel very comfortable too.

"We talked about nudism for a few minutes and they suggested that I might want
to try it too. I had worn abikini top under my blouse thinking I might feel
comfortable in that, but, as they were telling me this, I was already taking off my
shirt AND top. Then, a few minutes later, thinking, 'I'll never get an even tan this
way, the shorts came off. A little later on," she adds laughing, "some other
people came over and asked the people I was interviewing if they had seen the
newspaper reporter yet."

Crystal, having this strong sense of purpose in life, had long ago come up with a
personal motto: 'Life is too short to be spent as just an average person.' "It helps
me," she says, "when I'm trying to decide whether or not to do something." That
motto, plus her willingness to try new things helped her to take that step into
nudism; and her strong sense of 'always being guided' put the experience into
perspective for her. "It could easily have been some other reporter assigned to
that interview--I had only been on the job for short time--but it was me. I felt there
was a reason for that. I feel there are no accidents in life."

When asked what she remembers most about that first day at a nudist park she
replied. "I remember diving into the pool with nothing on. It felt so good. But what
I remember even more was getting out. There were a couple of people sitting
around reading magazines and they didn't even look up when I got out of the
water. There was no sexuality at all in the situation, and if I were to have thought
otherwise, I would have definitely been in the minority."

Thinking, afterwards, about her first nudist experience, Crystal relates, "What
was so profound about it was that it wasn't a big deal. It reminded me of losing
my virginity--nothing felt any differently and I looked the same in the mirror. Then,
later I thought, 'that's a lot of fun, I want to go back."'

A few weeks later she did go back. "Again, I was drawn to the people; they were
open and friendly. And I realized, 'they had seen me nude and they still liked me.'
I then began accepting me for myself, perhaps for the first time."

Crystal says that being at the nudist park takes a lot of pressure off herself to
always be perfect. "I had always been a perfectionist. I remember doing my nails
and being late for work because I had to re-do them until they were perfect. I
would switch purses several times to make sure my outfit would match. Now, I
could just roll out of bed and go. I was on the path of self-acceptance.

“I found that at the nudist parks I could just be me. I didn't have to be a 'human
doing', I could just be a 'human being'. I had always been around people that
were achievers but now I could just 'be'. People liked me and were interested in
me as a person. There were no barriers, no pulling of rank like in the clothed
world. People were people first.

"The friendliness reminds me of the Cheers theme song where "everybody
knows your name" where people care about you. It really feels like family--family
of choice as opposed to family of chance. It also reminds me of support groups
where there is commonality and the door is always open. The commonality here
is self-acceptance. I find that the people who participate in the lifestyle feel good
about themselves, or are on their way to feeling good about themselves."

Like many others, Crystal feels the nudist experience has been part of her
recovery. "Definitely," she says. "It changed my perception of myself. Instead of
thinking, for instance, that I needed to adjust my weight, all I needed was to
change my perception of it. For the first time in my life, I felt that my body and
emotions were connected."

Crystal feels that part of heir mission has to do with helping people adjust their
perception of themselves and feeling good with who they are and where they
are, teaching them to bloom where they are planted but to transplant themselves
if need be.

Crystal's new-found perception of herself has brought some changes to her life--
some of which have been painful. She is currently going through a divorce.
Philosophically she says, "I've never had growth without some pain, but, in a way,
I feel like a kid in a candy store because I know more about myself than I ever
have. After my divorce is final, I'm looking forward to new relationships again."

These new relationships, Crystal feels, will be different because nudism has
given her a new way to relate to men. "The men at nudist parks are
sweethearts," she says. "They are gracious and you don't have to worry about
them wanting to get into your pants," she adds laughingly, "when you're not
wearing any." She agrees with many nudists that, paradoxically, the absence of
clothes takes the emphasis off the body and sexuality. "Definitely," she says. "It's
not a sexually charged situation. There is more genuine intimacy and caring. I
can be playing volleyball in the pool and look around and I'm the only female. Any
other place that would be a sexually charged situation but here it's not.

"Even though nudism takes the emphasis off sex, however, I don't feet it
diminishes sexuality. But it does encourages one to put friendships first. As a
result, I feet that the sexual experience is definitely enhanced by the nudism
experience because the initial focus is off sex and there is a healthier mixture.

"Nudism has restored my faith in men and also in dating. I would feel more
comfortable meeting or dating someone at a nudist park and getting to know
them through group activities where the focus is off sex than on the outside
where it seems every situation is sexually charged. Then sex might follow but it's
nice to get to know someone without sex getting in the way." As a sub-mission
but not a sexual temperance movement, Crystal would like to eradicate sexuality
from where it doesn't belong. "I see a lot of stuff happening to people in our
society that's full of sexually charged messages."

Along with a new perception of herself and new hope for relationships, Crystal
says that, through nudism, she has learned to trust. "The nudism experience has
helped me develop more trust in people. I used to not trust anyone. If I trusted
you, you were the exception. I used to spend a lot of time sizing up people trying
to figure them out, but because of the friendly atmosphere and genuine caring at
the nudist parks, I've learned that I don't have to do that. Before, you had to earn
my trust. Now, it's a lot easier--you start out with it." Continuing she says, "Now
that I am okay with myself, I'm meeting people that count. I've met more people
that matter since I quit letting the little things matter. Being myself has put me in
touch with other people who like themselves. When I'm at the nudist park, I'm
surrounded by people who are blooming where they are planted and are
accepting life an its terms. That feels healthy."

Crystal obviously has grown as a result of being introduced to nudism but does
she feel that it has brought her closer to finding her mission? "Definitely," a word
she likes to use. "It all fits together. It's part of my healing and part of my mission.
As I said earlier, it could have been any other reporter assigned to the story, but
it wasn't. I feel I'm always being guided. I feel that nudism is part of it, but there is
a bigger something--self-acceptance, love, spirituality--nudism is just a faction of
it. There are lots of other factions and everything is so connected."

And so are her many talents connected--they are all forms of communication.
Crystal, who works within the criminal justice system and is a former counselor,
plays the piano, sings and, in school, wrote plays as well as performed in them.
She continues to write and she has taken a sign language class. When asked if
she has any dreams she says, "Yes, I'm in graduate school now and I really like
the program I'm in, but every once in a while I have this fantasy of dropping out
and going to clown school. I love to perform. I don't think people are happy
enough and I'd like to make them happier."

Crystal’s genuine concern for people is obvious as she adds, "I also like to teach
people. I think that anybody can learn anything if we find the right way to teach
them. I also teach people to question things, that there is more than one way to
look at things. I teach people that they're okay. I think anyone can learn self-
acceptance. It's a matter of how you approach it. For some it may be through
therapy; for others, it's nudism."

Crystal admits that even though she is more in touch with herself than ever, all is
not easy for her. "There are times when my faith waivers, when I cry, feeling like a
lost soul." When asked how she gets through those times, she says, "I like to lie
in the sun, it energizes me--like a cat. And I pray--not to have things changed but
to help me see what I am to see. Helping others, though, is the best way to get
through painful times."

What is she currently doing to find heir mission? "Right now, I'm in the process of
buying a house. I looked at a lot of houses but when I walked into the one I'm
buying, I knew it was the right one. It had a lot of openness and would be perfect
for gatherings, although I don't know what kind of gatherings. I also have six
couches and feel I can't get rid of any of them so I need all that room. And right
now I'm also obsessed with finding the right drapes. It may be that the gatherings
will have something to do with nudity. I feel like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams
only it's a House of Dreams. 'Buy it and they will come.' But that's all I know and
I've learned not to question these things. I'm just going along for the ride.

There is no doubt that Crystal feels she is being guided and there is no reason to
think that she's not. Her life demonstrates that if, indeed, we get out of our own
way, we are guided to the things that we need. She was guided to nudism when
she most needed (but perhaps least expected) it. Thursday's child may have far
to go in terms of purpose and a mission, but for Crystal, she has already come a
very long way.

Crystal has one pet peeve and that is people offering opinions on things without
first trying them. "Nudism might not be for everybody, but before anyone judges
it, they should first try it."Definitely, Crystal. * * *

A note: This article is based on an interview from a series of interviews I
conducted with people, who like myself, participate in social nudism. While
working at Turtle Lake Family Nudist Resort, Union City, Michigan in 1993 and
'94, I began doing the interviews and writing subsequent articles to better
inform the public about this often misunderstood lifestyle that has such a
profound effect on people’s lives. A total surprise to me was that the
interviewing process itself had a profound effect on the persons interviewed, as
well as on myself.

As for me, I have been deeply touched by each of their stories as they shared
their pain and their healing, and I have come to realize that the nudism
experience has an even greater effect on the lives of the people than I had
previously imagined.

As for the people I interviewed, looking back, through the help of the interview
process itself, each now feels that nudism miraculously came into their lives
as exactly what they needed when they needed it, as if the Universe knowingly
handed them each a gift. And perhaps, more importantly, uncloaking their
souls, through the interview and article, has had a similar healing effect as did
initially baring their bodies--a new and more confident person has
miraculously emerged.

That I have been privileged to be part of this process, has been a gift from the
Universe to me. ddz
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