My first exposure (ha) to skinny-dipping was “The Parent Trap.”
When Annie James took the plunge at Camp Walden as a result of losing a bet with her twin sister, her freckled face cringed in embarrassment, but mine was green with envy.
She dove in and twelve-year-old me jumped to her feet in excitement and exclaimed, “It took a bet to make you do that?!” Or at least that’s how I imagine it now. Never did it cross my mind that stripping off one’s clothes to go for a nighttime—or daytime—swim was anything but a privilege and at nearly 20 years old, I still believe that’s true. Skinny-dipping is the height of liberation, the ultimate indulgence, and never fails to make one hell of a story.
I’d like to think that I’ve always harbored the passion for skinny-dipping, just waiting for the right Disney movie to ignite the flame smothered under thin layers of summer clothing—or maybe I was simply waiting for my next-door-neighbors to leave town and their backyard pool for a few days. Either way, it didn’t take long.
Tiptoeing barefoot up the driveway, my sister and I made our way stealthily next door, through the gate, and onto the wooden pool deck. A not-so-subtle cannon ball was my homage to Annie’s graceful swan dive and I kicked my way to the surface grinning from ear to ear.
I know I went back that summer and the next and the next. Sometimes bringing my sister, sometimes a friend, and sometimes I went alone. That’s the thing about skinny-dipping—it’s just as enjoyable with or without company. It’s the sport that requires only one player, but additional offense is always welcomed. And it tends to involve a lapse in the rules, but then again a little trespassing never hurt anyone did it?
As I’ve gotten older I’ve taken my bare bathing to several other neighborhood pools, a lake in North Carolina, a Virginian river and waterfall (that one was fun), and the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes these trips are planned, but more often than not they were spontaneous—a “You know what we should do…” whispered to close company, or a subconscious decision not realized until I had my shirt over my head and I was kicking off my flip-flops.
I’m convinced that skinny-dipping is an art, but not one because of the skill or concentration it requires—it’s really very simple—but because you have to allow yourself to do it in the first place, understanding that there is really no other reason for this activity than the fact that it’s possible and it’s easy and it’s fulfilling despite its simplicity. Sure you may have to scale a fence or two (and in my case, endure more grass blade cuts than would be preferred), but the hardest thing about swimming naked is convincing yourself it’s any different from swimming in clothing. Skinny-dipping makes every pool the fountain of youth, but you won’t know the difference until you try it and, darling, you really should try it.
When I tell my friends about my latest skinny dip adventure I can almost guarantee I’ll receive one of two responses: either “That’s illegal!” (in some cases, yes, but that’s a minor detail) or “Why not just keep a suit on or swim in your underwear?” It’s a valid question, but not one that comes to mind when I brace myself for the goose-bump-inducing water. Maybe it’s the cover of darkness that accompanies the majority of my swims that prompts me to shimmy out of my clothing, or maybe it’s the thrill of prying my arms free from the criss-crossed embrace around my chest in preparation for that swan dive or cannon ball, or maybe it’s the fact that only a sun-bleached t-shirt and shorts mark the distinction between plain old swimming and something much more exotic. Choosing to skinny-dip is choosing to embrace what is natural because it feels foreign.
I’m not one to strip down at the drop of a hat (my roommate and I have known each other for two years and we still get dressed under towels after showering), but show me a body of water and that hat will be followed by a few more articles of clothing.