Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nude Sunbathing

Cannes, 1996

I don’t have a lot of experience with nude sunbathing. My first experience with it was at a small neighborhood beach near Cannes, France. The tour bus we were on had stopped for the guide to point out some item of interest out on the Mediterranean Sea. When the men on the bus noticed that the ladies out on the beach in the foreground were without cover, I thought the bus would tip over as they rushed to one side to see the sights. When they further discovered that the average age of the nude sunbathers was 75 and that most were several stones heavier than…let’s just say their dimensions were Raphael-esque, the oglers returned t0 their seats and the bus continued on to Cannes on more or less a level plane. In that way she has of stating the obvious when I do something immature, my wife dryly observed, “Nude sunbathing isn’t for everyone, you know.”

(Actually, I didn’t know it until then, and I didn’t know where she had learned that sage lesson. But if I have learned anything, it’s that it’s best not to challenge the veracity of such statements unless you want to spend the rest of the day with no one to talk to but yourself.)

The next time we encountered a clothing-optional beach was just two weeks later on the island of Zakynthos, Greece. Zakynthos might be a very charming island. We knew it had ancient churches and antiquities because we’d made the specific decision not to see them. Fourteen days straight of high intensity culture vulturing in Spain, France, Italy and Turkey had left us ready for an afternoon in the sun.

Saint Leo’s Beach was a roughly half mile-long sandy crescent with a Tiki Hut-themed outdoor bar operated as something of a private club. Most of the people there were pale British tourists seemingly determined to spend as much of their holiday as possible drunk. It was a beautiful and hot late July day. The beach was crowded. The fake palm trees surrounding the bar swayed in the breeze. We swam. We drank Greek beer. My wife and I rented a jet ski, something we’d never be caught dead doing at home.

Most of the American tourists didn’t even notice at first that some of the women on the beach had discarded their swimsuits. When it finally dawned on them that these women were not only bare, but worthy of notice, there was a flurry of interest. Some of the guys practically fell over themselves to get a closer view. (Curiously, it was the American wives who, while professing to be so worldly about such things, quickly whipped out their cameras to document the scene.)

It’s well understood among those who make photographs of nude figures that, generally speaking, a partially clad body has far greater allure than one that holds no secrets. And so it was on the beach that day. After the initial allure of the bare bodies on Saint Leo’s Beach wore off, most of the guys retreated to their towels, the wives put the cameras back into their bags and everyone called the waiters over for more cold beer.

1 comment:

  1. Another hilarious tale of human behavior. I got a postcard from my younger sister once of her, nude on a beach. She was on the Riviera with a couple of her friends, and she just wrote on the back of it, "When in Rome..."

    Love this photo--so evocative. That's a part of the world I'd definitely love to visit...especially before I'm just too old to be like another Roman!