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Offline Danee

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My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« on: March 11, 2013, 05:27:09 pm »
I do not like some of the terminology in this, but have a read...



A Canadian-born author has given a frank description of her foreign exchange to Germany as a teenager - and her host family's penchant for 'jiggling, dangling' naked basketball.
Lydia Millet says the West Berlin-based teacher and engineer she was sent to stay with for three months in 1984, and their teenage son and daughter, seemed normal at first.
Until she discovered they were all very active members of a group called 'Free Body Culture' - a nearby nudist club - and her joining them on their weekend jaunts was non-negotiable.







WHEN I WAS 16, I went to Berlin—West Berlin, since at that time a wall still divided the city—to live for three months with a family on an exchange program. They were a nice bunch, the mother a teacher, the father an engineer, a pretty and exuberant daughter who'd recently stayed with my family in Toronto and their son, who was a year or two older than I was. All the family members were also, as it turned out, very active members of a group called the Freikörperkultur, or FKK, which translates as "Free Body Culture." In other words, a nudist club.


I hadn't expected this when I signed up for a German cultural exchange through my high school; somehow I hadn't been aware I might have to get naked in public. In fact I knew shamefully little about my host country. Yet nudism, as far as I know, is fairly mainstream in Germany to this day (and not, as it is here, the province of hippies and public radio humorists).












The nudist outings were going to be pretty much mandatory, my hosts explained to me—much like speaking the language or eating the food. The family felt strongly that, to properly explore their native ways, I needed to join in the nudist activities. If I closed my mind to nudism, I'd prove myself closed to the wonder of life itself. While there would be no punishment if I refused to participate, they implied that such a lapse of courage on my part would signal a deep moral failure—possibly a spiritual one.


At 16, I was more resilient and easygoing than I am now. After a few hours of confusion and mild alarm, I shrugged my shoulders, suppressed my panic and acquiesced.



The good news was that the nudity was mostly a weekend gig. We drove to the "Free Body Culture" property, which involved a body of fresh water, expanses of bedraggled grass richly festooned with goose and duck droppings and a few stunted trees. We passed through the change rooms, where we divested ourselves of our clothes and left them in unlocked lockers. And then among the shrubs, hundreds of free bodies spread out, picnicking and sunning. I came to understand that a German nudist, in 1984, loved little more than to work on his or her tan.


There was a code of eye contact: You didn't ogle people below the neck when you talked to them. You kept your eyes fixed firmly on their faces. But of course you looked later, when you thought no one was paying attention. I remember noticing old and middle-aged bodies and feeling sorry for their owners: how tragic to be so saggy, bulgy and wrinkly. How strange to be apparently proud of the condition, rather than mortified by it.



It was a little odd to be naked in the company of the teenage son, whom I'd only met days before. But he was so casual and good-natured that I almost forgot how freakish it would have been to blithely disrobe among the boys I knew back home.


My main complaint about the sunbathing afternoons proved not to be self-consciousness. It was simple boredom. I wondered what these people were doing, sitting around naked, chitchatting now and then. Were they waiting for something to happen?


I was definitely waiting for something, especially when I felt a chill breeze sweep up from the water. I was waiting to be allowed to put my clothes back on. The tan-giving sun was all very well; actual comfort was far better. "I'm cold," I plaintively expressed, more than once, but each time my obvious constitutional weakness was met with strict disapproval.


It wasn't all sunbathing and small talk. We also swam naked—I remember an actual swim meet—and played basketball. The basketball was the worst.


We wore nothing but sneakers. No brassieres, no jockstraps. There was flopping, and there was pain. There was the sight of nude people, bouncing and swinging above bulky white athletic shoes. Could this be the wonder my German family had talked about, the beauty of the unclad human form? Was this jiggling, dangling dance with a large, orange ball indeed our highest, purest identity?


I tried to open my mind as I jumped and flopped. I'd jam it open if I could. Open, O Mind! Open right now! I'll prise you open with a clawhammer!



And yet, in the end, the Germans were absolutely right. The Free Body Culture gave me a gift I might never have received had I refused to play along. It left me with an acute sense of the absurd—one I still cherish—to be there among my fellow apes, awkward and less than half-willing, aiming and missing, leaping, landing and wincing.


—Ms. Millet is the author of 10 novels, including "Magnificence," a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist


From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324503204578318511850072702.html?mod=e2tw











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natureboy1776

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2013, 05:48:30 pm »
The comments on WSJ.com in response to this are the common ones we expect, but disappointing all the same. I wanted to post a comment in response but one must be a subscriber to comment.

Offline Delta

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2013, 07:10:09 pm »
Yeah, her jabs at the nudity are a bit off-putting, but she raises an important issue: Just lying on the shore is not really the most exciting activity.
I doubt wearing the stuff people tend to wear while lounging around near water would help with the cold, though.
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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2013, 07:25:08 pm »
Yeah, her jabs at the nudity are a bit off-putting, but she raises an important issue: Just lying on the shore is not really the most exciting activity.
I doubt wearing the stuff people tend to wear while lounging around near water would help with the cold, though.

This is the reason landed clubs are starting to die, and will die unless they provide additional facilities.

Offline AElf

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2013, 09:58:13 am »
Yeah, her jabs at the nudity are a bit off-putting, but she raises an important issue: Just lying on the shore is not really the most exciting activity.
I doubt wearing the stuff people tend to wear while lounging around near water would help with the cold, though.

This is the reason landed clubs are starting to die, and will die unless they provide additional facilities.

I haven't been to a landed club but I'm sure that you're right in what you say.   At any established recreation facility, nude or otherwise, there is a usually a fixed menu of approved forms of recreation.  If you want something that isn't on the menu you're out of luck.  Better clubs no doubt have more options but you'd still be confined to a small geographic area.  The main reason I enjoy being a  free ranger is that I can do what I want where I want (within the limits of the environment) and see new things as I pass through the landscape and avoid the goose poop along the way.

All that said, looking at Ms Millet I can't help feeling that she is sort of a whey-faced tight ass and I object most strenuously to her suggestion that naturists are somehow not normal.  True, we aren't mainstream but that is very different than not being normal.
"Mankind is a frigid and ashamed creature. If we cannot deal with the basics of nudity then how on earth are we to make it in the world?" Naked Imp

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Offline ToneBender

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2013, 11:18:26 am »
I do not like some of the terminology in this, but have a read...

....

And yet, in the end, the Germans were absolutely right. The Free Body Culture gave me a gift I might never have received had I refused to play along. It left me with an acute sense of the absurd—one I still cherish—to be there among my fellow apes, awkward and less than half-willing, aiming and missing, leaping, landing and wincing.


It's a good demonstration of how and why someone could react negatively to naturism (esp. when introduced by force of social pressure) but if all she got out of it was an acute sense of the absurd then too bad for her.

Though naked basketball is definitely the domain of hard-core nudists...

Also there's something to be said for doing nothing - clears the mind (when it works)

And good organizations evolve - if the others die out - adios muchachos - they will be replaced.

Offline Finnman

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2013, 08:32:35 pm »
Great story. Nudism must have been confusing but liberating for a teenage girl from American continent.

Every teenager should consider, is it really so bad or wrong to be unclothed with other people as their parents have raised them to think. If nudity was more everyday in our culture, people wouldn't automatically think it always has to do something with sex. 
If man were meant to be nude,
he would have been born that way.

Offline Gman707

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2013, 09:18:36 am »
She seems a little negative towards the whole concept to be honest. I suppose if that was her experience we can't fault her for relating it as it was though.
what's to say?

Offline Infinity Biscuit

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2013, 06:48:23 pm »
If someone is told to do something they initially wouldn't want to do, or else, odds are pretty slim they're going to enjoy it except maybe in hindsight.
Charlotte from Maine

Offline Leah

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2013, 01:27:15 am »
We are seeing an article written with 30 years of hindsight and to an audience that she believes expects an "oooh ickky" response.
I may be nude but at least my mind is open

Offline seamus

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Re: My Foreign-Exchange Family, the Nudists
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2013, 07:28:17 pm »
Good point - I wonder what would happen if she were to write it to us here?