There are nude beaches fifteen minutes from where I live. This is a fact I wish I knew before setting out for an afternoon in the sun.
Friends were visiting for the day. Up until that point, their previous visits could be filed into the following categories: the time we went to the pitiful winery whose owner was so surprised by our arrival that he said, “Do you realize there are real vineyards only forty minutes from here?” and gave us free cheese nips for our trouble; the time we drove all the way out to the “real vineyards” and I selected the one tasting in a garage; the time we went to brewery in a garage; and the time we paid sixteen dollars for the Fall Harvest and Seafood Festival, which consisted of joining a crowd of hillbillies (of unknown origin) to watch crabs race in a kiddie pool. Obviously this list was incomplete. I was missing “the time we went to a nude beach,” but destiny was fated to course-correct.
In an effort to avoid any further debacles, I had refused to make any plans beyond the elaborate meals we prepared to compensate for our visitors’ risk in venturing over the bridge again. But the day would prove that, established itinerary or not, a trip to the Dillon-Lombardo residence is never what one might expect it to be.
After we ate, we collectively decided to visit a run-of-the-mill, clothing mandatory beach. We threw around a football, we waded into the Atlantic– but these activities alone were far too ordinary for a visit to the island, so the day could not end there.
I’m happy to report that I was not the one who suggested we explore Fire Island’s emblematic lighthouse, but I also did nothing to stop it.
We drove to the lighthouse, climbed it, and wandered onto Lighthouse Beach, where we immediately spotted a beacon even brighter than the one we’d just scaled: a blatantly naked man.
How often do you stroll around public property and encounter another human being without any clothing? We were startled and confused, but also a little giddy. Intrigued by the novelty of his brazen nakedness, we ventured in for a closer look. This, we’d later learn, was a grave mistake.
Phil, who had just had eye surgery, squinted and said, “He can’t be naked. He must be wearing a flesh colored bathing suit. He can’t be naked.”
But he could, and he was.
I did not play it cool. I don’t think I said one coherent word. Starting from that moment and continuing for the next twenty or so minutes, I was just one long nervous giggle.
As we moved closer, my unencumbered giggling frightened the nude creature, and he curled up inside of a blanket and hibernated.
At first we were a little disappointed that we scared off this lone animal, when the sighting of one is so rare. But as soon as this one went into hiding, we spotted another in the distance, and this specimen appeared far bolder. He was applying suntan lotion to his lower legs and–OH NO–he was not squatting, but bending over.
Then we saw one coming straight for us. And he was pierced. Oh boy, was he pierced. Then we saw one lying casually on a towel among four fully clothed friends. (How can you be comfortable lounging in the buff when your pals obviously prefer bathing suits?) Then we saw one sitting naked in the surf, letting the ocean lap at…. himself. I don’t know how we didn’t notice it sooner, but the nakeds were everywhere. We were surrounded.
“I don’t think we’re on a regular beach anymore,” someone whispered.
Then we saw what appeared to be a mirage: a glimmering man in impeccable physical condition, hands on hips, standing proudly, with no tan lines. He looked as if Michelangelo carved him from bronze. His presence was palpable. His physicality was deafening. He didn’t have to say anything– we knew he was the king of his sandcastle, the sun of this solar system. We felt the gravitational pull, and we didn’t like it. It was suddenly clear that if we got too close to him, we’d never be able to leave. We’d get sucked into the mechanism. We’d be caught in the rip tide and pulled out to sea. We’d be no match for this Lighthouse Beach David.
“We have to get out of here right now,” Joe said. And we all heard the unspoken end of that sentence: before it’s too late.
We turned around and headed toward what we thought was the exit of this disrobed dimension, toward what we thought was freedom.
As we began our escape, a man wearing nothing but eyeglasses and confidence approached us, casually flipping through a magazine. I’m not sure what the magazine was, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a Men’s Wearhouse catalog. He stopped and looked us up and down.
“When you’re ready, join us,” he said, and then continued on his leisurely stroll.
“Thanks,” I choked out in the next wave of giggles.
“Oh, we will,” Jon said. To this day we aren’t sure why he said that.
We quickened our stride, trying to create as much distance between ourselves and the oiled up Adonis at our backs. We started to relax, started to unclench our butt muscles. My giggles even changed from nervous to relieved. We were in the clear. We could look people in the eye again! But then we saw another naked person. And then another. And, suddenly, there were too many to count. Instead of retreating, we had entrenched ourselves further inside the heartland. If these people were of one nude nation, we’d just entered their Tribal Belt– a belt that didn’t hold up any pants.
“What should we do? Should I take off my shirt?” Jon asked.
“You should take off your shirt.” Phil said.
So he took off his shirt. Why? Camouflage I guess.
We passed a bodacious babe shaking a booty so vast that her dance threw off the tides. We passed a naked drum circle. Yes, a naked drum circle. We passed a nude family who had painted their naked daughter’s faces with markings of exotic large cat species. Lions and tigers and bares. Oh my, this was Eyes Wide Shut freaky. This so freaky we considered that fleeing via the Atlantic Ocean might be the fastest, safest, most direct way out.
Eventually, we did emerge, but we left a piece of ourselves behind on the beach that day. A naive piece. A trusting piece. A piece that previously had not seen the privates of so many (ugly) strangers.
I just can’t believe that I was so unprepared, so unaware, when I live only fifteen minutes away. Although now that I’m writing this, a vague memory is tickling my brain of a grandmother telling me that Fire Island has naked beaches because it used to be a colony for “the gays.” But I tend to disregard information dispatched by anybody who plugs an article in front of a sexual preference category.
In retrospect, I suppose I should have listened. But at least now you know. If nothing else, I hope this tale serves as a warning to prevent others from making the same mistake we did. Maybe because of what we experienced, fewer future beach goers will find themselves so… exposed
Beware all that lies east of Field Five.
You know, unless that’s your thing.