It seemed like a fairly straightforward question at the time.
“Are you a naturist?” I asked Andrea Woudenberg, who runs a campsite in the Algarve which has both naturist and non-naturist sections.
“It depends on your definition of naturist,” she replied in a typically matter-of-fact Dutch kind of way. “If you mean do I like swimming and sunbathing naked on the beach, then yes. But I’m not a campaigning naturist. I don’t belong to any clubs or associations. I just do what I feel comfortable with.”
It set me thinking. Do we all need to nail our colours to the mast in the ‘cause’ of naturism? Do we have to try to persuade others to see our point of view? In fact, why can’t we just get on with being happy, naked?
Easier said that done I’m sure might be the response in some quarters. But surely there are enough naturist beaches, clubs and holiday resorts, not to mention the freedom of our own – and like-minded people’s – homes and back gardens in which we can take off our clothes when the mood suits?
I try not to force my opinions on naturism onto anybody, any more than I would try to convert them to my side of the argument on religion, politics, taste in music or which football team I support.
If the topic crops up in conversation, I have no problems in telling people that - yes, like Andrea - I like swimming and sunbathing naked on the beach, not to mention being naked around the house, as and when the weather and the situation call for it.
If they show surprise, mild shock, or even slight embarrassment, and ask me why I don’t like wearing clothes unless I can help it, I simply turn the argument on its head, and ask them the reasons why we wear clothes in the first place. The answers?
Protection. There are some things you simply don’t do naked, like frying sausages, playing the accordion or slamming shut the lid of the freezer cabinet in the middle of Iceland.
Warmth. I’m lucky enough to live in the south of Portugal, where the sun shines 300 days a year. I appreciate it’s not such an attractive proposition in Dunfermline.
Modesty. Not a problem I’ve ever suffered with. Ask my wife.
Social conventions. I wouldn’t walk down Park Lane naked, unless it was for a bet and Jennifer Lopez was waiting in a suite at the Dorchester as my winnings. And I don’t go naked around the house if, for instance, my 81-year old mother-in-law, a stalwart of her local Methodist church, is paying a visit. We live up in the hills and the paramedics would never make it on time.
Naturists, I admit, do sometimes get a bad press, but as with any activity, pursuit, special interest, call-it-what-you-will, it is the extremists at either end of the spectrum who probably cause most of the problems.
On the one hand there are the card-carrying, back-to-nature, knit-your-own-tofu “hippy naturists” who insist that God created us naked, and that, in the words of the old Ray Stevens song, everyone is beautiful. Have they looked in the mirror recently?
On the other are the S&M, whip-wielding, Hedonism-visiting swingers who tend to appear in “titillating” late-night documentaries on obscure cable TV channels that are about as sexy as getting your bus pass, and make you think ‘would I really want to swap with that?’
Thankfully, they represent just a small percentage of the readers of this type of magazine, and of advocates of naturism everywhere, who just enjoy the simple pleasures of being naked without, if you’ll pardon the expression, ramming it down people’s throats.
Let’s hear it for the silent majority.