Michal’s Nudist Year: Looking Back on 2011
The nudist year of 2011 was a strange year for me:
I quit my job. Not because I didn’t enjoy it. Not because I didn’t like to earn money. I quit because I realized I was being exploited. I couldn’t allow that.
I started writing. I submitted about 20 pieces, all but one of which was short fiction, to various places, mostly on the internet. One of them got published. The one that wasn’t fiction.
I joined the organized nudist community from a feeling of disgust. I had learned quite randomly the previous fall that long-time friends of my family were in fact naturists. Something which they had never told my parents, even though my father had helped them move from New York to New Jersey, unaware I believe to this day that they were moving to be closer to a nudist or clothing optional resort. I felt ashamed that they would feel the need to hide it from us. They had invited me to join them that coming summer at the resort. In the spring I randomly started searching the internet looking for the address of that resort. I never found it. Instead I found somebody selling a guide to the nudist resorts of the world. I bought a copy.
I went on a trip to Europe. I landed first in Poland, the country of my birth. I decided my next destination would be Croatia. From what I could tell from the guide, it was a nudist hotspot – at least in comparison to Poland, which didn’t have anything at all. I invited a cousin of mine to come along. I doubt she had any idea I was going there for naturism. When I would mention the word to her family, they kept nodding their heads, saying “Yes, yes. Nature.” The day before we were supposed to leave, she got robbed. Her purse was stolen. It had her passport in it. Because citizens of the EU still need passports to get into Croatia, the trip was postponed.
I decided to give nudism in Poland a second look. I figured maybe something had changed in the years since the guide was published. I was right. On the internet, I found a website for the first and, at the time, only official naturist resort in Poland, Sauna Cezar. I called up a Dutchman named Peter. According to the site, he was one half of “the couple” that ran the whole show – not just the resort, but also the nascent Polish naturist federation. He told me I was welcome to come.
I met Gosia in the sauna. I thought she was Peter’s wife. He had, after all, run up the stairs calling her name. She had come to wait for me in the sauna thinking I was just another guy who likes to take pictures of naked / nudist girls. She realized I wasn’t. She left me in the sauna with a male client who was close to the family. She later told me she thought I might be gay. I wasn’t – even though the first person I ever really fell in love with was a man. That’s another story. Gosia and I spent the weekend together. I was attracted to her. I felt her warmth – her spirit – her energy – her great generosity – her deep sadness. I kept my distance. I thought she was married. Gosia noticed that distance. She suspected it was hiding something. She later told me that if not for that distance, she might not have bothered with me. Meanwhile I couldn’t understand what was going on between us. I feared at first that Gosia and Peter might be swingers. I wasn’t sure how I could deal with that. Then I thought Gosia might be thinking about a divorce. On Sunday over lunch she mentioned wanting to fall in love. In that moment I pledged to myself that if I had the chance, I would show this woman love. I would give her myself completely. Later in the evening, Gosia finally explained to me that she was divorced. Despite still living with Peter, she had been divorced from him for three years.
Gosia took me upstairs to her room. There was a stripper pole in the corner. It was symbolic of that night’s affair. My love-making was a show. Gosia was impressed. She complimented the deftness with which I removed my clothing. I even impressed myself with a well-executed interruptus. In the morning, a blond woman entered the room, saw me, excused herself, and left. It was a member of Peter’s staff. I bumped into Peter that morning. He was right outside the door to Gosia’s wing of the house. He helped me find a towel. It was awkward. Later Gosia would describe to me how her youngest daughter informed her that there was a man sleeping in her bed. Gosia had told her that she was aware of it. When her daughter asked her why there was a man sleeping in her bed, she said, “I don’t know.”
I spent three weeks in Gosia’s bed. I wasn’t quite sure how and under what circumstances I would leave. I felt a little like Odysseus in the hands of Circe. I didn’t go anywhere. My meals were brought to me. Our lovemaking was so vigorous I ended up with an inflamed urethra. At first I was afraid it was an infection. Gosia took me to see a doctor who frequented the nude sauna. He asked if I had engaged in any sexual activity of a suspicious nature. I told him I didn’t think so. Gosia would later tease him for it. As I ended up suspecting, the inflammation was merely a symptom of the trauma. It went away. The trauma resumed. Gosia would later confess that she was biding her time as she connived her way into joining my grand tour across Europe. The minute she had heard about the idea she had started dreaming of participating. She thought it was exactly the kind of thing she needed. She thought she had to convince me that it would be worthwhile to take her along. Little did she know I had already pledged myself to her. All she had to do was ask on day four. It took her three weeks to gather up the courage to do it.
Gosia and I traveled across Europe. We were on the road for 46 days. We drove 6000 miles. We slept in 32 different places. We saw 12 countries. We visited 2 and a half nudist beaches. We pitched our tent on many a naturist campground. We argued a lot. Gosia warned me before the trip that she was a tempestuous shrew and that if I were smart I’d have nothing to do with her and that I should expect that at some point she was going to leave me behind. On more than one occasion I was afraid she was going to do it. On one particularly bad night overlooking Normandy Beach, I confessed to her that I loved her. I thought it was the only thing I could say that would make her think twice about leaving me. She assumed as much and taunted me for saying it. I went to sleep in the car. Gosia stayed in the tent. At some point she started thinking I had gone off to the cliffs to kill myself. She went outside and wandered around looking for me. It was a cold night. She found me eventually in the car but not before letting the pain of an old ear infection come roaring back. She had to wrap her head with her scarf for a few days.
I took more than 12,000 photographs. When Gosia and I came home, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. She’s the one who first suggested a calendar. I thought it was a good idea. We had plenty of calendar worthy photographs at our disposal. I just didn’t feel up to the task of organizing them. I was completely spent. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Gosia could sense it. She told me to leave. She told me to go home to America. She told me to create my own space. She claimed I shouldn’t stay because she couldn’t be sure how she would feel about me in a month’s time to not mention next week. I went back to my hometown in Poland. Gosia ended up coming to visit. I could tell there was something happening inside of her. There was a battle raging in her heart.
I flew back to the States. I started organizing the photos. I wasn’t making much progress. I was in a fog. The worst part was the pressure. Gosia kept reminding me that people only buy calendars at the end of the year. I was supposed to hurry. I decided I didn’t like that idea. I thought it was stupid that people only buy calendars once a year. I thought it was stupid that they have to buy calendars at all. I started looking for a way to make sure my calendar wouldn’t need to be thrown out. I wanted a calendar you could keep. I started reading about the history of calendars. I discovered the idea of a perpetual calendar was not something new. A huge American company had once adopted a perpetual calendar for its own use. The World Calendar was considered for adoption by the United Nations.
I realized if somebody else could do it, I could do it, too. I learned about the tropical year. I learned how dumb the Gregorian calendar really was. It was a half-baked idea even for its time. Here we are centuries later and the entire world is following it. Billions of people are following one pope’s bad idea. I should find that incredible except I’m not surprised. I’ve known for a while that people are weak and afraid. I’m weak and afraid. I’m no different. If I’ve been able to rise above the hatred and confusion of this world it’s because I was never too scared or too hungry to think for myself. I made assumptions about the world and I tested them. I learned from my mistakes. I was lucky to be well fed my entire life. That I owe to chance, or the grace of God – whichever you believe in. Conquering my fear is another matter. That is the product of my choice. That is the product of hard work. It’s something each of us can do – even the hungry. We need to find the courage to make our world better. Changing the calendar is one little piece. It’s nothing next to what needs to be done. But it’s where I start.
I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned I’m not alone. I have Gosia. 150 days after we met, the battle inside her is over. She is no longer afraid to love. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. She told me so many times how sad she was. How alienated she had become from the world. How ready she was to abandon all of society and start living completely on her own. It was her only goal when we met. It’s not her goal anymore. I don’t know what her mission will be now, but I know that I’m prepared to support her. I’m prepared to support anybody who wants to be done with the fear that civilization instills in us from the moment we are born, starving and blind into this cold and wretched world. It’s the fear with which we’ve been oppressed. It’s the fear we share with our oppressors. It’s time for us to set it aside. It’s time for us to be whole again. It’s time for us to trust. It’s time for us to love. It’s time for a revolution.