"Well," begins Bill, a stocky ex-Army officer with white hair cropped short, "I always thought it would be interesting to go and have a look at it."
"Oh, no," grimaces Mary. "Don’t say that! That sounds terrible! You wanted to 'look at it?' "
"Well, check it out, I mean," Bill says, smiling sheepishly.
One must be careful: When the topic is nudism, there are double entendres everywhere.
Bill and Mary Adams are members of the Bare Buns Family Nudist Club, an Oakton, Va.-based nudist group (Motto: "Take off with us!"). Bare Buns is what's known in nudist circles as a "travel" club, meaning it doesn't own its own property, but plans nudist events at various venues beaches, sports clubs or members' homes, for example.
The place and the activity aren't the focus. The main idea is to have a safe, legal environment to socialize naked.
This is, as one might imagine, not the kind of group recreation one enters into lightly. Joining a new club or group is daunting enough for most people; joining one where the object is taking off your clothes around people you've just met can put real pressure on the introduction.
Bill Adams, for example, had considered trying nudism for years before he decided to do something about it. The catalyst for his decision was a television show.
"I saw an exposé on TV," he says, completely deadpan, "about the nude olympics. Then I read an article about a nudist club, and finally I decided I was interested enough, and so I let my fingers do the walking." Meaning, of course, he checked out the Yellow Pages.
Adams called up one of several nudist clubs listed, left a message, and got a return call from a man named Gary Brown, the founder and president of Bare Buns.
Brown, a 57-year-old Oakton, Va., salesman, had already been a nudist for 11 years when he founded Bare Buns in 1992. According to the club’s brochure (not to be confused with its newsletter, "The Bottom Line"), Bare Buns started with nine original members, then grew to more than 200 within four months’ time.
The club now has almost 250 members, some of whom are longtime nudists, others who are, in the local parlance, "newdies." Members come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share a single trait: They like hanging out (so to speak) without any clothes on. The reason? It just feels good, say the Adamses and Brown.
"People think the hardest thing about nudism is taking your clothes off," says Brown. "But the truth is, the hardest thing is having to put them back on."
Women, in particular, are "afraid it’s gonna be a meat market," says Brown, who takes several precautions to ensure that guests, and especially single women, feel safe. Not only does Brown screen all prospective guests, but he makes sure that the ratio of men to women at events doesn’t exceed 60-40.
He also requires that all "newdies" sit through a 15-minute orientation ("Bare Facts About Nudism"). He grants member status to individuals only after they collect signatures of support from at least nine members.
Bare Buns as well as other local clubs such as the Potomac Rambling Bares, White Tail Park and the euphemistically named Maryland Health Society Inc. is affiliated with the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), a Florida-based national association that claims more than 200 clubs, RV campgrounds and resorts and 50,000 members. AANR keeps its members abreast of any legislative matters concerning nudism, sends out a newsletter, and provides its members an instant "in" to clubs across the country.
One of the benefits of the national group's networking, says Brown, is that clubs in contact with one another can get names of people who have been kicked out of other clubs for offensive behavior, drugs or other problems.
Americans tend to equate nudity with sex, and as a result, many non-nudists expect that nudist clubs are hotbeds of sexual activity, Brown says. It is a misperception he and others are particularly eager to dispel. Eager enough, in fact, that he changed the name of the club to "Bare Buns Family Nudist Club" from the original "Bare Buns Travel and Recreation Club" to portray a more wholesome image.
While some people might not consider lounging nude with their children a family activity, many nudists do just that. Club member Kate West, a 37-year-old sales executive from Woodbridge, Va., brings her 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to Bare Buns events. She characterizes her first visit to a nudist event as an "eye-opening experience," but says that "within 15 minutes, I was comfortable."
"At first I was walking across the yard in shorts and a T-shirt," she says. "But then I felt funny because everyone else was nude." To those who ask her how she can feel comfortable taking her children to nudist events, she says she replies, "How can you keep your kids from knowing about their bodies?"
The children of Bill and Mary Adams also know about their parents’ nudist activities, though they don’t join in. Bill tells the story of a Christmas party held at the couple’s house in Springfield, Va., where all the guests were nude. The kids (who are teenagers) were out for the evening, and suddenly the telephone rang. It was the couple’s 16-year-old son.
"He said, 'I forgot something at home. I need to come get it,' " says Bill. "Then he asked, 'Is there a party going on?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Is it a naked thing?' I said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'Well, I’ve gotta get my stuff.' So he came home, walked in the house, got his stuff, said hi and bye, and left."
"Kids entering puberty become self-conscious, even if they grow up going to nude places," Brown says. "But then they get interested again around age 25 to 27."
The ages of members and guests at Bare Buns, says Brown, have ranged from newborn babies in their mothers' arms to those in their late 70s. He says they also span the whole range of socioeconomic background and employment.
"We’ve got policemen, judges, Pentagon officials, Secret Service officers, CIA, FBI, teachers, doctors," says Brown. "It’s a cross-section of Americana."
For those who might be concerned about the effect of membership on their government careers, Brown has provided a section titled, "What about my Government Security Clearance?" in the club’s brochure to quell the fears of the skittish. "Our activities are legal and wholesome," the brochure declares, "and the Government’s security people know that."
How wholesome are the activities? According to the brochure: "Visiting Bare Buns is like going to McDonald’s or to church." Well, not exactly, of course: The only buns you’ll see at McDonald’s are the kind covered with sesame seeds.
But don’t rely only on Brown’s word on the quality of club activities. Check out the "Keeping abreast" column in the club's newsletter, which lists upcoming events that would allow you to form your own opinions.
Perhaps there’s a "canuding" trip coming up, or a sailing excursion or volleyball tournament. Bare Buns also has Saturday night gatherings at a Virginia sports club during the winter, where members can swim, relax in the sauna or steamroom, watch movies and even play racquetball (though it’s advisable to wear clothes for this).
If you can get your clothes off that first time, says Brown, you're home free.
"It's kind of like jumping into cold water once you're in mid-air, you can’t stop," Bill Adams says.
"I tell people, 'We have coed bathrooms with urinals, and coed bathrooms without urinals. Take your pick," says Brown. "But try to take your clothes off within the first 15 minutes or so, because it gets harder to do it the longer you wait."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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