I am a technical professional the product of fine engineering schools with a student bodies which were more that 80% male. A few years after graduation I had an experience at another university which now makes me think of something else entirely when I hear the term student body. My employer sent me to participate in a four-day technical symposium at the University of British Columbia. Technical symposiums are typically very dry. (Believe it or not, we engineers and scientists can be a little dull.) On the first day of the conference I enjoyed seeing the beautiful city of Vancouver and reconnecting with friends from college. I got my first inkling that this conference might prove more interesting than most when I heard there was a nude beach adjoining the campus.
After a full day of tech talk, (most of which was of little interest or was too arcane to follow) I went back to my hotel room and started thinking about that beach. Having had a very conservative upbringing in the American Midwest, to me nude beaches were only fantasies twittered about on TV sitcoms. I became more and more curious. The next day was warm and sunny a fine day for a walk along a beach, nude or otherwise. I decided to take a casual stroll after lunch and check it out.
The path wound down a steep slope for several hundred yards before reaching the long, driftwood-strewn beach. No one was around, so I stopped for a moment to soak in the sun and the sounds of waves and seagulls before continuing (nervously) along the path. Soon I came upon a group of people lolling among the logs, chatting lazily. No, my friend had not been joking there was not a stitch of clothing in sight. Not wishing to be rude and stare, I continued down the trail, limiting myself to a few discrete glances from the corner of my eye. I passed other groups of men and women equally at ease in their birthday suits and gradually I began to feel conspicuous in my street clothes. After finding an unoccupied log and thinking for a while, I knew what I had to do. It was simple: when in Rome, do as the Romans. I then discovered the truth of what nudists say: shedding your clothes is very liberating! And I was relieved to finally be appropriately dressed for the occasion.
Having leveled the playing field, I felt more comfortable admiring my fellow sunbathers, many of whom were college students with bodies in their prime. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The girls were so beautiful! (The men's bodies may have been beautiful as well, but to tell the truth, I didn't really notice them.) In my mind's eye I can still see a particularly lovely young woman hurrying to keep up with a dog on a leash, the sun playing in her bouncing hair.
Meanwhile, the technical meetings continued. The next day I had to make a choice sit in a dark, stuffy room listening to graduate students drone on in broken English about something I didn't care about, or go back to the beach. Ordinarily, this would not be a hard decision, but I was on the clock, and my boss was also at the conference. In the end the temptation was too great; I had to go to the beach, ethical or not.
A variety of people were also drawn to the beach that day. In addition to the students, there were obvious newbies with sunburns where their bathing suits used to be, older couples and leering high school boys. There were food vendors and a glassy-eyed woman walking up and down the beach wearing nothing but a coin changer, calling, California red reefers! There were all kinds of body types ranging from the woman with the endowments of a professional stripper to the one I once might have uncharitably called a carpenter's dream (flat as a board). Of the two, I found the second woman the more beautiful and couldn't take my eyes off her as she sat brushing her long, dark hair in the distance.
Though trying not to make anyone uncomfortable, there was one pretty girl who noticed me looking at her and whispered something to her friend. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but I needn't have. Instead of leaving, the girls continued throwing a Frisbee and actually moved closer. At one point the first girl made a flying catch right in front of me and turned to see my reaction as she ran off grinning.
Nudity is strongly disapproved in my religious tradition and a few times I have thought, Maybe I should repent and try to erase that memory from my mind. But when I think about how much I enjoyed the beauty of those women and how little harm there was in it, I simply can't regret the experience. I will cherish the memory forever.
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