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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

Never Again!

First off I should tell you that this story takes place in 1972. It’s important to note because people were doing all kinds of new and strange things in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The boundaries of consciousness were being pushed and that is one thing, but in many instances people who thought they were pushing the boundaries of consciousness were really just pushing the boundaries of good taste, and that is really quite another.

Tucked into a quiet Topanga Canyon, then home to artists, musicians, spiritual seekers and rabid vegetarians, was a place called Elysian Fields. It sat on several acres of scrub oak and meadow and was replete with tennis courts, a swimming pool, massage facilities and plenty of outdoor sitting area where one could enjoy the beauty of the natural world around them. It was the 1970’s version of a spa, except for one little detail—it was a nudist camp, a naturalist preserve…nobody had any clothes on.

I was barely 20 when my then boyfriend suggested that we visit Elysian and go au natural for a day, allowing for the freedom of being unrestrained by clothes. Twenty makes you think of stupid things to do like no other age I have ever experienced. Spending a day around other people with no clothes on—what could be so bad? We were young. We were free. This was the new age and so boyfriend and I packed up our car, though there wasn’t much to pack inasmuch as we did not need swim suits or tennis clothes, just a pair of Adidas, a racket and a couple of towels. Second thing to note: we were fully clothed on the drive to Elysian Fields. Fortunately, stupidity in this instance, was thwarted and no one was placed in the position of having to explain how free we were to the California Highway Patrol..

Nudity wasn’t exactly new to me. I sometimes sunned in the back yard sans top…but here at Elysian Fields, where the sign at the front desk read “clothing optional,” I felt like naked on naked. Adding other people to the mix was just weird. The people walking around without clothes didn’t really seem all that free; more like self-conscious about the fact that they were naked and pretending that they were “free.”

Boyfriend and I signed in and headed toward the tennis court where some others were playing too. I don’t really want to describe the things that flop around and smack you in the arms, face and legs when you are playing tennis without any clothes on. It was the weirdest tennis game I ever played—naked and absolutely nothing sexy, let alone free, about it.

To allow ourselves the full experience of being so friggen’ free, which was now beginning to feel somewhat annoying, boyfriend and I found our way to the pool, which at least seemed a little more natural, given that water allows for some cover. Diving boards provide a similar “please don’t let me see that flopping around” purview as playing tennis, albeit blessedly briefer. So, the pool experience was not any better really than naked tennis.

Then reality hit: with the exception of boyfriend and I, most of the Elysian Fields clientele appeared to be over the age of 50. Now 50 is not a bad age, but it is definitely an age where clothing optional behavior should be limited to ones own private house. 50 in this instance felt creepy as opposed to free. The realization of clientele age and images of tennis that neither boyfriend or I could get out of our heads, led us to make a departure swifter than initially imagined. In the dressing room at the front desk, I was never so grateful to put on clothes.

I like clothes. If I want to feel free, I take off my shoes. It is one of those 1970-type of experiences that makes for a good story now…but I tell you what—never again!


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