Unnecessary Precautions

Christian sent in this story about grappling with the local etiquette of skinny dipping:

I have trouble exercising when I go home for the holidays, since I don’t bother getting a membership to a gym I won’t regularly visit. I mentioned this to my buddy in passing, and he invited me to work out with him at his club. Between me being away to college and him constantly working, I don’t see him often, so I took him up on his offer, thinking this would be a good opportunity to hang out with him. Plus, he’s a huge gym rat, so I expected him to give me sage advice on my exercise routine.

He told me all about the amenities at his gym; a full basketball court, an Olympic sized swimming pool, and private sauna and hot tubs. The last two piqued my interest. With all the stress from college, I’ve been needing something to properly unwind, so this seemed like the perfect time to do so. When I asked him about them, he said, “Dude, they’re everything! They’re especially good for alleviating tension after a really good workout! The sauna and hot tubs are actually in the locker rooms, I’ll show you when we go.” I’ve never been in either a hot tub or sauna, definitely not ones separated by gender, but I understand they all have different rules about nudity. I asked him about the proper etiquette for his gym; if it’s clothing optional there or if I’ll get in trouble with the staff and members if I get a little too comfortable. He avoided answering the question (he’s very prudish), so in the absence of a straight answer I decide to take a swimsuit and play it by ear.

The first night at the gym, we worked out until closing, so there wasn’t an opportunity to try out the sauna or hot tub. I told him that next time we go I’ll cut my own workout short so I can try them out. He agreed, but added that I’ll be going by myself (he’s very devout to his workout). The next time I met up with him I pushed myself for an hour at the exercise equipment, and then excused myself to use the sauna. I planned to discreetly look at the other patrons to deduce the dress code, but there was no one to reference. The only people there were members changing into their day clothes, so they were in and out. I decided to play it safe. I slipped on my trunks and entered the sauna.

For all the steam, I couldn’t look into the room from outside, so I wasn’t sure if anyone was already inside. Depending on how they were dressed (or not) would have dictated whether I kept on my shorts or took them off later. No such luck; the sauna was empty. It was just as well, because that gave me the opportunity to be in the buff at least for a few minutes. So I laid my shorts beside me and allowed the steam to wash over me. It was incredibly refreshing, not only being in a sauna for the first time, but going in it nude! I stood up, walked around a bit, and did some stretches (no vulnerable positions) just to thoroughly feel the humidity on my body. It was so exhilarating being naked in public like that!

I’ve skinny dipped in open nature before, but only once with company, the other times I’ve made sure I was alone, and no matter the situation I was careful to remain naked only underwater. Otherwise, I’ve only been naked in the locker room just long enough to change underwear, so it was thrilling to be so brazenly nude where someone might see me! I didn’t spend much time like that though, I was still nervous about being kicked out for indecent exposure. After an unfairly short time I begrudgingly slipped on my trunks and remained in the sauna clothed the rest of the time, eventually showering before going into the hot tub room.

It was the same as before: there was no one in the hot tub room, so I wasn’t able to gauge what the dress code was. I figured I’ve been alone the whole time, I might as well get naked for the hot tub too. Once again, the lack of clothing bolstered the euphoria of entering the hot tub for the first time. I remained liked that as long as my nerve allowed me, but eventually that failed; the thought of being evicted for indecency forced me to pull on my shorts again. Just then I thought about how ridiculous bathing suits are. Society established the notion that nudity and perversion go hand in hand, and as a result we’re conditioned to shame people in their nudity, in their natural state. Nudity is only as humiliating as we agree to make it as a collective, but at least in the case of swimming, where waterlogged clothes inhibit a full range of movement and are generally uncomfortable to wear, we should allow for more leniency in dress code without the societal or legal repercussions.

While I was thinking these thoughts alone, a club member walked in, wearing nothing but a towel…around his shoulders. He hung up the towel on one of the hooks on the far wall and climbed into the hot tub, opposite where I sat. He might have been naked, but I was the embarrassed one. I had spent over an hour tugging my shorts on and off, fighting my desire to be comfortable with my fear of being caught, only to find out I was overdressed!

We made awkward small talk for a few minutes (not because I was uncomfortable of his nudity, we just had nothing in common), when I started to feel dizzy. So I jumped out to prevent a fainting spell (like I said, this was my first time in a sauna and hot tub, so I didn’t know my limits for either yet). When my head stopped spinning, I went into the locker room to cool down further. Just then more members came in from their workouts to make use of the amenities. I was finally able to understand the dress code: clothing optional. While a few members went in their underwear or bathing suits, the majority was nude. After growing up in a hyper masculine culture, where nudity was considered gay (and by extension, wrong), it was refreshing to be in a fully judgement free environment. It was astounding to see so many men, with their different body types, being respectful to one another and having open conversation without the typical “locker room talk.” Ironically, this locker room full of naked men became a sort of safe haven for me. It turned into a place where I can “bare it all” and no one would shame me for my presentation, because there was no one who especially cared how I presented myself. As long as I was respectful of everyone else, I was welcome there.

And yes, I did end up baring it all. Once the dizzy spell ended, I went right back in, sans clothes. I’ve gone back two or three more times after that too, each time making sure to leave my bathing suit at home.

I’m glad you got it all worked out, Christian! Particularly while being so considerate of what the rules were. But couldn’t you also have asked at the front desk?!!?

Thanks for the story!


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