Grandson number 4 graduated today. Since he lives eleven hours by car from my home, it involved a full day of travel to get to his home. Yesterday it was all about a garden social with some of his classmates and their parents in my daughter’s backyard. Today, the grad ceremony took front and centre with all sorts of photos taken at the site and then in the front yard to celebrate the event and record it for posterity.
For the next week we will be touring together, first with time spent at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Then, next Saturday, I will begin making my way back to my home on the prairies. Naturist time? Non-existent and that is more than okay with me. a full life isn’t defined by clothing or its lack. Still, if the world was different, I would enjoy more opportunities to shed my clothing. But not to worry, back home I will return to a large part of my life and my writing lived au naturel. Hopefully by then, the contributors to the “male gaze” series will have sent me their material which will provide me with a number of intriguing posts.
I am hoping to make this topic a series of posts that draws on the voices of women as well as psychology. I want to begin with a simple definition of the male gaze that I found at Wikipedia:
“In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer.“
There is no question that the modern world, a world controlled by men, celebrates the male gaze. Go to any sporting event and you will find women scantily clothed cheering on the athletes. Their dance routines serve the same purpose as their clothing, to satisfy the men and perhaps a few women, who are at the sporting event. Sexual fantasies that are contained at a safe distance.
Strip clubs have women perform to stimulate and satisfy the male gaze. Again, distance and safety are typically enforced. Though women are safe and are artists, the men are focused in their gaze. For most, the artistry is never seen. The visually proffered delights are rewarded with money. Lost is the fact that there is an intelligent human in the woman’s body that elicits fantasy.
Yet there is more about this male gaze that needs to be understood. First off, it isn’t just about costumed artists performing for men. It seems to be hard-wired into most men. Men whistle, make comments, or simply just stare are women that catch their attention. Follow their gaze and it is obvious that it is the female body that has caught their attention and not who the person is. Women are reduced to an “it” status, a container for their sexual fantasies.
Now, you would think that in a naturist resort or nude beach or any other clothing-free safe place, the problem wouldn’t exist. Well, in my experience, that is an untruth. My wife wasted no time in showing me the truth. Women crossing legs, judiciously placing a towel when seated, opting for a wrap when the locale was clothing-optional, or staying in the water when engaging with men in conversation are just some of the strategies used to have a man’s eyes shift from their bodies to reach their eyes. Only then does real dialogue happen. Face-to-face, eye-to-eye where gender doesn’t become the central focus of the male in the conversation.
Now, this is just a beginning. I hope over the next while, to bring you women’s voices. I don’t want to mansplain. My voice is a man’s voice. My eyes are a man’s eyes. And, I have to admit, I am sometimes a part of the problem.
Though I am a naturist and I am comfortable around other people who are unclothed and refrain from sexualising my nudity or their nudity, I am a man who has sex on my brain. I am drawn to women and not to men. But to be more precise, I am sexually attracted to some women who are often strangers. Thankfully, this all happens within my head and doesn’t get acted upon. I have my sex drive under control.
Now, as most of my readers know, I have a life partner who is a woman. I am fortunate in that despite being together since 1970, we still find sexual satisfaction in each other on a regular basis. In between, we find it difficult to be apart – sight, sound, and touch reaffirm connection. So, why do I find myself drawn to other women, especially those who are found more in cyberspace than in my local, real world?
Simple answer – I am a man. My dreams and fantasies are about women. For those women who are in my local world, those dreams and fantasies remain unexpressed and are not acted upon.
Why? Well, those dreams and fantasies are not really about those women but about my inner world and my psyche. There is a separation between inner world and outer world. When the ego refuses to accept an inner world, there is difficulty in containing those dreams and fantasies. Unwanted advances, sometimes even rape, sexual innuendo or verbal comments that are unwelcome are often the products of that lack of self-awareness.
As I wrote those words, I thought of other options. There are many other options. Some people are polyamorous, some are bisexual, some as couples simply like to experiment with others whom they trust. None of these options are wrong. Self respect and respect for others are vital in approaching other options. It can’t only be about pleasing “self.” Focus on just pleasing self reduces the “other” to being an object rather than an equal partner.
If one is only focusing on self, then those thoughts must be kept internalised – or taken to a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, or psychiatrist in order to safely come to terms with what is boiling under the surface of the ego.
I went to Puerto de Chuburná, a small Yucatecan fishing village in Mexico, in January of 2009. on one side of Chuburná was the Gulf of Mexico, on the other side of the village was an estuary, a salt-water swampland. I had gone to this corner of Mexico to get away from the cold Canadian winter hoping to enjoy an extra three months of summer. That was all. There was no other intention. I would write, take photos, get a tan, and all would be well with the world.
The heat, the sea, and the swampland; put all these elements together and I was ripe for some major alchemical work, a process of transformation. The Mayan ruins, the birds, the iguanas, and the Mayan added other key elements into this alchemical cauldron.
But it was the mangrove laguna which held both the fear and the hope for my inner journey. Because of the fear, it took me two weeks before I dared to approach the swamp. Until then, I stood carefully the end of a broken and paved narrow highway that led out into the swamp. Why? Why the swampland? Why was it in the mangrove swamps where I finally dared to shed my clothes in the outer world and those barriers between my conscious self and all the unconsciously repressed stuff of my past?
There came a time in my life, when continuing the daily patterns, the carefully constructed career and lifestyle of my outer world became more than just problematical. Something was causing a pervasive pressure, something coming from a dark place, an unknown place. My sense of self was suffering “dis-ease.” Sleep was difficult, and when it came, dreams disturbed those precious hours so that there was no respite, no escape from the darkness that shifted beneath my awareness, something ominous at the edges. Fear began to creep into ordinary, everyday moments. There was a real fear that others would see the shadows that surround me, sense the loss of belief, the loss of hope.
This was a call to a life of meaning had been sounded deep within my soul. Would the “self,” the core of my being respond to the call? Or would I dig in deeper into the way life has been planned and ignore the call? I chose, or rather my psyche chose to answer the call? When my clothing fell off in the swampland, that was my answer. My intuition overrode my ego which was telling me to behave and maintain the persona that was crumbling. I had a choice and I took it.
If I hadn’t answered the call I would have shrivelled like a raisin in the sun. Yes, that was said deliberately. I know people who didn’t answer the call. They are ghosts of their old selves. Many of them are bitter despite their material wealth.
And your journey? Be warned, everything and everyone you hold dear will be challenged. Everything will be at risk even your sanity. Now, sometimes it might seem like there is a choice, but there is always a choice. A word of advice, if you are going to answer the call that is requiring you to enter into the shadowy inner world of your soul, it might be a good idea to take a guide.
I have just found a document that I had thought had vanished six years ago. The document was a reworking of a small booklet I wrote in 2009, the first in a series I called Though a Jungian Lens. Two of four parts were completed and the photos for both parts were safely in place. As a result, I am going to return to that work next week. The fourth part is almost fully complete as well. It is mostly the third part of the booklet that remains to be worked out.
The topic of that booklet is depression, or as I have also named it, the Inner Swamplands that signal the Dark Night of the Soul. It won’t be an easy task, but one that I feel is important. There is something stirring within me that is asking for a return to a more psychological, or should I say, more authentic presence here. Naturism is not all about freedom and joy, it is also about daring to be expose those things we would rather remain hidden. Do we dare allow our soul to be seen as we allow our bodies to be seen?
Sometimes in the naturist community, we keep things light. We want to avoid anything too heavy. We want to be entertained and made to feel good. However, the path to feeling good is often difficult. The path forward is riddled with barriers and hurdles. In the outer world, those barriers and hurdles are other people who would rather we kept our clothing on, laws that demand we keep our clothing on. In the inner world, our own self doubts and lack of confidence keep us from experiencing many opportunities for clothing-free time.
Fear is the biggest culprit. What holds you back from optimising your time for being clothing free?
This grandparenting gig is exhausting to say the least. And, it is a good kind of tiredness. I don’t know who gets more tired, the grandparents or the grandchildren. Yesterday we took the two littles [three and five] to a swimming pool that has so much to entertain young ones. We made multiple trips up winding staircases to quickly descend waterslides, several visits to a variety of hot pools, bouncing around in the main pool when it turned into a wave pool, and playing in the kids’ waterpark – for three-and-a-half hours. And that was just one of the day’s events. Today it is more relaxing for us as both are in playschool in the morning, with one getting an additional daycare experience for the afternoon.
With most of our time here having a forecast of rain, something we hope also happens back at our home five hours further east, this is the perfect way to spend time while waiting for summer.
The last little pieces are being cut and placed in the garage. I am using scrap pieces as the “look” is irrelevant. Function is the main objective. After all, I live in a small town and it really is just a garage. And probably more important, I am a senior citizen who is frugal. One wall, a short wall, has three different materials on the wall. One section is drywall, another section is cheap panelling, and the third is 3/8 inch chipboard. It looks ugly but it does cover the insulation in the wall that has the house on the other side.
It is kind of like the issue of clothing. Humans spend so much on buying clothing that is somewhat fashionable, if not the height of fashion. Then as fashion changes, the need to spend more has people scrambling to not be left behind. Appearances are everything. For so many naturists, clothing is about function. If there is any possibility, clothing is set aside completely. Yes, there are some who keep up to fashion and that is all about their choice, not about other naturists trying to control what others do and wear.
An example of mixing fashion and function. For most beaches in North America, and quite a number in Europe and Asia, bathing suits are required. The idea of not wearing anything would be counter productive. Since we are not wanting to have significant tan lines, there is the option of tan-through swim wear that meets the regulations. Again, it is all about function.
I am on the last stages of the garage fix-up. This afternoon, I was cutting the last of the boards as the sky began to darken. With the final cut, I felt the first drops of rain. I had just enough time to take in the saw and the rest of my tools before the storm descended with rain and then hail. Since it was time for some tea, I welcomed the break. The last two boards will be put up tomorrow. I have to admit that I enjoy being a handyman. That said, I would not be recommended for quality work so that I could make a living as a carpenter.
I am currently working on a new story. I had reached 5,000 words and was not happy with the direction the story had taken. As a result, I chopped of the last 2400 words and have changed the basic plot. What can I tell you about the story? Not much at this point. The story begins with a man dealing with the loss of his wife and the need to restructure his life. There will be a speculative aspect to the story.
On another topic, I am going to be a regional director for a national authors’ group here in Canada beginning in June. I will say more about this in June after the official papers are in order. I am pleased that they searched out candidates and reached out to me. I have been a member of the organisation for five years and have been very quiet, keeping a very low profile. I would never have thought that I would become a member of the organisation’s governing council.
Well, that’s it for today. It’s time for me to get back to the story.
As usual, I began the day with coffee. I have to admit that I am addicted to coffee for the morning. Though it froze last night, once the sun hit the corner by my garden shed, the temperature was bearable. With coffee and then breakfast done in this corner, it was time for me to get to work on my various projects.
First up was to take the bedding plants out of the garage and place them on the pathway in the backyard so that they could get some sunshine and toughen up with passing breezes and cool weather. Next, it was time to go back into the garage and do some more work on the rough renovations which include a counter and new shelving for my wife’s use.
I still have a partial wall to finish by the cabinet and another wall to finish going to the overhead garage door. Later in the afternoon, weather permitting, my wife and I will go for another walk into the countryside. That walk, unlike my other projects, is not clothing optional.
On a final note: I have sold my first book for May. This means books have been sold every month this year via Amazon. And with that, I sign off to get back to work on my projects.
Melvin and Sandy wrote to me today in response to my WNGD post and the work I have done rescuing old posts, some of which featured them. Like me, WNGD is a season, not a day.
“Like you we had to take advantage of the nice day on Thursday it was 72F degrees. Sandy worked on her rock garden outside the privacy fence most of the day. I had spent time in the backyard removing winter killed raspberry plants out of the raised bed. Like you also every day is WNGD around here.”
Unlike Melvin and Sandy, we don’t have raised beds. But like them, we do our own tilling. Melvin mentions, “I bought an electric tiller which works great can get right along the edges. Not sure what will be planted in the bed yet.”
Gardening in Northern USA and on the prairies is often the same. Gardening begins before the frosts and snow leave. Both of our households begin gardening in the house. Here is what Melvin had to share. “We got tomatoes and squash started end of April so have begun hardening them off with any luck the last froze date is May 19. Not sure that will happen it was 38 degrees this morning with some rain which we need.”
Welcome to the world of senior gardening between friends.