Thursday, May 25, 2006

Maryland Nudists Get Good Write Up

Nudist groups revel in the right to bare arms ... and everything else

There are three basic rules of nudism:

Wear plenty of sunscreen.

Always have a towel on hand for when you sit, both for hygiene and to avoid a potentially unpleasant union with hot metal, plastic or wood.

And never, ever, fry bacon.

Richard Eriksen, a retired attorney from Virginia, tried that and speaks from grease-spattered experience. (By the way, he also warns against tarring your roof naked, which he also attempted.)

"I don't recommend cooking bacon or barbecuing," he said, chuckling. "Tarring the roof wasn't a good idea, either."

Mr. Eriksen is a longtime member of Pine Tree Associates, one of two nudist clubs in the county. The other is the Maryland Health Society, located in Davidsonville. Both were founded, separately, in the early 1930s, and are the only such clubs in the state.

Nationally, the nudism movement is much larger and growing, according to the Florida-based American Association for Nude Recreation. AANR has more than 50,000 members and close to 270 affiliated clubs, resorts, RV campgrounds and bed and breakfasts, according to its Web site.

"There's not a lot of (perfect) 10 bodies," said Carolyn Hawkins, AANR spokesman. "You don't have to be afraid of it."

Members of the two local clubs hail from the county, the rest of Maryland and many other states. Some live at the clubs during the summer months, others stay longer, and still more just visit on the weekends.

"It's like having a vacation every single weekend in the summertime," said Sandy Desautels of Washington, D.C., Pine Tree spokesman. "You come here Friday night, you take your clothes off, and you don't put them on again until Sunday night. It (can be) very depressing going home."

Pine Tree has more than 500 members, while MAHESO has 90. They operate on parcels that each span close to 100 acres. People can pay a daily fee or become members by paying yearly dues.

Whatever the case, people at both clubs have similar reasons for going nude. There may very well be a million stories in the naked city, but many local nudists had the same tale to tell: They first experienced nudism in the Caribbean on a clothing-optional beach, liked it, and then sought out places nearer to home to go naked. They say shedding their clothing isfreeing and lets their true selves shine through.

As is common for them to repeat, it's hard to put on airs when you don't put on clothes.

"When you shed your clothes, you shed your inhibitions, your stress, everything else," said Rosie Crowe, who lives with her husband, Bill, at MAHESO pretty much year-round. "You can just relax. You don't have to put up a front. It's great. I'd like to see more young people be nudists."

Although both clubs have members in a wide age range, the majority are between 40 and 60. More than 90 percent of the AANR membership consists of people age 35 and up.

"I don't know if it's part of the hippie thing, but younger kids keep their clothes on," Ms. Desautels joked.

Naked truths

The grounds of the two clubs look similar - lots of woods and grassy areas. But Pine Tree, the larger club, has more amenities, like tennis courts and a restaurant (Cafe Derriere). Both have pools.

Members reside in everything from tidy mobile homes to full-blown houses, and everyone seems to always be smiling and relaxed. (And yes, lots choose to play sports naked, ignoring the jiggle factor).

Most carry personal items, like a cell phone or spare change, in a tote bag, and everyone wears some form of shoes. Flip-flops, sandals and sneakers are the most common footwear.

Interestingly, jewelry was also common among both the men and the women, who shed their clothes but not their watches, rings, necklaces and earrings. A few of the women wore makeup too, like Nancy, who first came to Pine Tree about four years ago with her then-boyfriend. She preferred not to give her last name, as did several other club members.

"It's an insecurity about the condition of my skin," she said. "Without makeup, I look flat."

But she loves the club and is a lot more confident about her body, although she admits it took her a little while to loosen up. "It doesn't matter what your shape is," she said. "People (here) are fun. It's really hard to be a (jerk) when you're standing in front of someone naked."

Club members say women are typically more reluctant than men to go nude in the first place because of concerns about how their bodies look. But Pine Tree members said that after the first few minutes, they realize that no one cares what they look like and they relax. At MAHESO, newbies don't have to go nude immediately, and are allowed to take a gradual approach.

"You love it right away, or it's never going to grow on you," opined Pine Tree member Rich Fogg of Gambrills. "I wish I'd had the nerve to do it (earlier in life)."

Mr. Fogg, a database administrator, has been a nudist for about 10 years, becoming fond of the lifestyle after a trip to St. Maarten. And although he's open about it, he hasn't told the people he works with and was a little worried about their reaction.

"If they find out, I don't care," he said. "But I wasn't going to bring it up, either."

To ensure privacy, both communities are gated and haven't had any problems with gawkers.

Mike Transparenti, president of MAHESO, said he's often asked what a nudist club is like. He tries his best to answer questions, but his advice is:

"You can try to describe it, but the only way to get a feel for it is to try it for yourself."


For more information on Pine Tree Associates, go to, or call 410-841-6033 or 301-261-8787. For more information on MAHESO, go to or call 410-798-0269.


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