Friday, April 20, 2007

Nutmeg State Students Urged to Undress to De-Stress

Students invited to shed stress, clothes
Emily Shields – The Daily Free Press
April 20, 2007

WOODSTOCK, CONNECTICUT -- As college students buckle down for a week of long exams and even longer papers, a nudist retreat in Connecticut is extending an invitation their way for a day when they can drop all their stress -- and clothes. As part of its plan to attract more youthful members, the Solair Recreation League in Woodstock, Conn., has invited students from more than 30 New England colleges to participate in the first of what it hopes will become an annual Inter-College Nudist Day on May 5. The retreat will include biking, volleyball, tennis, boating, hiking, swimming and fishing on the resort's 400 private acres. According to General Manager Donna Mae Olson, the League is hoping to attract students to help bring a youthful crowd and dispel the notion that nudism is reserved for older generations -- 12 percent of the organization' s 400 members are between 18 and 28 years old.And although the Connecticut resort is trying to attract a new crowd, nudist organizations have been growing significantly in the past 15 years, said American Association for Nude Recreation spokesman Steve Vickers. In its 76-year history, the AANR has acquired almost 50,000 members and opened resorts, clubs and campgrounds throughout the United States, with Forbes estimating in 2003 the nude recreation industry earns $400 million per year, Vickers said. "It's kind of exploded, and I'm still not sure why," he said. "There's been a steady flow of inquiries. Professors are asking us to come speak in classes." The Naturist Society, a nudist organization of about 20,000 members, will send two representatives to write about the event for its industry quarterly magazine, Nude and Natural."My advice to everybody is: 'Try it,'" said Naturist Society spokeswoman Nicky Hoffman. "It's not for everyone. Naturism is a personal choice. If it makes you feel better about yourself, and accept yourself for who you are, then that's great."Hoffman said nudists range from babies to elderly men and women and work as doctors, lawyers, engineers and students -- a far cry from the stereotypes of nudists as being old, backwoods hippies or perverts.

"A lot of people think that we get together and it's just a big, swinging sex party, but it's not the case," she said. "I have never, ever felt threatened or uncomfortable by anyone that I have encountered."Despite this the nudist lifestyle will always be criticized, said Tracy Horgan, who plans to attend the event as a Naturist Society representative. Hoffman said she and a friend were once harassed by a "religious zealot" while they were walking to a nude beach, although they were fully clothed at the time.Hoffman said the religious man turned to Hoffman's middle-aged female friend and shouted, "You're worse than a [prostitute] . You take your clothes off and don't get paid for it."Olson said the Solair retreat is inclusive and seeks members of all ages and even families, adding anyone with the slightest interest in nudism is encouraged to participate."We're a very close community," she said. "We want people to understand that social nudity is about body acceptance. It is not about any sort of sexual activity or perversion."We have specific ground rules," Olson continued. "If you are in violation of the rules, we will ask you to leave."Though she was not previously aware of the retreat, College of Arts and Sciences junior Maddy Brisotti said she might be interested in attending simply to see what nudism is all about. "I think it would be a life-changing experience, even just for a day," she said. "If you can be comfortable with [nudity], you can do anything."We can finally understand what people look like," Brisotti added. "You don't get exposed to what real people look like."CAS sophomore Veena Jeevanandan, however, said she has reservations about being nude around other people."I'd be creeped out," she said. "I wouldn't do it myself, but I wouldn't judge other people who did it, either."



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