We sit on lawn chairs on the porch of his trailer together me in my thick, two-layer coat and Mike with a can of beer, fully nude. He is one of the few brave nudists willing to endure the brisk wind to take advantage of the last Saturday of the season at Berkshire Vista Nudist Resort.
You tell people about this, he gestures to himself and then out towards the 122-acre campground, and they cant even understand what its like. You have to come here, like you coming here now, or no one will really be able to grasp what it is. They dont have to come naked, they just need to experience the people, the innocence.
The Berkshire Vista Nudist Resort is a high meadow at the foot of the lofty Berkshire Mountains in Hancock, Massachusetts. Its entrance on Kittle Road is dappled with large, leaning trees easy for local skiers and hikers to miss on their way to nearby Jiminys Peak.
Owners Danny and Ginny Bookstein are expecting me at the Kittle House, the small red cabin that serves as their office and year-round home. They show me around the camp in a bumpy golf cart. Danny sports thick eyewear a post-care requirement of his recent cataract surgery. His wife smiles often and asks questions about my life, while Danny jostles the cart toward the clubhouse.
Inside, there is a dance floor and a DJ booth on one side of the room and a bar on the other. It is late afternoon, but people are still lining the counters for plates of greasy meatball subs and fries.
I see a man, fully nude, standing at the counter. He is the first one to look up.
Everyone is smiling now, greeting me openly. I try not to let my eyes wander toward the counter, where I know the nude man is still standing, watching, and I dont know how to react, or even more importantly, where my eyes will land.
But Danny is already ushering me out the door again and into the grumbling golf cart. From his drivers seat in the front, Danny recites a prepared narration of Berkshire Vista, pointing out various additions in the camp, including the hot tubs and pools. The resort is divided into three smaller neighborhoods of makeshift trailers and RVs The Ghetto, Snobs Hill and Heaven.
Diana lives in a trailer in Heaven. She is one of the few campers who has been coming to Berkshire Vista even before it was an established nudist resort. She is a wiry woman with open eyes and a big smile. When she laughs, her whole face crinkles with the sound of it. I like her immediately. Her trailer is cluttered with small trinkets. Nothing matches.
She is neither bitter nor defensive when I ask about misconceptions of the nudist lifestyle. I think they think were all perverts, she said. I really think thats what they think. And [we arent]. Sorry to disappoint.
Today, she is not nude. It is the last weekend of the season and the cold wind keeps everyone inside or clothed. This is another misconception Diana clears up when it gets cold, nudists put on layers, too.
For Diana, nudism does more good than harm. I think you have a better self-body image, you feel much more comfortable in your own skin, she says. Weve had people here with mastectomies and colostomies and nobody makes a big gawk about it.
She and her husband live a nudist lifestyle at home as well, but she admits its never the same as being at the camp. She still wears clothes when she goes to work at the advancement office at a nearby college.
Although only about three percent of the American population is recreationally nude, the American Association for Nude Recreation recognizes 260 clothing-optional destinations across the country and has almost 50,000 members, a number they report has doubled in the past 10 years.
Danny drops me off at the next trailer, where a small group clusters around the front porch, hunched against the wind. It takes me a while to recognize my next interviewee as the same man from the clubhouse. Holding a can of beer in one hand, he waves for me to sit beside him.
Mike laughs so easily, as do his friends, the remaining few who have lingered to enjoy the final weekend. Becky is one of them. This was her first full season at Berkshire Vista, and she already dreads returning home where clothing is not optional.
Here, you can leave the outside world alone, you can leave it at the gate, you come up here and you dont have to think about going to work on Monday or whats going on at home, she says. There are no phones, you dont have to check the Internet. This is an escape, every weekend is an escape from your day to day life.
Mike and the others nod silently. In less than three days, the gates will close behind the last trailer and as Becky puts it, Everyone goes back to the real world. Although Becky and her husband hope to continue their nudist lifestyle at home as well, she says it always feels more difficult with kids and grandkids around. Even Mike, who openly practices a nudist lifestyle at home like Diana, must go back to business casual for his work at a university.
The quiet that follows this realization is almost wistful. But then Mike says, Lets all sing Kumbayah. And this sets everyone laughing again.
© Gauge Magazine at Emerson College, Massachusetts
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