Beach Birthday-Suit Bingo!
Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed the harmless taboo of skinny dipping. As a teen growing up in Central New York, I experienced my first thrills with the neighborhood girls. These were mostly confined to pools and were middle-of-the-night, clandestine ops with all the tension and pent-up hysteria of an attempted jail break – with the exception that we were trying to break IN. However, had we been caught during one of these “pool hopping” forays, we believed the results would be the same: arrests… lock down! Still, we believed the prize worth the risk.
Later, I graduated to moonlit, co-ed romps at local swimming holes and lakes. The tentative way some of us would tug at our clothing, pretending difficulty with a zipper or fumbling with shirt buttons, stealing curious glances at one another’s bodies and sizing them up, either against our own or for possible conquest, was all part and parcel of the intrigue. The inky blackness of the water against the velvety blackness of the night was a welcome refuge in years when I felt particularly self-conscious, but not enough to demure the adventure.
I have always both loved and feared the first chill of the first footstep into the water. Never a “plunger,” I prolonged (and still do) the sweet agony, like a masochist at a sadist’s preliminary 4-course dinner party. As the water engulfed the tender flesh, goosebumps rose everywhere, heightening the pleasure. I would, finally, submerge and submit to the icy cold. It was painfully delicious against the heat of a day’s worth of sweaty anticipation. We frolicked like playful otters for as long as we dared; then, furtively and reluctantly, tip-toed up the stairs to the bedrooms of our respective homes, cooler and calmer.
Skinny dipping is a 40-year old hedonistic ritual I grant myself every summer, no matter my locale. So, when I transplanted myself to the Hamptons in the summer of 1998, knowing only a single person who sinks like a stone, I didn’t immediately consider the many different bodies of water, virgin territory for my exploration. Nor did I realize that it would be on the East End of Long Island that I would, once and for all, lose all modesty and embrace the LIGHT! At first, I re-adopted my nighttime hi-jinx, skinny dipping with my gay friend, Ken, in his client’s pool- and with their blessings. As we floated blissfully in their beautiful gunite pool, with the seductive backdrop of 3 Mile Harbor to further set the tone, I wisely informed him, after his comment about how “lucky” we were:
“Ken, it’s not ‘luck’… We’re here because we can appreciate this; this is meant to be ENJOYED!”
Since that first proclamation of my Truth, I have sought to fully enjoy my skinny dipping escapades: my sunrise baptisms, my midday soaks, my sunset immersions and my late-night dips. When possible, I would enlist a partner in crime to share my guilty pleasure.
After that initial East Hampton experience with Ken, Elizabeth, my friend and hostess and I took to daily sunrise hikes with her two dogs on the ocean beach in Westhampton, followed by skinny dipping. We would laugh and tumble in the waves as the dogs barked from shore, jumping excitedly on us as we left the water and sometimes leaving scratch marks: our badges of honor.
When I moved to East Hampton Springs for the first time, I befriended Johanna, who lived in Wainscott. We worked at Naturopathica from 9 am-3 pm, sometimes saw private clients immediately afterward, would regroup at Wainscott’s main beach for sunset skinnydipping followed by dinner, sporting salty, slicked-back hair while sipping salt-rimmed Patron Margaritas with friends at Turtle Crossing or our favorite red at Della Femina, our home-away-from-home.
Boyfriends parted us and, when I moved in with Rob to a beautiful modern rental home on Peconic Bay, just feet from the water’s edge, I paused. Briefly. Though the Bay called to me with a siren’s song, he was prominent in the community, had growing children. I closed my ears to the Song and TRIED to be “respectable.” I wore my bathing suit, like a good pseudo-stepmom and neighbor, for two years and ten months of our three-year relationship. As it started to fall apart, I reinstated my sunrise skinnydipping… to the neighbors’ chagrin or pleasure? I never knew nor cared…
From the border of Hampton Bays, I moved into Southampton village, with Mary, a yoga buddy. The ocean was a very do-able walk across Hampton Road and down Little Plains. Sunrise was the optimal skinnydipping time for me. I braved the ocean alone now, as I couldn’t seem to interest Mary in waking before 8 or 9 am. I still harbored hope that Rob and I would reunite. So, for a year, I held myself apart from fully participating in the social scene. I remember one night very clearly, dining with Mary and her trader friends from the City at Madam Tong’s: it was an unseasonably chilly night with very gusty winds. I was under-dressed and underweight in a Marilyn Monroe-style black-and-white striped halter dress, sipping a cocktail, when I froze in place to see Rob enter and scan the crowd. Everyone at table gasped – they knew the hold he had on me – and turned to see what I would do. I held my breath and, when he caught my eye as I knew he would, signaled him to our table. I shyly invited him to join us and we bantered back and forth with the girls for the duration of the meal. When we began to gather our possessions to leave, he asked me if I’d like to go back to his place. I hesitated and it seemed to both of us as though I would decline. His face looked downtrodden, for only a heartbeat. In a Eureka moment, and with a huge grin on his face, he entreated:
“We can go skinny dipping!!”
It was a Jerry McGuire moment… He’d had me at hello.
That was 10 years ago and I’ve skinny-dipped on countless beaches here in the Hamptons. I’m currently living on Shinnecock Bay and, after a long hiatus (read: Dark Night of the Soul), I’m back to my passion for skinny dipping. Mark -my current boyfriend- and I purchased a used infrared sauna at a yard sale (another passion) and, may I digress: a sauna!?! ONLY IN THE HAMPTONS… !!! I now wake, enjoy a light breakfast of Siggi’s Danish-style yogurt and a cup of coffee, re-hydrate myself with 2 pitchers of lemon water, indulge in a 20-30 minute sweat in the sauna and follow it with skinny dipping and floating: HEAVEN!
When my boyfriend asked me what I would do to close my pores after my daily sauna this coming winter, knowing I’d never run the 60 yards through snow to plunge into the icy bay, I gamely announced:
Perhaps… a new passion?