In which an aging, overweight NeverNude goes to a clothing optional resort and confronts his worst fears.
Poolside, Island House, Key West. I am perched on the edge of my lounge chair. Coiled, like a cobra. Ready to strike. Every muscle taut.
My senses are heightened. Nothing escapes my eagle-eyed gaze. I quickly scan the crowd, looking to pre-identify the body fascists, the bitchy alpha-queens, and the poolside bullies who will impede my mission.
I sniff the wind. A soft breeze coming from the west at 2… no 3 knots… carrying with it the sickly sweet mixture of Coppertone, Hibiscus, and old butt.
Breathing in. Breathing out.
All my life has been leading to this moment.
By God, I’m really going to do this.
My moment is now.
Are you watching, world? It’s ME! James St James!
Look upon my nakedness! Behold the glory, the MAJESTY, of my potbellied, flatassed, hairy-shouldered, pancake-nipped 47-year-old body!
Gape, if must! Gawk, if you will! Take it all in!
I! Don’t! Care!
With a flourish, I stand and toss aside my sarong and calmly wade into the water, NAKED AS THE DAY I WAS BORN.
One step, two step, three step, four. I’m in. I’m doing this. I’m fine. I’mfineI’mfineI’mfine.
Head underwater, I swim to the far end and back again.
Triumphantly, I get out, towel dry, then oh-so-casually look around to gauge the reaction, see the look on everyone’s faces…
Not one person was even looking at me. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared.
No gasping. No gagging. No screams of terror.
On the flip side: There was no applause, no “good job, James.”
Just the clinking of mimosas, the squirting of lotion, and the endless titter of queens on vacation.
Hmmm. Can a moment be extaordinary and revolutionary and life-changing and LIFE-AFFIRMING if… it passed by unnoticed? Are there such things as quiet victories? Private successes? I guess. This is my first time experiencing one, though. I head back to my room, alone, a little let down, but relieved. And I can’t stop smiling for the rest of the morning.
PREVIOUSLY: DAY 2:
Have we talked about Key West’s rooster problem? They’re everywhere, everywhere. Running hither and yon. Darting in and out of traffic like they’ve got good sense. Which they don’t. No sense at all. They have complete run of the island, you know – “honored citizens” they’re called – after a law was passed protecting them from cockfighters (apparently this was quite the cockfighting hub back in the day)
Now they gather under my balcony at sundown and collectively cockledoodledoo ALL NIGHT LONG. Must be HUNDREDS of them. Maybe three or four. But it’s enough to drive you MAD, especially when you are amped up on 60 vodka Red Bulls (as I was last night) or pitifully hung over (as I am today),
Yes, I went out last night. And the night before. I’ve covered a lot of ground (Club Aqua, 801, Bourbon Street Bar), and I can proudly say I have met every drag queen on the island and felt up every Ukrainian gogo boy (of which there are LOTS of them – there must be some underground railroad smuggling them out of their homeland and into servitude here. Very disturbing). I fell in love a dozen times last night, but then I have a soft spot for straight boys who toy with old men’s hearts.
But that was last night. Today, I’m on my way down to the pool at Island House. GOING SHIRTLESS, which is a big step.
I hate my shoulders, see. They’re weird and sloping, like Billie Jo Armstrong’s (from Green Day). Not a pretty sight. And hair everywhere: Shoulders, back, in my ears. I shouldn’t be telling you this. After 40, though, men become silverback gorillas. It just happens. And you can manscape until the chickens come to roost (under your balcony: 6 PM), I mean, you do what you can – but DEAR GOD, it’s relentless.
I once read that reason why post office workers so often go crazy – “go postal” – is that the mail NEVER ENDS. There’s never a point where you can look around and say “we’re finished here” or “job well done!” There’s never a feeling of accomplishment. It just… keeps… coming…
That’s how it is with my creepy rogue hairs. The manscaping just… never… ends…
But I’m not going to obsess about it today. Nope. That’s not on the agenda. Today, I’m going to go and splash around in the pool and not give a fuck.
I’ll keep you posted.
I don’t now why going to a nude resort should make me so uncomfortable. I’m a 47-year-old gay man, for cryin’ out loud. Of COURSE I’ve had my wiener out in public before.
I’ve been to tea-rooms and sex bushes. I’ve gone to the Rambles in NYC, the Wall in Miami Beach, and Vaseline Alley in Los Angeles. I’ve been around the block. I know the score. But that was in the ’90s when I was young and fit and, let’s face it, probably off my tits on some mind-altering, inhibition-blocking substance.
Nowadays? That’s just not me. I can’t get naked in public. I’ve got too many body issues.
I’m a big girl now. Woefully overweight. When I pass my reflection in a storefront window? I see Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette. It’s shocking. Upsetting. I repulse myself.
In gay culture, there are bears and otters and silver foxes, of course. But do you know what they call fat, old, hairless white men?
Yep. I’m a manatee.
And nobody needs to see a naked manatee bobbing in the warm, Florida waters.
So why am I on my way to the Island House in Key West, America’s premiere clothing-optional gay resort? Why would I put myself through this mental anguish? I’ve been asking myself the same thing. Over and over again. I guess it’s a bucket list item. Something I’d never do in a million years… but probably should. I need to confront my fear, conquer my negative body image. Come out of my shell. I’ve been too repressed for too long. After all, my days of swinging from chandeliers and Riverdancing on bars are long gone.
These days, my life consists of blogging, doing my transformations, and going home to watch my stories. Alone. With a bag of Milanos.
It’s a quiet life.
And that’s fine. I like it like that.
I want more.
I want to be free again. Unrestrained. Uninhibited. I don’t want to give a shit what people think.
So let’s see what happens. Let’s see if I can do this.
Here we go….
This is part one of a four-day exploration into the darkest depths of my psyche. Will I break? Will I come out the other side a better man? Will I come back to the World of Wonder offices in a thong and nothing else? We’ll see.