I started my first shift at the resort’s restaurant, donned in a t-shirt emblazoned with its logo, and I wanted for the dinner rush. It was a Friday night: the first night the restaurant was open for the weekend, and we waited. I spent much of my night cleaning tables, making sure everything was just right, and chatting with the restaurant manager about various tidbits. We exchanged common topics: where are you from, what do you do, where do you live, is this your first time at a nudist resort, etc. My first night was hardly memorable except for the guest who placed a to-go order for $22, handed me a $100, and told me to “keep the change” and “welcome to [the resort.]”
Like any other locale in which persons come together, there are groups that form. I would say “cliques,” but that term often connotates negativity, and not all of the groups (majority of them) were “cliquey” or rude or negative in any way. Now, while you’re reading this, and you’re waiting for me to get into x-rated details about various body parts and hoping for some juicy details, let’s talk about boobs.
That’s right. I said, “boobs.” I’m talking breasts on the female anatomy – upper body extremities as I like to call them. Without diving into a conversation about gender, sex, etc. we’ll just say that for many women boobs, whether small or large, is what many women used to define themselves as the move from childhood to adulthood. We don’t even need to have children to watch sitcoms about training bras, boobs, yadda yadda yadda. But what happens when those are taken away?
And that…is the topic for Group 1: the breast cancer survivors.
First-timers to nudist resorts generally started out shy, but within a few hours (or minutes), they were comfortable with where they were and who they were, and they shed their clothes and their shyness. Young, young-at-heart, pale, tan, athletic, larger, men, women, all. There was one group that contained members that took a little longer to shed their clothes and burst forth with a smile and new-found friendships. These were women who were breast cancer survivors and had also had a single or double mastectomy. For decades women were taught that breasts/boobs are women – “welcome to adulthood, here’s your over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder.” What does it mean, then, when cancer takes that body part from you? Are you less of a woman? Of course, you’re not less of a woman. You’re a fighter who flipped a big ole “fuck you” finger at cancer, and you beat it. But that doesn’t mean if you had a mastectomy that you are 100% confident with the new, physical you, and you surely don’t know what to expect removing even your shirt at a nudist resort.
Identifying breast cancer survivors who underwent a mastectomy/mastectomies became easier, and I don’t say that in terms of using it as a game. It became more of a “oh, wait and see. I’m so excited for you” because they had no idea what was going to happen. And so we meet “Beth.” “Beth” came to the resort by herself. Beth was in her early 40s and had a single mastectomy. She wore a long, denim shirt and a hat. Because this was more of a clothing optional resort rather than an all-out nudist resort, clothing was permitted for walking around, etc. And Beth was shy. She was very quiet at Saturday breakfast, and she kept to herself. She was a first-timer and didn’t know what to expect, and at the time, I didn’t know she was a survivor.
The next time I saw Beth after breakfast, she was being approached by Group 1 in all their glory: four women of various shapes and sizes with one thing in common: they were all breast cancer survivors, and they all had undergone a single or double mastectomy. They approached Beth because some how word had spread that Beth was a cancer survivor and had a single mastectomy. Group 1 approached Beth with all the love and fervor that any human can muster and immediately introduced themselves, proudly displaying bare chests (bare everything) and huge smiles. They quickly went over their stats: “single, 1998,” “double, 1994,” “single, 2000.” They discussed other details. These were not the type of stats most people would expect to share with a total stranger or at a resort of this type, but there they were. And then it happened.
And Group 1 embraced her and comforted her. They spoke softly to her until one of them handed Beth a plastic cup, words were spoken, there was a “Hell yeah!” and a thudding of plastic cups against one another, and Beth was now a member of Group 1.
The next time I saw Beth it was lunchtime. She wore a hat, and her denim shirt was replaced with relief and a huge smile.
Beth became a regular, and she joined Group 1 in welcoming new members throughout the season.