It started in Berlin. I was living there for the summer and my boyfriend and I were having dinner with some friends we’d known in Chiang Mai. We were sitting outside at one of my favorite Turkish restaurants in Neukölln (This one, it’s delicious. You’re welcome.) and they were telling us about all the different things they’d already done in Berlin that day. They ate burgers, here, saw a statue there, went to a nude bathhouse. A coed. Nude. Bathhouse.
Hold the phone.
Now these are two grown heterosexual American men. Call me a prude, but I was shocked. Mostly intrigued, but also shocked.
What did they do there? They said they had gone for over 4 hours. Were they just sitting around holding their junk in a steam room that whole time? Not possible! They’d die. (Don’t fact check me on that. I don’t actually know the length of time a human can physically spend in a steam room before kicking it.)
Throughout the conversation, they seemed perfectly at ease with the whole thing, and were even talking about going back before they left town. There were apparently multiple steam rooms, and saunas, and cold plunge pools, and even a DJ and a bar!
Needlesstosay, I was sold. I needed to go to the coed nude bathhouse.
My boyfriend (bless him) was always open minded about these things, and supported any opportunity that came about where I could celebrate my womanhood and my body without shame. He was in.
So the next day we looked up the Liquidrom Bathhouse, and hopped the U-Bahn. When we got there, we forked over our credit cards, and headed to our respective changing rooms. Well, not until after I grilled the front desk man about every possible detail.
Where was nudity mandatory? In which pools were swimsuits mandatory? Was there a limit to the number of drinks a person could order? Was he sure there wasn't a limit?
I was such an American.
So we go into our change rooms, and immediately something feels off. My boyfriend had walked into the room next to me, but I could still feel his presence. Not in like a “he’s always with me” kind of way, this isn’t that kind of post. But in that he was literally. Still. Right next to me.
I looked up and realized that I could see in the entire men’s changing room. And that they could see in ours. There were no walls! What was the point of the whole separate door charade??
We laughed awkwardly, and gave each other that “We got this” look of support before stripping down to our skivvies and heading out the other side of the locker room to the unknown.
What we found was incredible.
Everywhere we looked, men and women were lounging naked, drinking cocktails naked. Sitting in glass-walled saunas naked. And no one seemed to give a DAMN that people could see their naked bits, and they could see everyone else’s.
We spent the next four hours canoodling in the hot tubs, on the lounge chairs, and in the saltwater pool room with the DJ.
Other couples all around us seemed to be doing the same thing, so we didn’t feel like it was taboo to show affection. Remember, NO ONE CARES YOU’RE NAKED. It’s Europe. They have advertisements on the subway showing more skin than you do at the beach in the states. Bless your heart.
The liberation we felt after that experience was hard to shake. And why should we?
A year later, we found ourselves in Spain and decided to venture out to a nude beach to bare it all once again. Spanish people are not new to the concept of going topless, much like other parts of Europe.
That being said, you’d think it would be easier to access the nude beaches. We took a train an hour or so north of where we were staying, and then hiked a good 30 minutes along the coast. It was beautiful, of course, but damn the sangria from the night before was showing her face with every minute that the sun beat down on us.
When we finally reached the stretch of shore deemed naked-territory, we ditched our sweaty suits, and cuddled up under an umbrella. Groups of Spanish people chatted around us as we all just hung out with our stuff out. It was refreshing and liberating and one of the moments I’ve felt most alive.
The ocean breeze, the gritty sand. My white ass out for the sun to scorch. The sheer amount of fucks not given. It was awesome.
I look back on my time in Vietnam, when I would go to the sauna and cold plunge pool at my gym. All of the women there were butt-ass naked. Except me. I wore a bathing suit. They would sit in the sauna giving each other massages—naked-- and I would sit there in my Victoria’s Secret bathing suit, hiding.
They had lady bits. I had lady bits. Who carrrres?
I feel regretful that I was so embarrassed. How good would that cold plunge pool have felt without my bathing suit as a barrier? How much more relaxed would the sauna have made me feel if I wasn’t so busy trying to sit comfortably with a stick up my ass?
I feel grateful for having had such a supporting partner to usher me through those moments of liberation. And for always supporting my desire to be nude behind closed doors, and sometimes outside of them.
There are enough things in the world to be anxious about, our bodies don’t need to be one of them. (Pssst, half the world is working with the same goods you got. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before!)
Does this mean I’m one of those "free-spirits" who walks around all my American friends in the nude now? No. I respect that people have boundaries, and societal norms would have me wear clothes in most social situations in America.
I am however much more inclined to bare it all, and not think twice about doing so. I’m much more inclined to support anyone who feels comfortable with their body enough to bare it, or who wants to feel that way.
Life is short, go swim naked once in awhile.