I don’t know what comes to mind when you hear the term “clothing-optional resort,” but in this girl’s twisted head, I envisioned orgies a la Playboy mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Smith revivifying their marriage and cabana boys resembling Gael Garcia Bernal serving daiquiris. Naturally, when my husband asked me if I wanted to accompany him while he films a promotional video in Palm Springs for such a paradise, I jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately my research—Travel Advisor, Google, and the resort’s website—quashed any expectations I had for a Caligulan adventure. Nevertheless, considering the Desert Fountain Inn’s short history, the reviews were impressive and I was happy to be leaving LA. The catch, however, was that the Inn only had fourteen rooms, and three were going to be occupied by our team. That’s right; it wouldn’t just be Tamas and me. One of his good friends and another colleague would be with him for the shoot. That was when the anxiety hit. Exposing myself to strangers is one thing, but to strange men I know, yikes! Though it was a challenge, I refrained from dwelling on this detail. I couldn’t bare to miss this opportunity to satisfy my voyeuristic and exhibitionist curiosity, especially since it was free.

When we arrived at the gates of this desert oasis, we were greeted by a spunky older man’s head peaking out from behind a door. Suddenly, eye contact was crucial. Richard’s avuncular effervescence surprisingly put us all at ease while he gave us the tour. Our rooms were lovely—freshly scented and accoutered with Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and mint infused lip balm. He then proudly escorted us to the back of the premises to show off the crown jewel of his humble hotel, the Jacuzzi, or what he fondly referred to as the Love Tub. This was where the lot of them congregated. And it was now apparent that we had stepped into another—very naked—world.

I’ve skinny dipped before, but that was a result of consuming copious amounts of liquor. This time all I had was a complimentary bottle of Charles Shaw to impair my inhibitions. Nevertheless, I swigged the room temperature two buck chuck like it was a shot of tequila. The only thing left for me to do was strip, not that it was required. After all, Richard had assured us, upon our arrival, that the operative word there was “optional.” Still, we didn’t want to stand out. Hoping to avoid the spectacle of the strategically placed towel that screamed “newbie,” Tamas and I self-consciously carried them to our sides—flaunting our blinding whiteness.

After the initial mortification of seeing my husband’s friends naked, and worse, them seeing me, our late night swim became liberating, at least that's what I told myself. I began to appreciate this lifestyle and was willing to embrace it, if for no other reason than not having to hang out my suit to dry. Of course, it was an added benefit that it was dark and most of the guests were soaking in the Love Tub, which gave the four of us time to explore our own discomfort of swimming nude trying our best to keep focused on each others’ faces.

I must have slept off my courage though because by the time morning came, I lost my nerve and paced around the room until my blood sugar was at such an unhealthy low that I was forced to leave—clothed— to eat breakfast.

Karen and Richard, the affable owners were in the reception area naked behind the front desk. We chatted while I toasted my bagel—perhaps the longest two minutes ever. They were happy to talk about their lifestyle and empathetic to the struggle of the first timer. I started tiptoeing around how I should refer to them as a group and finally I just blurted out “nudist.” Richard politely modeled back “naturalist.” Abashed, I understood what it must be like to be corrected for saying “Oriental” instead of “Asian.”

When I returned to my shelter, I focused on mustering up enough tenacity to join the others for fun in the sun. I must have spent one hour applying SPF 40 over every ounce of my body. I also tweezed my eyebrows, shaved my legs, cleaned the room, and drank water, lots of it. Finally, when there was nothing left for me to do, I stepped out of the room, and into the courtyard in broad daylight, naked and alone. I laid down my book and sunglasses at the ledge and then splashed into the pool, remaining in an area of deepness that would conceal my body from the others. I kept to myself treading water and reading—or at least pretending to. It wasn’t just that the pages were waterlogged, it was impossible to focus with a gorgeous, albeit Almodovarian transgendered woman doing the butterfly stroke, shaven male genitals swinging by, and a plethora of enhanced breasts every which way.

But then I overheard another group of nudies in their forties teasing their friend about it being her first time. I was happy to come clean myself—as if it weren’t already obvious—and share my experience. Within minutes, they were all talking about their first times and how rewarding not having tan lines can be. One jocular human resources executive even suggested that maybe I should have self-tanned before the trip to escape the spectacle of my ghostliness.

It took me a couple of hours before I was able to hop on a raft and float above water. But once I was comfortable enough I cherished the ethereal sensation.

Lunchtime proved to be the real test as I pondered whether I should eat naked with the others or put on my clothes for a more kosher dining experience. I compromised and sought out a place on the plush lawn away from the rest of the guests and lied on my belly the entire time—definitely not the best way to ingest food. Tamas and his friends joined me clothed because they were "NOT working naked." It was apparent that everyone was trying their best to be ok with the situation. I ate as fast as I could and ran back to the pool to take refuge. I know the rule about staying out of the water for a half an hour after eating, but believe me, stomach cramps were a small price to pay.

By the end of the day I was all watered, sunned and nuded out. It was a relief to put on clothes and leave the grounds for dinner. I like my clothes; I like the way the cotton rubs against my body or covers parts that shouldn’t be visible to my husband’s friends. But I can’t necessarily say I felt more comfortable. While at the resort, I was met mostly with eye contact. It was in the outside world that men and women give you the once over and vice versa. So yes, it was refreshing to get beyond the awkwardness and realize that some things aren’t that big of a deal. And not having tan lines was merely the cherry on top. Does this mean that I will carelessly walk into the kitchen naked when Tamas’ friend is visiting because he’s already seen me this way? Yeah, right.

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