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Dear Virgie, 

My friend is getting married and wants to have an intimate gathering of her closest friends to celebrate before the wedding. She emailed all of us asking what we wanted to do, and hot springs ended up making the top 3 and then (to my horror) it got the most votes in the final roundup. I looked the place up, and I don’t know if all hot springs “welcome” nudity but this one does. I haven’t been naked publicly in a really, really, really long time, but I kind of want to do it. I’m just trying to stop my brain from having thoughts like “you have 18 weeks to change any part of you that jiggles.” Should I go? Any tips for dealing with being naked in front of strangers? 

Amelia

Amelia!

I love being naked in front of strangers! I highly recommend it to anyone who’s inclined! And YES, girl, I think you should go (especially if your main anxiety is your jiggly bits, which are wonderful btw).

I remember the first time I went to nude hot springs. It was the recently-burnt-to-the-ground Harbin Hot Springs. Man, that place was full of so many angry new age people! Like, we’re in the middle of the gorgeous-ass woods, and there’s a fucking family of deer staring at you while you take naked hikes, eating kale burgers and drinking bottles of kombucha. Don’t get your blonde dreads in a tangle!

But ANYWAY one of the things I loved about Harbin – besides the woods and the healing waters and occasionally the penis gazing (ok always the penis gazing) – was the diversity of bodies. There were always people of various ages and body sizes. In general, in environments where nudity is welcome, I’ve noticed this same diversity of bodies. So, though I’m not 100% sure what your hot springs experience will be like, I think there’s a good chance you won’t be the only big-bodied person there.

Luckily it sounds like you’re going with some great people. I’ve typically gone to hot springs with great people who have helped make me feel comfortable and babely while in my birthday suit. So let’s talk about some of my recommendations:

1. You do NOT need to lose weight to go to a hot spring

I hatehateHATE that our culture teaches us that only certain bodies get to walk around au natural. All bodies have inherent worth and beauty, and there is something so liberating about just walking around like you’re Eve in the garden of Eden. I want you to know before you go that there is nothing wrong with your body! Your body is great and perfect and fine just the way it is. And fuuuuuuuck anyone who says or thinks differently. That’s their shit, not yours. You don’t need to change your body in any way to have a magical, relaxing and celebratory time with your friends.

Related: Dear Virgie: How Do I Deal With New Years Weight Loss Obsession?

2. If it feels fun and good, I say go for nude whenever the opportunity arises!

There was a time – in fact, a stretch of time that was close to two decades – when I would have rather DIED than allow people to see me naked. And then something magical happened: I got naked on the beach for the first time. I was in Barcelona with some friends, and all I wanted to do was take all my clothes off and run into the Balearic Sea. I knew the water was warm, and the idea of swimming around sounded kind of like heaven. I almost gave into my internalized body shame, but thankfully the sun had set, and it felt a little less vulnerable to strip and run since it was dark. So I did it. That was one of the most memorably amazing moments of my adult life. Girl, being naked is like a special gift. Being naked in water is like taking that special gift and dipping it in peanut butter.

3. Remember you can pack a bathing suit just in case

If you’re sort of on the fence about being totally naked, I recommend having a backup plan in the form of a bathing suit. Just because almost everyone is naked doesn’t mean you have to be. A two- piece is better if you have one. With a two-piece you can choose to wear both bottoms and top or just one, depending on what you want to do. I’ve been to hot springs where there is only one person wearing a bikini, and though I noticed I did not get the sense that anyone cared or thought negatively about her choice to remain partially clothed.

4. Do what feels comfortable 

I just want to underscore the fact that there is no right way to deal with the decision to go nude or not at the hot springs. The best way to make the decision is to go with your gut. If you want to try nudity for 10 minutes and then it doesn’t feel right, then just excuse yourself. If you love it then go with it. Go with your flow.

Related: Dear Virgie: I’m Scared to Rock VBO at a Holiday Party! Should I Do It?

xo,

Virgie

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Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.

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