Photos are via the Clover Spa & Hotel website unless otherwise noted. I was not allowed to take pictures at the actual event.
My dad was not one to wear a towel between the bathroom and bedroom. It seems the daily scenes of his middle-aged schlong bouncing through the house each morning deeply affected me, and any remains of the shame that were guilt-tripped into Adam and Eve were completely ground out.
Around the age of 18, I became a kind of sloppy social nudist. After a certain amount of beer, I would always, without question, find myself naked. It reached the stage where people would bark demands that I undress, or even unsheathe me without my consent, treating my dong like some sort of communal comedic prop.
It took four shameless years, a few brushes with the sex offender's register, and a bunch of drunken debates with police officers regarding the harmless entertainment value of my flaccid penis before the once-uncontrollable drunken instinct thankfully faded.
The author in his drunken, naked youth.
Though my evenings of whoring out my curvaceous form for the cheapest laughs are behind me, I still have no qualms with patrolling sans clothes under the right circumstances.
The Young British Naturists, or YBN, are the hip, happening youth wing of the British Naturism society ("naturism" is what British people call nudism). Naturism has always been an old man's game, but since forming in 1999, the YBN have been striving to entice younger generations to the lifestyle and shift the image of naturism as a pursuit exclusive for wilted pensioners.
YBN's website makes the bold, slightly threatening claim that "not a lot naked happens in this country that we don't know about or get involved in!" But, I would later find out, rather than some lurking, omnipresent nudey entity, they are simply an assortment of 18 to 30 year olds who link up for "safe, fun" unclad get-togethers, to hang out and hang free.
A few months ago, I saw on Twitter that YBN was holding a weekend event at Birmingham's very own Clover Spa & Hotel. As it's the only UK naturist hotel that requires no membership, I figured I'd jiggle in undercover and reveal all. I was curious as to who makes up this band of unclothed societal misfits, and my inner recovering drunken nudist was curious about a sanctioned relapse.
What to expect? I had visions of me waddling through the quaint B&B exterior, only to be dragged by the ankle into some clammy, good-natured gangbang. However, the naked truth of it all was altogether more horrifying.
To prep, I considered a scrotal trim to ingratiate myself to my nude friends; but, through a quick scout of the flesh reclining on the Clover Spa and Hotel website, I gauged that the classic sprawling bouffant is still very much now.
Due to circumstances beyond my flimsy willpower, I found myself drunk, sleepless, and a little drugged up when I arrived.
Upon entering, I was greeted at the reception by the owner, whose kind words and close resemblance to Back to the Future's Dr. Emmet Brown put me at ease. He put my drug-induced scattyness down to first-time nerves, my visible drunkenness to liquid courage.
While changing, I lifted up my trusty paunch to reveal a penis dissolved, barely casting a shadow. He rested like a single pasta shell, defiant and petite, jamming at a right angle to his pill-depleted testicular entourage.
I entered the spa area and didn't know where to look, so I started with an uncalculated scan of all the lounging genitalia in attendance. The gender ratio was like an early AM tour of Chatroulette—i.e., mostly men. Nevertheless, I was pleased my pubic research had paid off. I made an awkward beeline for the steam room.
Inside, I found two nude folks casually chatting away. I tried to politely involve myself, over-agreeing and making intense eye contact.
They left. A dusty old dude sauntered in, stretching in the doorway.
Misreading my friendliness, he began laying his clumsy, geriatric charm down, thick and slimy. This leather-bound lech was smacking his lips, ogling my degenerated junk as if fantasizing about cake. I'm straight, though all for a cheeky harmless flirt, but there was only vapor between me and his advances. I felt a little vulnerable and pretty miffed he had considered me fuckable, concave willy or not. I dodged and weaved seedy praise of my "athletic legs" and "strapping physique" with the age old "mate" + uncomfortable subject shift + "mate" formula.
Having soaked up a quantity of sleaze beyond what politeness required, I left for the bar area, which, apart from the 11 nude people hanging around was much like the bar area of your average B&B. It seemed the Young British Naturist weekend had unsurprisingly attracted a wealth of corrugated male veterans. The few relative spring chickens were mainly YBN reps. They ploughed through their meeting's rigid itinerary, shaping the course of British Youth Naturism with the gravitas of a civil rights discussion.
Somewhere amid this expired sausage fest, I ordered a comforting strawberry hard cider and set about mingling. I clocked a fellow nude-n00b from his pelican-like perch, gawkily resting one foot on top of his knee. Much like my hastily-prepared alias, he had just fancied giving it a go, he told me. Most of the people I spoke to told me they had developed a taste for naturism abroad, mostly with their parents on childhood vacations, while one had been persuaded by what must have been one hell of a leaflet.
They were a tirelessly lovely and welcoming bunch, but they were cursed collectively with near unlawful dullness. So began the relentless onslaught of grueling, painfully adult chit-chat, meat and veg staring me down all the while. Each was as eccentric, charismatic, and quotable as an accountant. To give you a flavor of the wit bouncing about: As I tucked into a baguette, a fellow bar-dwelling naked guy coined a nickname for me.
"We are going to have to start calling you 'Baguette Sam,' aren't we?"
The nickname didn't stick. My bare booty on the fine suede bar stool, however, did. I was gently informed that it's common courtesy to place a towel down. Regretfully, this was not the last naturist spa faux pas of my journey.
The Clover sent me this photo after the event.
Travel arrangements, traffic hot spots, and career peeves were covered at length in the conversation around me, propelled along by the hollow, mandatory chuckling the mature use as punctuation. It was the stale, forced back-and-forth of a chemistry-free breakfast chat show interview.
I learned that silences feel more awkward in the buff. I drank, stifled my personality, drank, and fell back on the corny demeanor I honed while working the tills at a local supermarket where I would make middle-class grannies apply for my adoption on stoned autopilot.
Without the waning effects of the previous evening's drugs, I'd definitely have nodded off. The blazing boredom soon had me longing for the moist, predatory maneuvers of the ancient todger in the steam room. He, at least, kept me on my toes.
These naked folk had traveled from far and wide to fulfill what, for most, was their secret passion. Friends, relatives, and even partners "just wouldn't understand." An old couple just stared expressionlessly ahead or read, pleased to be comfortably bored of each other in this exotic location.
In this bizarre climate, "other times you've hung out naked" replaced "sports" as the universal fallback topic. Rare conversational relief came only from hearing parents speak lovingly of their kids, which is always nice. Sapped of serotonin, I kept catching myself stargazing into some netherly fold or another, wistfully wondering if my emotionally repressed middle-class parents would approve of what I was doing.
I'm no portrait of a spring chicken. But among this gallery of rusting dong and bulging torso, I felt like a glowing specimen of the human race. Even with my gut, I was messiah-svelte. Once acclimated (by which I mean, "drunker"), my shallow subconscious had me strutting through the joint, oozing the pep of a young John Travolta. Wrinkled heads were turning, probably whispering, "Who's this fresh young city slicker storming on to the West Midlands naturist scene and fucking the game up?" Could have also been the pills.
One terminally bronzed, die-hard "regular" had the hair, face, oily demeanor, and, presumably, cock and balls of legendary NBA coach Pat Riley. He slunk in and out of the hot tub, flashing smiles and squelching out exchanges, but I saw a coldness in his eyes. Maybe my youth grated him.
Remembering that I'm a journalist, I started to probe people. And boy did I probe, but the atmospheric conditions were dry, frumpy, and sexless. I heard a tale of one frisky gent being shown the door for wanking violently in a nook off the main bar, and I silently commended this brave soul for daring to be remotely interesting.
The danger of any untoward, southerly stirring was quashed by the pills and the thriving cock population. Though there was one point when I suppressed a single hint of a ball tingle at an attractive, young, clothed member of the staff. Damn, clothes are sexy.
I floated around past the witching hour on the off chance everyone started fucking. Gonads stop eyeballing you after a while as an odd normality sets in. Kicking back in the hot tub beneath a starry sky, balls juggling to the beat of the jets, drunk enough to humor the community and occasionally slip out of role, it dawned on me: Shit, I'm enjoying myself. I'd gone rogue. Deep, deep cover. Stockholm syndrome. I was a functioning naturist, basking in the joys of shedding clothing's oppressive shackles.
There is undoubtedly something calming in being at ease naked. All I heard was how bloody natural it is: "We're born naked, and we die naked." Alright, but I didn't see any of you dilly-dallying to the tub as that brisk West Midlands air pimp-slapped you across the knackers. A shivering, pocket-less existence is downright impractical. Straddling a sun-splashed beach, with some bearable-to-mediocre company, I could see it being pretty fucking pleasant.
Nudity was spoken of as a leveler. Without the uniform fleshiness, my standard faux-tramp-chic-beach-beggar swagger might well have left me ostracized from the suits. Still, with no costume for a billboard most naturists just rattled on indefinitely about their jobs to get their social status across.
Naturists are like the police: You just want to laugh in their face, but they take themselves far, far too seriously. Regular trips to the bathroom were crucial for me to let out gagged laughter and take notes.
The scheduled nude photo-shoot I turned up at the following afternoon to infiltrate was the sole time it was culturally acceptable to acknowledge that being naked is funny.
For the occasion, I tactically shed the choice tuft at the base of my stump, adding a flattering inch of optical illusion. With my system drug-free, my penis had returned to being only averagely unimpressive. We laughed (genuinely), posed, frolicked, and gave off an all-around dishonest impression of the fun levels the Clover Spa & Hotel has to offer.
One flamboyant fellow fatty was a genuine pun-spurting character and kindly took me under his bingo wing. I'd have spent all day with him were it not for my underhand journo motives (thanks and sorry mate).
"Oh so you're Sam? I've heard all about you…." an actual real life, young, naked woman, cattily popped out with. Despite my act, it seems I'd caused some form of a stir in this pool of soporific drips. Perhaps I was drunker than I had thought. I did vaguely recall roaring into an unbelievably serious discussion on the worries of unwanted boners with: "That's why I emptied the tank before hand!" I cracked up until I clocked on to the averted eye contact and shuffling features, as though I'd misjudged the tone at a family dinner.
She was skipping about, clearly enjoying the inevitable ass-bound glances that being the only young female on Planet Wang yields.
If you are on the cusp of being branded a 20-something? If former associates' toddlers are polluting your Facebook feed? If your hangovers are incrementally gathering viciousness and shame? If 18-year-olds are morphing into children? If the precipice of the educational conveyor belt looms? Never fear, the answer is here.
Just pop along to a YBN meet for a comprehensive mental, physical, and spiritual checkup. I feel like I vacationed with Father Time and spent a few lazy afternoons being waterboarded with the elixir of life. Before traveling cross-country to exchange pleasantries with a congregation of dick-swinging dullards somehow transforms into nonstop funzies, I assure you, there is plenty of living to be had. At least, I fucking well hope so.
Plus, in a sneaky, fruitless attempt to access the photos from the shoot, I'm now an official member of the YBN. In the future, should a situation call to whip my penis out of retirement, my wallet is loaded with a certified nudity license to flash in the face of any naysaying po-po.
Follow Sam Briggs on Twitter.