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If the sign outside of Haulover Beach had been any more nonchalant, we might have missed it: “Attention: Beyond this point you may encounter nude bathers.”

Even more casual was the transition from clothed to nude beach.  As we walked up the sandy path towards the beach, we encountered our first penis mixed in with bikinis and swim trunks.

Then, all of a sudden: There were just a few bikinis and swim trunks mixed in with an array of penises and boobs.

I had been excited to cross this Before-I-Turn-30 item off of my Bucket List.  But the cavalier approach to nudity sent me into a temporary panic.

Holy cow.  There are more penises flopping around than an orgy scene in a porno. There are more bare asses than the locker room at the Superbowl. 

And while there were a few women on the beach who had also decided to bare it all, there was a clear difference between the representation of men and women.

I wondered why the amount of men wanting to set their penises free was so much higher than the number of women wanting to liberate their vaginas.

I grabbed on to my boyfriend’s arm nervously as we searched for the perfect place to plop down.  We restlessly wandered almost all of the way to the end of the beach before we realized that the proportion of men to women was becoming more unbalanced, not less.

I can’t be the only woman getting naked among all of these men.  Even if they are gay (as I was sure a bit of them were), I’ll still feel like some vulnerable piece of meat, laid out in front of hungry wolves.

We turned around and headed back to the start of the nude part of Haulover Beach, where we’d seen at least a few other women.  And while the proportion still leaned heavily toward men (and most of the women had opted just to go topless and not all the way nude), I definitely felt more comfortable with the idea of getting naked.

We considered renting an umbrella to protect the parts of our skin that had never seen sunlight.  But $15 felt steep for the hour we were going to be there.

Instead, we found an older nude couple who had a huge umbrella and asked if we could sit under the edge of their umbrella.

They were happy to share.

The normalcy of the exchange was striking.

Sitting in the shade of Naked Older Hippie Couple’s umbrella with our bathing suits on, I felt my heart beat increase.

Am I really about to take off my clothes? I was all excited but now I feel like I’m going to throw up.  This is so surreal.

My boyfriend and I theorized who these people were and what their motivations were for being at a nude beach.  Were they perverts? Were they staunch advocates for the naturalist movement? How does one even end up on a nude beach?

Silence fell over us as we both looked around and pondered the inevitability of our mission.

Off in the distance, some nudists stood in line to buy drinks at a stand. A naked little boy entered the surf with his dad.  A lifeguard stand with tinted windows hovered over the beach like some omnipresent, anonymous overlord.

I wonder how they feel about getting the nudist beach shift, I thought.

As we sat there, a little debate raged in my head.

Well, you’re here now so you might as well do it.

– But really, what point am I even trying to make with this? Is it worth any adverse effects? Is it even healthy to go to a nude beach with your boyfriend? You wouldn’t like him watching a porn or going to a strip club. How is this any different?

– Adam and Eve were naked. It’s natural.  And look at all of these other people who are doing it.  They seem normal enough. This isn’t a sexual thing. It’s a human thing.

– What if someone photographs me? What if someone I know is here?

– Better to regret the things you do than the things you don’t do.

Ultimately, the thought that “I didn’t come all this way just to lay up” superseded everything else. I prepared to disrobe.  I committed to the Band-Aid Theory and set a deadline for myself to take off my bikini top.

When that time came, I pulled the string of my bikini top and took it off.  My boyfriend glanced down at my chest.

“Let’s do this,” I said.

He stood up to pull down his pants as I shed my bikini bottoms.

And just like that, we were standing naked on Haulover Beach, surrounded by dozens of other naked people.

We resolutely started walking toward the water’s edge.  What a bizarre feeling to walk naked past all of these strangers.

And yet, I never once felt like anyone was ogling me.  And I definitely feel like the anxiety leading up to disrobing was worse than the actual being naked part.

We got in the water and I felt free. The water was a great temperature and it was oh-so-nice to throw my arms over my boyfriend’s shoulders and hold on to him. In that moment, it felt like it was just me and him, bobbing along in our own giant bathtub.

A wave threatened to burst our privacy bobble as we were thrown toward a naked man a few feet away.

How awkward would that be if the waves tossed us right into the crotch of that man? I thought, nervously giggling to myself.

But mostly, swimming in the ocean was natural, in-the-nude bliss. The water shielded our private parts for most of the time and yet our nudity enabled us to enjoy the sensuality of the ocean’s motion.

Of course, the downside of that exposure was that sand ended up in those delicate crevices that are usually shielded by bathing suits.  Not gonna lie: That was a little uncomfortable to clean up later.

When we noticed Naked Older Hippie Couple was starting to pack up their things back on shore, we made a move for land.

By the time we reached shore, Naked Older Hippie Couple was now Fully-Clothed Florida Retiree Couple.  I marveled at the fact that, if I had seen them in Walmart, I wouldn’t have given them a second thought. And yet, moments earlier, I had seen them in a form that most people only reserve for their closest loved ones.

How ironic that when we said “Hello” to them, they were the ones naked and we were the ones clothed.  Now as we said “Goodbye,” we were baring all to them as they prepared to re-inter the clothed world in their khaki shorts and polo shirts.

By this time, the experience of being in our birthday suits in front of complete strangers had settled into normalcy – even though it had only been a half hour.  I fancied that, save for our pre-existing tan lines, we must look like regulars to the people just arriving at Haulover Beach.

We sprawled out on our towels and soaked in the sun.

I felt so intimate with my boyfriend as we lay side-by-side and chatted about our weekend plans and the following week.

It was nice. It was refreshing. It felt –  surprisingly ordinary.

The only reminder that it wasn’t was my nipples, which started to feel toasty after a while.

Fearing that burnt nipples might just be the worst pain ever, I flipped over onto my stomach.

Soon after, it was time for us to pack up and head to our evening plans.  As nonchalantly as our nude beach experience had started, so too did it end.

We put on our bathing suits, walked toward the streets and re-entered mainstream society.

The Naked Truth About Our Nudist Beach Experience

Experiencing a nude beach together was a wonderful bonding opportunity as well as a rewarding personal journey.

When you decide to strip down on a public beach, you have no choice but to embrace what the good Lord gave you and take ownership of it.  And that can be scary.

It can also be unnerving to think that your significant other is going to be a in position to compare your body to others.

In fact, my boyfriend would later share that he had been hesitant to partake in the nudist beach experience with me for that reason.  He said he had spent the days leading up to our excursion trying to suppress his male instinct to get defensive every time another man checked me out. He said he worried about whether I’d compare other men’s penises to his, if another man would catch my attention on the beach.

Heck, I’d had similar worries about him.  What if being around other naked women set something in motion in his head that would result in him being unfaithful to me? What if he saw some girl with big boobs and realized how lacking I am?

In the end, I found that those worries were unfounded. Although naked people were all around us, there wasn’t a sexual vibe at all.  I think it helped that the people weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary: They were just enjoying the beach like any other Floridian clad in bathing suit or board shorts would.

The sheer averageness of the bodies also helped: The majority of the people weren’t Jessica Rabbit  or Magic Mike types.  Lumps, side rolls and sagging body parts were well-represented.

When you remove the clothes, all people start to look similar.  Sure there was a spectrum of ages and races represented on the beach, but when you strip all the layers back, aren’t we more alike than different?

It’s remarkable how much kinship you can feel among naked strangers when you don’t have the superficial differences (Louis Vuitton or knock-off? Urban clothing or country wear? Trendy or old-fashioned?) distracting you.

Be well.