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Lucy Vincent Wasn't a Nudist . . .

That hasn't stopped beach-goers from baring all at the beach that bears her name.

Today’s lesson will cover the sociological and historic ramifications of a notorious nudist beach right here on the Island. How about a show of hands for everyone who’s modeled his or her birthday suit on in Chilmark?

Let’s start with the premise that all people love to be naked. (There may be some exceptions—Emily Post, the Ayatollah Khomeini (I’m just guessing on that one; no fatwah, please). But here’s how Dr. Nadler PhD (received by mail order) can prove that virtually all people enjoy the luxe sensation of la vie au naturel:

A few years back, a lady in her, oh, late sixties at the Chilmark Women’s Symposium told the story of a mini Outward Bound trip she’d taken a few years back. Several dozen women of all ages scattered to find a solitary nook in the mountains, alone for a day and a night. This particular lady, setting up camp on a secluded ledge, decided to remove her clothes. The sun on her skin—all of it—felt fantastic! Later she crawled naked into her sleeping bag, awoke in the morning, and fixed breakfast in the buff. Reluctantly, she put on her jeans, shirt, shoes and socks to return to base camp. Well, guess what? When all the campers debriefed each other, it turned out every one of them had stripped off her clothes and stayed stripped.

Everything feels better bare-skinned: walking around your house, hot-tubbing, eating ice cream (much easier to clean—i.e.., wipe with your finger and lick—if you plop some on your chest).

But loving to be naked all by your lonesome (or with a significant other) is an entirely different proposition than loving to be naked in a crowd of other nudie-cuties—or not-so-cuties.

And here’s a red alert: The terminology has changed. Nudists are now naturists and non-nudists are referred to as textiles.

Vineyarders who are textiles wonder why people go to Lucy Vincent Beach to be naturists. Who needs to engage in nudity with an equally bare-bummed swarm of strangers, your dog-walker, that famous lawyer dude and your post mistress? And, of course, naturists think textiles are uptight, insecure neurotics without a fun-loving bone in their amply covered bodies. 

An earlier contingent at Lucy Vincent back in the 1960s called the site Jungle Beach, because they trespassed to get there by hacking through the underbrush with a machete. These beautiful, young, free-spirited hippies played volleyball and stick-ball, swam, sun-bathed, nursed their babies, and frolicked to the beat of a Rasta musician’s drums. It sounds jolly, unless you’ve always been a textile, even in your hippie days. Even on mescaline.

Naturists will assure you that no one is sexually aroused by a massed group of unclad bodies. They associate this kind of omni-nudity as sport: It’s about volleyball and freedom. Funnily enough, male nudists admit that the minute they leave the nudist camp or beach, they’re turned on by girls in clothes!

But back to our story. At a certain point the rumble in the Jungle was over. The town of Chilmark put up a parking lot (just like the Joni Mitchell song) and issued permits to property owners. Some of the original flower children still live in those environs, and they continue to frequent the naked part of the beach. But as the acid-tongued Island comedian Marty Nadler put it, “Sixty is not the new 20, especially if you’re nude.”

Sadly, much of the sand has washed away in recent years. What the Chilmark beacherinos have now, on any given summer day, is a tightly packed array of umbrellas, portable chairs to protect sensitive body parts from sand, wide-brimmed hats and, surprisingly, T-shirts worn with nothing else, cell phones, iPods and—steady on now—laptops! Almost everyone who plays volleyball these days is closed.

It sounds a little joyless, a little . . . inhibited.

But joyless or not, is this naturism what the lady for whom the beach is named intended?

Good heavens, no!

Her cousin from a younger generation, Jane Slater, believes the proper Victorian Lucy Vincent, librarian, bird-watcher and gardener, must be whirly-gigging in her grave, not only because her name appears on lists that include St. Tropez and Mar Bella, Barcelona as among the world’s glam nudie hot spots, but because she had no desire to bequeath her coastal acres to the town.

At her death in 1970, she willed the shore to her heirs (whom she’d forbidden to play there; the waves were dangerous). A consortium of rich men bought the property, leased it to the town and the rest is swimsuit-optional history.

So if you’re living on the Chilmark rez, come on down to the incredibly shrinking sands and rip off those textiles. Don’t forget sunblock, your leather-bound Kindle, and a latte-machine on a very long cord.

I kid those Chilmarkers! 

Mo Man May 23, 2011 at 10:53 AM
thanks Holly.. shrinkage notwithstanding, nude beaching on LVB will always be one of my all-time favorite memories and things-I-have-done.. see you out there this summer!
David Whitmon May 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM
Thank You Holly. That was wonderful. Those days, so many years ago, to many decades, nude on the beach. Some of the best times of my life. I sent a picture to my British mother of my self, nude, nut brown with not an ounce of fat on this once youthful body. I was holding a mass of sea weed in a manner to cover what is known by Python fans as, "The Naughty Bits"...(-; The following Thanksgiving I was at my mom's house with brother and sister to share that time together. I was purposely and over intently looking to see if that picture was on display anywhere. My mom asked what I was looking for. I said, the photo that I had sent her earlier that Summer. She asked what photo and I replied, the one on the beach. She paused for a moment and then the poor woman turned crimson. My sister picked right up on the moment and the silliness ensued......(-; Those were the days.
Dick May 23, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Thanks Holly, Unfortunately I live in VH, have no machete, & like Marty, Am over the hump!
Holly Nadler May 23, 2011 at 12:10 PM
I have to confess I'm a textile, but have always been fascinated -- from afar -- by the whole L.V. scene. I once took my bikini top off at St. Tropez but it was embarrassing because I was the only woman on the beach without a fully tanned torso, therefore I LOOKED more undressed. This was back in '71 and there was an audience of clothed male tourists gawking the topless French babes. Some were even blatant enough to have binoculars even though they were only about twenty yards away. Thank God the long hike in at Lucy Vincent discourages that kind of voyeurism!
Michael West May 23, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Want to hear a somewhat funny anecdote about the cops on Lucy Vincent back in the day? Don't want to be too controversial...so let me know, Holly.
dana May 23, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Any real nudists here ? I would like to recommend you to the world's best and largest nudist dating site for world wide nudists , naturists and naked people to share nude photos and experiences and chat with real nudists Lots of fun on nudistconnect.com
Maggie Dempsey May 23, 2011 at 04:18 PM
My friends and I prefer going to the nude section at LVB, simply because its less crowded than the section closer to the parking lot. We canoe across the ponds, come out near the volleyball court and head straight for the nudists, to beat the crush of the summer crowds. Thats' always been my LV strategy, anyways!
Holly Nadler May 23, 2011 at 04:33 PM
I'm definitely chumming for funny Lucy Vincent anecdotes for a sequel to this story, so email me if you dare. Anonymity is also available on demand.
Trina Mascott May 23, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Holly, your father and I once stayed at a hotel on Denmark's north coast. To my initial horror, the hotel's beach was 100% naked, babes to grandmas. I was wearing a bikini and reluctantly took off the bottom, and, finally, the top. The first few minutes were painful and I was sure that everyone was staring at me, but when I looked up, nobody was! Your father, however, was looking around with a gleeful expression. "I never knew there was such a variety of breasts," he said. "No," I countered, "you thought they were all perfect like mine!" TRINA MASCOTT
Betty Burton May 23, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I spent sometime writing what I thought was a "little comment". Hey what do I know? I wasn't counting my words. I would have been glad to shorten it, but instead it disappeared. What's up? Can I have my story back please?
Vanessa Czarnecki May 23, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Sorry, Betty, afraid that's beyond my control!
Betty Burton May 23, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Rats! Thanks Vanessa. Pretty funny, I have never thought of myself as a Tolstoy, but more a meanderer that got carried away. Maybe a warning to folks that there is a limit? Did I miss it?
Michael West May 23, 2011 at 08:23 PM
These comment boxes are a bit docey, suggest working out the piece in a word processing app and then pasting it in...
Holly Nadler May 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Hey, Mom, you've just cleared up some issues I've had to work out in therapy! Love you!
kiera howell May 24, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Docey - docey?- comments aside, I love going to the nude beach and can tell lots of stories, but only under the haze of anonymity. I only go when other nudists are with me as they do not oogle.
Lynda Grady May 24, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Good golly, Miss Holly! You are the bee's knees...so clever and witty are you, my darling funny girl (Babs ain't got nothin' on you!). And now I see where you get your innate "quip-ability" --- from your equally saucy and dear mama, who definitely knows how to turn a phrase, tell a story, and deliver the perfect, juicy last word to her man! What an incomparable comeback to his comment --- love it...love you...and love HER, now, too! Your pithy observations on the lovely, insular world that is MV never fail to make me laugh and always brighten my days immeasurably --- may they continue ad infinitum!
joy May 24, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Hilarious. Not to my mom -- if you have a similiar story I dont want to know. I am happy enough to read Trina's story.
Michael West May 24, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Lucy Vincent Memory, Part 1 One day way back in time I was on Lucy Vincent Beach, the part of the beach to the left as you enter, way past the families with small children, past the famous lawyer in his white caftan talking on his cellphone about OJ, and past twenty-something hippies playing frisbee and kadima, a paddle-ball game, in their birthday suits -- almost as far as you could go. Of course, it wasn’t as far as blue mailbox beach, but it was quite a ways down. I was lying on my towel, resting after having just done a little body surfing when I spotted an official-looking four-wheeler coming toward me from a distance, tracking down by the water’s edge.
Michael West May 24, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Lucy Vincent Memory, Part 2 The jeep passed me and came to a stop about ten feet from where I was lying in cobra pose on my towel. Out hopped four summer cops in uniform. Now I was a bit concerned because there had been some busts on Lucy Vincent that summer, although it seemed the Chilmark police had all but given up trying to stamp out beach nudity. One of the cops was gesturing to the others and the three got back into their vehicle and began to depart. However, they hadn’t gotten more than a few feet before they were spinning wheels in the softer, drier sand a little ways up from the water’s edge.
Michael West May 24, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Lucy Vincent Memory, Part 3 I slipped on my bathing suit, warily, and wandered down to see if I could help. Two of the hippie guys, their male equipment flopping, jogged over to join the party. The cops and the hippies and I put our weight behind the jeep and managed to get it moving down toward the water's edge where the sand was much firmer. They took off with grateful waves of their uniformed arms, and the naked hippies and I went back to where we had been. One of the four uniforms, who had stayed behind, walked a little past me to a spot he had picked out, stripped off his uniform and lay down in the sand to catch some rays. Those were the days.
Maggie Dempsey May 24, 2011 at 03:58 PM
A few summers ago, some friends and I were in the nude section of LV and were coming back from a quick canoe ride around the ponds, and were just returning to our towels. As I sat down, I heard a male voice come from behind us and say, "Can I ask you a question?" I was busying myself getting some lunch from our bags, so I replied without turning around, "Sure, what's up?" The man explained that his friend had fallen asleep across both of their towels and would we mind letting him dry off with one of ours, since we had four towels lain out and only two of us had come up from the pond. I said, of course, and out of the corner of my eye, saw him pick up one of the towels... He made conversation as he dried himself, commenting on the perfect day, the waves, etc. and I FINALLY turned around, sandwich in hand and noticed he was buck naked! Trying to stifle my initial surprise, we conversed for a few more brief moments while he finished drying himself, he returned the towel and went back to his own spot on the beach. My friend and I looked at each other for a moment, still caught off-kilter by the close encounter of a nude kind, and I said "Well, that was different! What should we have said?" wondering out loud, to which my friend replied, without skipping a beat: "Congratulations!"
Holly Nadler May 24, 2011 at 04:17 PM
I envy you guys with your Zorba The Greek, "Let's strip off our clothes and jump in the water!" mentality. I'm such a "textile", I'd love for a return of the long bathing gowns of 1910 Oak Bluffs. Of course I could do without the woolen stockings -- itchy! icky! And I'd happily do the Zorba thing if everyone put their hands over their eyes!

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