[Continuing Jon's story from part 1...]
Selecting my campsite, I got out of the van and immediately stripped nude before doing anything else. After setting up camp I wandered around and nervously introduced myself to surrounding neighbors. I let each of them know my purpose for attending the festival was to be nude for the entire time. No one voiced objections or concern. Over a period of time I saw most of these neighbors engaged in occasional casual nudity around their campsites. Later, I observed two other individuals a little further away who also were always nude.
When I set out to explore the festival site that first morning I was still nervous and very conscious of my nudity. It felt like the whole world was watching. As I searched for Center City I saw a lot people who were nearly nude in costumes that in any other setting would be deemed erotic. But I was still the only completely nude person in sight and was beginning to wonder if I had made a big mistake. After about a half an hour, I finally saw another nude guy. Soon, others were spotted in the crowd. Satisfied that I was not a lone nude eliminated much of my nervousness.
Center City dispelled any further hesitations. It is a huge circular tent-like structure, about 200 feet in diameter. It's a desert version of a Starbuck's coffee shop with a lot more attractions. Best of all, it was shaded. Coffee and tea were available along one side on the outer edge. In the middle was a large circular area for performance artists. Surrounding the area were benches, couches, easy chairs and cushions for people sit and relax, drink their coffee, converse and watch or interact with the various activities going on around them. There were also two stages for scheduled performances.
The crowd numbered in the hundreds as they came and went. It didn't take long to feel quite at ease being nude as I elbowed my way through the crowd. No one was alarmed to turn and suddenly discover they were standing six inches from a naked guy! Eventually I saw a nude woman in the crowd. Seeing her, all remaining concerns melted away and knew I would have no further problem being nude for the remainder of my stay.
I'm not particularly 'courageous.' I was a little nervous at the start of this venture because it is basically a textile venue, and who knows what to expect in a mob of 30,000. But where nudity is legal, customary or tolerated, I have had no problem participating because most other participants are nude. Burning Man was an entirely different situation.
It is an amazing experience to get up in the morning and stroll the half mile to 'Center City' for coffee, a newspaper, and watch the parade of people and performance artists, all while nude. Often time, I was the only nude in sight. Festival participants are basically textiles, but with a difference. As a massive outdoor art show where everyone is expected to participate, most dress in outrageous costumes. Near nudity seemed to be the uniform of the day. Topless was common, as were bikini bottoms, thongs, g-strings and sarongs for the gals. Many guys sported sarongs and kilts, even skirts. Quite a few were 'costumed' only in body paint. And then there was a small minority, like me, mostly male, who were completely nude.
It didn't take long to become accustomed to living nude among textiles. It was an ordinary state of being. And there was no indication the textiled mass cared otherwise. I became perfectly at ease being the only nude in a conversational group or the only nude in sight as I wandered the miles of temporary streets. One morning I approached the Bureau of Land Management trailer to look at the brochures describing the Black Rock Desert where the event is held. A uniformed ranger stepped out and welcomed me. We had a long conversation about the geology and history of the area. Not once did he indicate my nudity was offensive, out of place or unwelcome. Contacts with local Nevada law enforcement officials were the same, but I doubt their acceptance extended beyond the festival site boundary.
Wandering about the enormous temporary city, it was not uncommon to be the only nude in a crowd of hundreds. Nobody cared, stared, or said a thing. It became evident that although most participants might not stroll around completely nude, a very significant number had little hesitation engaging in casual nudity around their campsite while dressing, showering or just hanging out. Interesting to speculate if this attitude might apply to the US population in general, or are the participants just different from everyone else.
An interesting commentary on nudity developed in the locally produced festival newspapers. It appeared a trend was noted when a number of males were observed wearing only unbuttoned shirts. Did the writers tell them to cover up or put on pants or shorts? Quite the opposite. Their opinion was wearing only a shirt looked stupid and it would be much better aesthetically if the fashion offenders dispensed with the shirts and went nude!
[Part 3 (final)]