Naturist Podcast Ep. 10 // LIVE! from Palm Springs: How to throw a Safe Skinny Dipper Event with Special Guest Skinny Dipper Club Member and our friend, Tracy.

What does diversity and inclusion really mean?

What do people look for when wanting to know if a nude space is safe for them?

What kind of language and imagery are you using that may be triggering or off-putting?

Two weeks ago Jeremy and I were in Palm Springs solidifying our hotel take-over partnership with Tuscany Manor in Palm Springs.

We chose Tuscany Manor as our hotel take-over event destination because they are welcoming to all. We are very excited to be able to provide a space for all to feel welcome at our upcoming events.

While we were there we recorded our Podcast LIVE! On How to throw Safe Skinny Dipper Events. We cover:

What does diversity and inclusion really mean?

What do people look for when wanting to know if a nude space is safe for them?

What kind of language and imagery are you using that may be triggering or off-putting?

“My whole life I’ve been watching people vote on my very existence. I’ve been reading between the lines. Not taking a stance IS a stance. If you don’t say anything or make it explicitly clear that your space is open and available to everybody…that’s a stance.”
@PassiveBull
Skinny Dippers Club member

“We could talk for days when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I probably in another life may have even been someone who was like, I don’t know, a diversity and inclusion professional in some way. I’m such a nerd about it. And I, I love it. And I think that’s the thing about your community that spoke to me. You know, you proudly displayed a writing by a gay guy and you proudly display your rainbow and you have no qualms at all about letting the entire world know who you are. And with that, it just like speaks to my soul because I’m such a contrarian and I’m, anti-establishment, you’re also simultaneously giving a big, like F you to all of that!

And I just, I just love that because that’s just who I am at my core. I’m not gonna beat your door down to try to get you to like me. I’m definitely not going to beg you to be my friend. We’re not doing any of that. I am too old. I’m too grown. I’m too tired. I’m not doing it. What I will do is go over here and I’ll build my own thing. And you’ll wish you were over here in the end.”

>>FOLLOW ME TO PODCAST NO. 10

 

If you plan on making your own event this coming year, and you need some like code of ethics guidelines, consent policy for events, or a roadmap head over to

www.skinnydipperevents.com

Naturism and its Positive Effects on Mental Health

When I think about why we do what we do with Skinny Dippers Club and the Global Naturist Alliance, it actually has little to do with being a nudist and everything to do with community. Naturism, for me, is where environmentalism, social nudism, and feminism collide.
Mandy Zelinka
Skinny Dippers Club

How did you get started in Social Nudism?

I’m a lifelong entrepreneur. Ask me a question, and I’ll likely break the answer down to marketing. I’m a total nerd that loves market research and business strategy as much as I love a perfect red lip.

But here’s the thing. Entrepreneurship can be hella lonely.

A few years back, I worked so hard on my business that I kept pushing the need to write a speech for Alt Summit back. The further I pushed back writing the speech, the more my anxiety rose. I was a wreck.

Alt Summit is a big deal for a creative entrepreneur. It’s held in Palm Springs every year, and it brings out the most creative of the creatives. The 20% of the 20%. The top 4% of the creatives of entrepreneurship. It’s like a gathering of Weiden & Kennedy wanna-be’s. It’s an important event.

And I had two weeks to deliver a speech that I had yet to write. I felt like a failure.

When Jeremy told me not to worry about the speech and instead head to a boutique clothing-optional hotel in Palm Springs, I didn’t blink an eye. I wasn’t a nudist, but I also wasn’t even close to producing a speech. I was just too burnt out on life to do anything but say, “Sure. I can still wear my bikini, right?”

I would gladly take the offer of a real vacation, but I wasn’t about to give in to that whole *running around naked* thing.

I was mostly pissed at myself because Alt Summit was founded by @DesignMom, an absolute badass on Twitter. I wouldn’t say I liked feeling like I let her down. It sucked because I really admire her.

But I also knew in my heart that this was the right decision. I already felt like this was going to be a life-changing vacation, and it was.

The mental health benefits combined with body positivity are the number one reason I think more people should get into running around naked outside (or inside!) It was the no. 1 reason my husband was finally able to survive his PTSD demons. It’s nearly alleviated my need for drugs to combat ADHD and anxiety. And I’ve always been pretty body-positive, but I must tell you that being socially naked takes it to a whole new level of comfort.

And for both of us, the reason this works so well is the community. Having been a status quo disruptor my whole life, I get bored by ordinary people. And Jeremy has been able to find like-minded folks like never before.

Naturism, as well as our Skinny Dippers Club, is phenomenal for anyone needing a mental health break, whether that’s the ability to step outside naked or simply having a community of people to hang out pantsless with at your fingertips. 

Running around naked makes hanging out with friends a lot more fun. When you can drop the pretenses as fast as you drop your drawers you’re headed for fun faster.

In life, you can either laugh, or you can cry.

I prefer to have fun. 

Thank you for being here.

 

From one of my former students:

“You won’t be disappointed. Mandy is the cool kid and the “nerd” wrapped in one. She’s brilliant, witty and trips out on metrics to move the needle forward in business. The best part is that she understands marketing and people and that’s vital if you want to grow.”

Thank you for being here.

Jeremy and I did a podcast a few weeks back, and it’s all about how naturism (how you experience being naked in nature) has helped him with his survival of PTSD. This prompted me to talk to my other internet friend named Tracy, who is super famous for her ADHD for Badass Women podcast. (I feel honored to have had her gone through my branding class because, OMG, what a fantastic name for a podcast, right?) 

But it also made me realize; finally, some of the extraordinary effects naturism has had on me. I say “finally” because some things had to change around the nude park before I could truly enjoy what it means to live here. Our Trump-supporting neighbors finally bounced, which decreased my anxiety to an almost non-existent level. 

As I started feeling safe around my neighborhood again (we are on 40 acres total, but the space that all of the people live on is around five, so it feels like two neighborhood blocks) it has started to feel like a neighborhood. The one where the old dude across the way comes out of his house to say hi every time he sees you on your daily walk. The one where you always run into the neighbor with the cute dogs, and you know the dog’s names by heart but can’t for the life of you remember his name.

The one where there’s a ton of elderly neighbors interspersed, and they all keep dying, but you can’t be mad because they were so old and senile that they almost burned the neighborhood down on more than one occasion?

Things finally feel normal around here, and by “normal,” I mean there’s folks that keep to themselves, a few people around the corner that you tend to stay away from, and few people that you just genuinely enjoy.

In that comfortable seeming space I feel free to walk around my neighborhood again. As a child, my mother never let me go anywhere, so I could only ride my bike in a two-block radius. It wasn’t unless I was home alone with my dad that I could freely bike as far as my legs could take me. “Just don’t tell mom” was our promise to each other, and it still stands to this day. My personal freedom has always been important to me because I didn’t get a lot of it as a kid. My mom helicoptered the shit out of me.

I can’t tell you the profound life-changing effects of being able to step outside your door to exercise is. To have access to fresh mountain air and fresh mountain spring water. And the lack of need to put on a whole f*cking outfit to do so.

In Jeremy’s PTSD episode, he talked about his uniform for work. His morning routine, which was once a drain on all of his mental energy for the day, doesn’t use up any space anymore because it’s already been decided for him. 

Putting on work out clothes is a pain in the ass. You have to put on these tight ass legging things, and then when you go to peel them off and you can’t because they now have become glued to your legs. WHYYY. Stepping outside of my house in a sports bra and knee-length puffer jacket IS WHERE IT’S AT. I rarely miss a work-out anymore because it’s easy. I hadn’t realized this until Jeremy and I did our podcast on the mentally draining activity of getting dressed. I’ve always loved to get dressed because I love clothes. (Yes, I’m a nudist who also loves to wear clothes. It’s how I express myself.) 

But every time we do a podcast, I learn something new. And after this one, I finally realized what the profound effects naturism has had on me.

I love to work-out, but the process of putting on clothes to do so had been draining all of my energy. When my Trump-supporting neighbors lived next door, I felt like I needed to cover up all the time because of some of their family values, which is the complete opposite of what naturism is. I finally realized I was safe in my neighborhood again, so I felt comfortable going for hour-long walks, half-dressed.

I work on Skinny Dippers stuff A LOT. And I love it so much I don’t want to stop, so fitting a work-out in, which is vital to me staying healthy and managing my ADHD without drugs, is hard. Making working out easy by being able to step out of my workspace and not have to think about what to wear has helped in the recovery of my back pain and my need to manage my ADHD without drugs. 

Being in nature decreases your anxiety by default. We learned in one of our podcasts that staring into a mountain relaxes your eyes and mind. When we put a soaking tub outside and at night started soaking in it and watched the sunset instead of being on our devices, my anxiety dropped even lower. 

I haven’t had to take drugs for three weeks to get through my day. I haven’t had to turn on music to lift my energy level. My body finally has enough dopamine to run on so that my brain can function on its own. (Picture putting Arco gas in a Jaguar vs. rocket fuel.) I can’t tell you what that means to me. I’ve had to get high almost the entire time I’ve lived in Seattle to get through my days. I’ve lived here for four years now. That’s a lot of edibles.

Unfortunately, it’s also a lot of munchies. 😂

It has alleviated so much anxiety that I was finally able to sit down and read a book. I’ve been trying to read a book for months, and I haven’t been able to. I’ve just been addicted to the endless scroll and social media dopamine hits because I couldn’t get any on my own. And that’s just bad because that only causes more anxiety. I know it’s incredibly white privileged to bitch about not being able to go on vacations, but it’s a health concern for me. My vitamin D levels are dangerously low. I NEED sun, or my brain doesn’t function. And I can only recalibrate my brain when I can calm down enough to read a book, which is why summer is so important to me living in the PNW. I will read like ten books in six weeks because my anxiety is non-existent, and I am calm enough to sit long enough to read. I don’t need those artificial dopamine hits because they are naturally occurring on their own. My cholesterol levels go down (which is essential as we age) because there’s enough Vitamin D in my system to convert it.

The positive health effects it has had on me are endless. Nevermind the body positivity. That alone was worth the price of admission.

Submerging myself in this way of recreation and life has been fascinating. It’s taken twists and turns that were completely unexpected. But I think the most profound has been the people we’ve met along the way. 

In our PTSD podcast, Jeremy started crying at the end because of how much naturism, as well as our Skinny Dipper Community, has meant to him. I’m sitting here crying too. I think naturism, and our community, has saved us both.

Thank you for being here.

My Unsolicited Thoughts on Diversity

There is a lot of attention focused on diversity in the naturism/nudism community. Strangely, it seems to be a debate. Some in the community seem to think there’s no work to be done. Being a naturist is inherently diverse and open. The idea of stripping off your clothes is both a literal and figurative shedding of the things that separate us. Others in the community think bold social justice statements need to be made. It needs to be clear that all races, colors, and gender identities are welcomed participants in naturism. Those open, affirming, and diverse policies or positions should be plainly visible and advocated on anything community facing. I frequently listen to naturist podcasts and read naturist blogs. One of the questions that consistently comes up is, “how do we make the community more diverse?” Great question, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, people of color don’t have the answers you might be seeking.

I spent a few years as a substance abuse counselor. That’s a hard job. It is even more challenging for those who were struggling with addiction. I helped a few, and others reminded me of the proximity to the powerlessness of which is the human experience. The people I somehow managed to help frequently told me one of the single most important things I ever did was help them find their root cause or reason for substance use. One person in particular that I will never forget told me, “you helped me see this in a way I never had before; I was medicating my mental health and traumas just as I would take Tylenol for a headache.” What’s the point of that? It’s to say perhaps in our questions regarding diversity in naturism; we are asking good questions but not necessarily the right questions. We ask questions about the issue of diversity, but we aren’t asking questions that get us to the root (the why) of the diversity issues within the naturist community.

The majority of the articles or podcasts I have listened to thus far invites a person of color to talk about their experience and ask how or what we should do. That is the wrong question asked to the wrong person. Let me elaborate. We all exist in the shadow and legacy of systemic racism. It’s not that black people do not enjoy naturism or camping or the outdoors in general. It is, however, another way in which black people were excluded and lacked safety. That exclusion led to a separation from ‘mainstream’ activities, thus removing that activity from the cultural lexicon. Black people are constantly evaluating their safety: their mental safety, emotional safety, physical safety, and the safety of their loved ones. So perhaps a better question to ask white people in positions of leadership within naturism should be, “how can we stop unknowingly continuing to exist in, or perpetuate, the legacy of systemic racism and segregation?”

It is important to remember that in many spaces that you often find yourself in today, black people were actively shunned, and that is as recent as 50 years ago.

When black people encounter or inhabit a space where they are alone and outnumbered by white people, years of personal and inherited trauma surface. It wasn't that long ago that being in an all-white space meant sudden death or bodily injury. Sadly, that is still the case in certain scenarios. Most clubs are in rural areas where there is a lot of privacy. Rural areas tend to be dangerous for black people, and as a result, we stay away.

As recently as July of 2020, a black man was assaulted by a gang of white men that attempted to lynch him in Indiana, and those men were not arrested. What was supposed to be an evening of star-gazing and connecting with nature turned into horror – another trauma. If I were him, would I ever go back to that same spot and attempt camping, having experienced that? Hell no is an understatement.

Advancements in technology and the internet, which have connected us in ways unimaginable 30 years ago, have provided us a sense of rapid progress that does not actually exist. Has progress been made? Absolutely! But progress has not been nearly as swift as we all thought. The events of 2020: George, Ahmad, Breonna, and more opened our collective eyes to that very fact.

Because of those events, the more appropriate question leaders in the naturist community should ask would be, "How can we create, include, post, or share our message as a community that clearly communicates to people of color that they are safe?"

The very real and unfortunate reality of the black experience of having to navigate safety means internal dialogue such as:
“Are you in the wrong neighborhood? Don’t end up in the wrong area.”

“Make sure if you are going to be on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, you dress nicely and drive a car that looks like you belong there. For the love of God, don’t put your hands in any pockets or bags. You will be watched, so stay visible.”

“If you wear a hoodie, don’t wear the hood at night. Wear a beanie instead. Make sure your face is as visible and non-threatening as possible even though your existence in itself is a perceived threat.”

The list goes on so long it would be impossible to write them all, so for now, they’ll just remain non-negotiable lessons occupying real estate in my long-term memory.

I listened to a podcast in which a black man described his experience at a naturist camp with Trump flags flying. He expressed his feelings of a lack of safety or, at minimum, a certain level of discomfort. Leaders of clubs and organizations should be asking, "Is the display of symbols that communicate a lack of safety for people of color something we should allow?" "In addition to the symbols that are well-known, what symbols are currently out there that communicate to people of color they are not safe that we are not aware of?"

People in marginalized communities are professional code breakers. They have an acute ear for dog whistles. They scan your newsfeeds, your websites, and anything else community facing for evidence or confirmation if they are safe or not. People of color will always notice the following:

Language:  In the dark ages, when I was in college, and I would go to the bars with friends, they used language like “Dress code enforced. No excessively baggy jeans, no sports shirts or hats, no beanies, no shorts, no jerseys, no shoes that can be considered sport like.” This was all language used to make it explicitly clear urban styled individuals – which is a dog whistle in itself – were undesired customers. Does your language communicate safety? I read an article, I believe, over on the AlmostWild blog, that pointed out what is seemingly innocuous language “family-friendly” is coded language to communicate to the LGBTQ population this place is not for you. In practice, the naturism community probably uses it to detract and repel those who are part of ‘the lifestyle.’ However, as a result of that language. Many LGBTQ people split off and created their own organizations like Gay Naturists International.  

Imagery:  Does your imagery proudly display people of color? Many websites that I have come across have a lot of white people and a lot of thin, conventionally attractive women. Think of the message being communicated to people of color and women that don’t fit in that thin, perky-boobed, blonde box. I have seen roughly zero people of color on any naturist website wearing nothing but smiles and enjoying themselves with one another and with their white friends. I have seen zero (obviously) gay, lesbian or trans people wearing nothing but a smile on any of the naturist club or organization websites. That is either by choice or neglect.  

Events: What City/Town/State or Country are you going to? What venue are you having events? Is that an establishment that has a history of discrimination or segregation? “What message does this venue communicate?” Are you having events at lifestyle resorts but chastise members of the lifestyle community? Are you hosting events in the rural south? That should be a clear no-brainer people of color will stay far away from that. Do you want to welcome LGBTQ people but hosting an event in an extremely hostile place like the Caribbean? When I considered joining on with the Black Naturists Association, I saw them hosting events in Jamaica. News flash! I can literally be murdered in Jamaica because I like boys…is your organization for me? Probably not. So now, as both a black and gay man, I perceive myself to be unsafe in mainstream naturist organizations because of my race and unsafe as part of the black organization because of my sexuality. Maybe that isn’t true at all, but that’s the message communicated to me via these respective communities. 

Music: What music are you playing? Are you playing a mix of tunes that cater to everyone? Are you mixing oldies, country, rock, yacht rock, easy listening with some pop, R&B, jazz, and yes, even hip hop? Fun fact, black people enjoy all types of music. Excluding perceived black music from your playlists communicates your desire to exclude them. Those choices of music genre exclusion seem innocent, unnoticeable, just mundane choices of the playlist curator. Yet, they scream very loudly to people of color that they are in your space, not everyone’s space.

Representatives: Who has a platform or loud voice representing your community and/or organization? It is someone that is known to be complacent with racism or, worse, actively racist? Is it someone that considers the person of color’s experience an exaggeration? Is it someone that says one thing publicly and does another thing privately? Is it someone resistant to positive change?

On another podcast I listened to, the host interviewed a board member for the Black Naturist Association. He asked her, “why the need to have the Black Naturist Association? Doesn’t that further separate and segregate.” Of course, there was absolutely no malice in his question, but it, again, was the wrong question. Organizations like BNA or GNI exist to create a safe space for people whose safety was (or is) not readily apparent.

You can’t be what you can’t see. You can’t be a thriving, open, affirming, diverse community of naturists if you don’t present yourself (and are seen) as such. Diversity doesn’t start with the marginalized population; it begins with the system. Diversity isn’t the collective person of color’s problem to solve, fix, or answer. It can’t be. The problem, or the legacy, that is the lack of diversity within the naturist community is not the creation of people of color. The naturism community struggles with diversity issues because it has existed comfortably with no real need or reason to ask the right questions. Maybe that is a question in itself. “Why has the naturism community existed so comfortably this long without being diverse?” Could it be the answer to that root question is because, on some level, the community likes things just the way it is?

You can't be what you can't see. You can't be a thriving, open, affirming, diverse community of naturists if you don't present yourself (and are seen) as such. Diversity doesn't start with the marginalized population; it begins with the system.