That is the question.
Whether t'is nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and stares of jellyfish and fellow swimmers while clothed, or to bare arms and legs against a sea of turquoise...
Hamlet, remember, was European. One can deduce, then, that he had no problem exposing his (royal) family jewels while on vacation.
For an ameriçaine, however, going natural is anything but. And thus I found myself recently wrestling with the question along the crystal blue waters of Naked Cove. A secluded spot on the southern tip of Istria, we found this place following a vigorous bike ride past the tourist hordes through pine stands and berry-laden brush.
Our group, composed of 2 Americans and 2 Europeans, had discussed this on the previous day. "You will see me naked in Croatia," said the Austrian, his tone carrying a finality that promised no escape. True to his word, Bernhard was the first among us to doff his drawers, splashing into the sea in the way that God intended. This reasssured the naked Slavs who had been eyeing us warily from their spot several hundred meters to the right. Upon seeing genitalia they returned to smoking and playing with their dog.
I, meanwhile, was warily eyeing my toes. And everything north of them, egad. Was I really qualified for this?
"Americans believe that nakedness is sexual," Bernhard told me. Yes and no. Americans believe in the perfectability of the body. And every freckle and roll is a reminder that we have not worked hard enough, will not be going to heaven, and deserve neither sex nor sunshine. Whether this reminder is personal or shared depends on the alcohol available.
Fueled only by lemonade, I was taking a particularly long time with my bikini.
It was the only child in me, the competitive one who tries to out-cliff jump the boys, who won out in the end. There was no way I was going to be left behind on the safe and sexless shore. So I dropped them. And then ran like hell into the protective waters of the Adriatic.
Hours later, after seeing my scraped and sunburned companions pulling themselves gracelessly over sharp rocks, I too settled into a state of corporal indifference. I put on my flippers and mask, and set out for some naked snorkeling.
Which, it turns out, is better than heaven.