Clothing Optional

As a devoted follower of Craig’s List I could not restrain myself from answering this ad:

Hello,
I am interested in befriending an open-minded woman who already enjoys, or would like to enjoy (explore?) sunbathing nude at one of the respectable clothing optional resorts or nude beaches in the area.
My search is for friendship only as nudity in this context does not equal sex. To the contrary, after first being apprehensive I now find it emotionally and physically relaxing with the only thing missing being a friend to converse with during the day!
As a friend, your marital status, age, height, weight, ethnicity, education level and occupation do not matter. Your friendship characteristics; however, do matter.
As for me, I am married, 50’s, six foot one, one hundred ninety pounds, Caucasian and Master’s degree.
I hope to hear from you. I know this is an off-beat posting but I am hopeful of meeting someone who thinks similarly or would like to have an adventure for a day to see how they like it! I will respond to all reasonable replies and will provide a face picture at that time.
Thanks!

Whenever I think about the nude lifestyle I’m instantly directed to the metaphor of the little kid pressing his nose against the window of the candy store….at least until now. It is something that has captivated my imagination since I was old enough to be told that proper society demands clothing and I have never lost my interest in the delight of being naked.

Several years ago I had a friend named Diana who was a nudist and I sort of lived vicariously through her; I was married at the time and the subject of nudity would have been greeted with approximately the same suspicion as tuberculosis. My awesome girl time in the hot tub had to go unreported but it was something I never forgot and longed to do again. Later in my life I lived with a cool guy who had a very private swimming pool and we spent hours naked by his pool which translated into some seriously good bedroom time. But I digress.

The idea of going to a clothing-optional place has been on my mind for ages since it seemed like the next logical step in my search for nudity nirvana, but I never had a partner who was less than horrified at the thought of taking his clothes off in public. It is not hard to see why this ad captivated me immediately.

His name was David and we had some lovely banter back and forth before our appointed meeting day at a resort fairly close to both of us that he was familiar with. He was articulate, funny and provided me with a wealth of detailed information about what to expect along with some of his personal observations and ideas about things I might not think to bring; any anxieties I had were beginning to melt away and the appointed day could not come quickly enough. The forecast became a minor obsession and I was grateful that the weather looked promising.

Somehow I managed to make it to our chosen day without bursting and arrived at the resort about fifteen minutes early with my picnic basket and a silk sarong that I had fashioned out of a sari that had belonged to my grandmother. For an extraordinary day I needed an extraordinary coverup and this fit the bill perfectly being versatile and colorful.

David arrived a few minutes later in his pickup truck; he was a handsome, lanky man with expressive eyes who greeted me with a warm hug and a thousand watt smile. Mindful of the fact that I was checking something off my bucket list he brought me a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers he had grown in his garden; I was absolutely smitten.

About three seconds after we parked a completely nude man who was as brown as walnuts drove up to greet us in a golf cart. He recognized David right away and greeted him by name; clearly my companion was a regular. As he chatted with David we both prepared to get undressed at our cars as previously planned, and I knew it would be my moment of truth.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of times I have been enormously anxious about something that ended up being a complete and total nonevent and this was just such a time. David had done such an amazing job of preparing me every step of the way and the general attitude of the place was so casual and unassuming that it would have seemed dumb to have the slightest qualm about baring it all. I removed my panties and dress with total aplomb and tied my sarong on with a casual unhurriedness. My gut told me this was going to be okay.

We made our way to the nearly deserted pool and located a couple of lounge chairs on the far end that seemed suitable. I somehow managed to remove my sarong and slather myself with sunscreen before establishing myself on the chaise. Oddly enough it seemed a bit more intimate than undressing at our respective vehicles, perhaps because we were not distracted by our welcoming committee. It took me a minute to get comfortable, but once he started to talk I forgot where I was; it was just the most wonderfully uncontrived experience I have ever had and we talked about everything under the sun. There is something very honest about being unclothed and it’s the most amazing equalizer; it dispels judgement, prejudice and all the normal artifice of human nature leaving you with the most wonderful freedom to be one’s elemental self. We sunbathed, swam and strolled down to the pond for a light lunch and more conversation on my picnic blanket. I have never been so relaxed in my life and David told me I would have difficulty leaving.

He was right.

The afternoon melted away before I knew it and after a lovely outdoor shower we dressed and returned to our vehicles. At his suggestion I had sussed out a funky little brewery near our resort that I had been to before and we went there for a lovely dinner and to enjoy the fading light of the day. It was the most perfect time I have had in recent memory and I am so grateful to David for giving me the gift of an experience I would remember for the rest of my life. I’m hoping we get to do it again some time, but even if we never see each other again I know have been completely transformed into someone who has a new awareness of herself and it feels reeally, really good. Thank you, David.

Father’s Day

I hate Father’s Day.  There. I said it.

Yes, I’m aware that it seems un American to say that and that I sound a little bit bitter but I’m tired of this annual reminder of a father who has pretended I didn’t exist for my entire life. My mother told me that the only interaction he ever had with me was a few days after I was born when he visited, said “I heard it was a boy”, handed my mother twenty dollars and disappeared. Forever. She would keep him a secret from me for sixteen years.

My parentage had to be let out of the bag when I applied for a learner’s permit and needed a birth certificate. When the California Bureau of Vital Statistics told me I didn’t exist my mother and stepfather had no choice but to tell me the truth; I had been using my stepfathers last name and my mother had actually given me her maiden last name. I really had been requesting a birth certificate for someone who didn’t exist.

Suddenly I had no idea who I was and wanted desperately to know anything about my real father that I could possibly glean from anyone. My mother had fewer details than I had hoped for, telling me only that his family operated a ski area in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire and that he was a skier who was good enough to have tried out for the Olympics. And I knew his name.

There were few resources available to me in the seventies to find out anything more about him; today it would be a relatively simple internet search to get the details I was starving for. Oddly, it would be several years later when a woman’s name in a quilting magazine caught my eye; she had the same Swedish last name as my father so I wrote to her and asked her if she knew him and only said that he had been a friend of my mother’s during his skiing days. She sent back a delightful note saying that he was her nephew and that she would be happy to pass along my contact information and put me in touch with his mother. My grandmother!

A few days later I got a note from the man I was sure was my father telling me briefly about his life in Nevada and asking me who my mother was. I knew that revealing her name would tell him immediately who I was and as predicted I never heard from him again, but his mother wrote to me and seemed undaunted by the fact that I appeared to be a long lost grandchild; I often wondered if she suspected something all along.

My father’s family embraced me almost immediately once they saw me; the family resemblance was startling and there was no doubt that I was indeed Roger’s cast off child. To this day I remain incredibly grateful for the entire family for the warm welcome I got and have enjoyed developing a relationship with an entire side of my family I never knew I had.  It is pretty clear that my father is never going to acknowledge me, but my aunts Joyce and Roberta have been just wonderful and we keep in touch still; they are as confounded by his behavior as I am. I love being invited to family functions on my father’s side and introducing my daughter to them as well. It’s as if my aunts understand that his dismissal of me has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his shortcomings as a human being.

Nearly thirty years after finding my father I have yet to have any conversation with him and I often wonder what it will be like when I find out he has passed away with out having known me. My aunts’ mantra is “his loss”, but at this stage of the game it seems silly to pretend I don’t exist. Is he embarrassed by what he is not? Ashamed of his own regrets? Afraid I turned out okay in spite of him and in spite of the fact that I ended up being a dreaded girl?

I will probably never know. Hopefully, the fact that I don’t like Father’s Day means that I have reached the final phase of mourning for a side of myself I never knew. It’s been a long time and I’ll take it.

 

Finale

My last visit with Dr. D’Ascoli was this week and while I was sitting in the waiting room I thought about my surgeon grandfather talking about how pissed off he would get when he had a patient who he knew would have a bad outcome when they walked into his office. These were generally overweight, sedentary people who for any number of reasons would not fare as well as a fit person post-surgically,  and he hated operating on them. It made me constantly aware of how difficult it must be as a doctor to operate on someone who could potentially make you look bad. Dr. D seemed genuinely pleased at my progress and it made me feel like I had held up my end of the doctor-patient bargain: he promised to do a good job and in return I did everything I was told and had an amazing outcome by going into it as fit and as educated as possible.

There are still some numb areas, stairs remind me how weak the surrounding musculature is and the knee joint occasionally gets away from me. There is a tendency to limp when I am tired, but the cane was cast away several days ahead of six weeks and I’m not going back.  It is such a miracle to be without the remembered knee pain that I am still startled by it; I had lived with pain for so long and been so conditioned to react to it that it seemed like a miracle to have it disappear.

Now all I want to do is walk! I get up from my desk several times a day and take little movement breaks to keep from getting too stiff; I revel in it every single time. I no longer care in the least about finding a close parking spot and have returned to my customary habit of parking away from the idiots who care little about dinging my doors. Walking feels like a delicious luxury and I have had to watch out for overdoing it which leaves me with a throbbing, achey leg.

I’m incredibly grateful for an amazing doctor and incredible friends and family who were rooting for me…especially Mike who unflinchingly endured my pain and meltdowns with his perpetually positive and gentle nature.  He took care of snow removal, litter box cleaning and grocery fetching without a single complaint and I could not have done it without him. Thank you, Mike.

Return to Normalcy…Sort Of

The last steri-strip fell off my knee yesterday just in time for my return to work for half days today, and after I got home I realized how grateful I was to be able to start slowly. I was tired! I wasn’t even that productive with all my colleagues coming over to welcome me back, but there was plenty to catch up on. My office is easy to navigate without a cane and people were astonished that I was no longer limping. It’s still amazing to me, too.

The knee is still waking me up at least once in the night with its restlessness contributing to my tiredness during the day, but it’s getting better. The goal now is to get it to bend enough to return to spin class; it still will not allow me to complete a revolution on the bike…but I’m close. My walking is getting straighter and my endurance is getting good enough to get some things accomplished. That’s huge for someone who has found the slow recovery frustrating.

The Little Things

This morning after my shower I was contemplating what to wear and was dreading the thought of donning yet another pair of “comfy” pants; the yoga pants and stretch pants I had hoarded for post-surgery garb made nice loungewear, but wearing them in public has been a miniature nightmare for me. Nothing says “I give up” quite like wearing loungewear at the grocery store. And don’t get me started on how the average college student comes to class.

Anyway, I decided to give my jeans another try after a crushing defeat the week before which saw me getting my pant leg on about six inches short of what it needed to be. Even my stretchier jeans would have rendered the fabric too tight over the incision to be very comfortable so I put them away in disgust. This morning’s attempt seemed much more promising after Joan’s assertion yesterday that the majority of my swelling was gone, and indeed the pants felt fine after easing them over the few remaining steri-strips that refused to budge. The ten pounds I lost since surgery made things even better and it was just the sort of boost I have desperately needed after a week of frustration.

Once again I am reminded of how recovery is crafted of small victories and milestones, some of them painfully gradual in coming. It has reminded me to slow down, practice patience and be grateful for the dopey little things I previously took for granted.

Week Three

Now that I can drive my spirits have lifted considerably and I no longer feel so dreadfully dependent upon people; going to the grocery store alone was a minor victory.  Bringing the laundry up from the basement is still problematic, but the cleaning of the litter box is now an easily done task; life is slowly returning to normal along with my leg.  The deep purple bruising is fading to a strange yellow and more sensation is returning to the parts that were numb; pathways that were cut or disturbed during surgery are now doing their miraculous knitting together and this phenomenon is often accompanied by strange phantom pains and restlessness in the night. The sciatic nonsense has lessened with my increased activity which further cements my theory that movement is the cure.

My in home physical therapy sessions exhausted, I began going to a fantastic woman named Joan for my next six sessions. Her first request was to have me walk away from her and she quickly determined that my right leg is now slightly longer than my left. She immediately fashioned a little cardboard shim for me which she placed in my left sneaker and had me walk away from her again; I was no longer swinging my bad leg around to compensate for the changed length and my gait straightened immediately. Dr. D’Ascoli had warned me that as long as my gait was screwy I was going to experience sciatic issues. This whole mechanical relationship between the different body parts has been fascinating to witness and it is amazing to see the difference small changes make.  Joan also warned me that in addition to learning to walk properly again, I would need to retrain some “favoritism” habits such as resting all my weight on my left leg.

This morning I awoke feeling more depressed than usual, so I made a maiden voyage to the gym in spite of the fact that I wasn’t officially cleared to do so. I had this overwhelming need to walk and since the weather was wretched it made a lot more sense to secure a treadmill at my second home. It felt great to walk back in after being away for a few weeks and I got to catch up with some of the gym regulars I have known for years. Sometimes just doing something familiar is enough to calm the spirit.

Milestone

Today was the last day of in-home physical therapy from Judy who was assigned to my case and it was amazing to see how far I had come. The day after my surgery the thought of bending my gigantic swollen knee at a ninety degree seemed unfathomable but eighty degrees was reachable today with relative ease. It was good to see progress at the end of all the torture in spite of the fact that there is still much more to do.

Dispensing with the walker and using a cane made mobility a hundred times easier and has already helped my gait. I have a love-hate relationship with the cane; giving it up too early will be a huge detriment to the way I walk, but I noticed that the cane makes me completely immune to eye contact of any kind.

The invisibility thing was something I noticed on a recent trip to a restaurant and bar I frequent fairly often. As I was walking the length of the bar using my cane I noticed that people who would normally respond to my smile with a look or a nod were now diverting their eyes as if they were afraid to be caught staring. It took a while for this to sink in; I noticed an oddness as I navigated the crowd but an experimental trip to the bathroom clinched it. People do not want to look at infirmity of any kind or perhaps it is some sort of knee-jerk politeness. In any case, I found it fascinating and made me resolve to work even harder to ditch the cane.

 

Week Two

Week two was the week when I finally felt as if I was turning some sort of corner and experienced a lot of the changes that someone healing from this surgery experiences. Sensation was gradually returning to parts of my leg that had been numb and the bruising was slowly disappearing. Physical therapy was bringing back the strength surprisingly quickly so leg management was vastly easier. As of this writing it is still remarkably difficult to get comfortable for long periods of time because of the residual swelling, but it is getting better. In tiny increments. Tiny. This rehabilitation has required every ounce of my patience and focus and there have been a few meltdowns, some of which have been caused by progress that has been frustratingly slow and some by my emotional state before going into surgery. Anesthesia seems to exacerbate these devastating little incidents that leave me drained.

Toward the end of week two the walker is now being handled in much the same way one would handle a very clunky cane, so I am hopeful that my physical therapy session tomorrow will graduate me to an actual cane.  Driving is another thing I am really missing and while I cannot think of anywhere I really need to go, it frustrates me to be dependent upon other people.

One landmark event in week two was the follow-up with Dr. D. My gigantic sticky bandage was removed revealing a shiny row of thirty two staples which had not seen daylight since I was at the hospital. They were quickly removed by a woman who had clearly done this sort of thing  million times before and covered the eight inch scar with a row of steri-strips. The doctor said I was progressing nicely and gave me a copy of the x-ray of my new prosthesis which made me feel oddly as if some torch had been passed; I had the fleeting memory of the day I took delivery on my pickup truck which made me chuckle.

Being Home

Hospitals are tough places to recover. There is a whole lot of professional staff around and if you fall down someone is bound to notice, but there is a constant hustle and bustle even in the middle of the night that jangled my nerves and exhausted me. When I wasn’t making my slow and painful way to the bathroom or out of my bed for physical therapy I had little foot pumps velcroed to my feet that alternately squeezed each ankle to prevent blood clots. Fortunately my leg was far too clunky and swollen to entertain any thought of rolling over which I desperately wanted to do, so I slept in the intervals brought to me by my pain meds.

After four days my doctor felt I would be able to drag myself the three steps into my house, so Mike came and gathered me up along with my walker for the trip home. There had been a sizeable snow storm the night before, and I knew he had a considerable amount of work to do to get a path cleared so I was especially grateful. I said goodbye to the medical staff who had been taking care of me and was wheeled toward freedom.

Being outdoors for the first time seemed surreal, but all I could think of was getting home to familiar surroundings and my cat who was probably certain her mother was never returning. Using the stair navigation tricks I had learned in physical therapy I made it up the three steps to the refuge of my house and realized I was exhausted. Mike got me installed on the couch with a fresh bottle of water and went off to pick up my numerous prescriptions; a caretaker’s work is never done.

Pain management at home was a bit different since there was no white board and the meds had been reduced from three to one. My fondest hope was that I would have what I needed to navigate at home and complete the rehab sessions. It turned out that I was prescribed 5 mg. of Oxycodone every 4-6 hours, but it was up to me to figure how to make those sixty tiny pills last until until my first follow-up visit eight days away. The effort was mostly successful except for getting cocky the first night and only taking one pill with the reasoning that I would be sleeping anyway. It ended up being a huge mistake and the hour and a half wait until my next dosage was one I never wish to repeat.

There were some new tricks to managing the floor plan of my house. Reluctantly I had gotten a raised toilet seat because of the small amount of clearance my bathroom afforded for a leg that does not bend all that well and ended up being very glad. My high antique bed afforded another challenge to get into with a leg that was less than functional, and I was glad I had done so much leg strengthening before surgery; my good leg became a lever that hooked under my bad leg and hoisted it into bed. The rest of my little postwar ranch ended up being pretty well suited for a walker with the exception of the pantry. When I discovered my walker would only go through the door sideways I burst out laughing at the irony of it and knew it was the universe’s way of telling me not to overtax my new knee by gaining weight.  Message received.

The First Week

One week ago I handed myself over to the competent people at Schenectady Regional Orthopaedics for my long overdue total knee replacement. With much trepidation I showed up at the appointed time and surrendered my clothing and cell phone for a hospital gown, funny hat and an IV line which was to be my constant companion for the next four days. Dr. D’Ascoli visited after I was prepped and autographed the suspect knee; ten minutes later I was off to the frigid operating room and I was grateful to the nurse for covering me with a heated blanket before heading in. I noted with some amusement that my knee was throbbing relentlessly and it occurred to me for the five millionth time that I was making a very good decision.

Awakening in the recovery room I was surprised at how little residual fuzziness I felt in my head; the anesthesiologist must have given me just the right amount of magic to do the trick. Immediately curious about the state of my leg, I peeled back the blanket to see an ace bandage wrapped from mid-thigh to toe and a mass of purple bruises on the exposed thigh above. Lovely. My leg was roughly half again its normal diameter and I was trying to imagine how much was bandage and how much was me. The pain was a dull ache and I knew the local anesthetics he used in place of a femoral block had not yet worn off.

Not long after being transferred to my room, I had my first physical therapy session which seems unthinkable, but I get the logic of it; why not do it before all the anesthesia wears off? This makes the first PT experience relatively pleasant because it is most assuredly less fun as time goes on. Susie did all of the same exercises they prescribed before the surgery and this time I really did feel like the little old person depicted in the booklet. In the space of a few hours my previously useful quadricep had been reduced to mush and I knew there was some serious work ahead of me. I took my first walk with the walker and it took intense concentration to navigate my giant throbbing thigh while coordinating the movement of the walker and dragging an IV drip.

One of my concerns had been pain management, but a white board visible from my bed ended up being the perfect tool for keeping track of a number of things. The three pain meds I was on, Oxycontin, Oxycodone and morphine were listed on the board with their ordered intervals, and every time one of them was administered the nurse would write the time down. This helped me keep track of things and take more ownership of my pain relief which in turn helped the overworked nursing staff. There was a pain scale printed on the board and that became my other tool for managing the daunting amount of discomfort native to this particular surgery and they would tick off the number I was feeling when meds were administered; this gave me a more logical way to assess and convey how much discomfort I was in. Other useful things that were included on the board were the name of the nurse, physical therapist, tech and housekeeper in charge of my room. Genius! There was only one night when a combination of dozing off and a nursing shift change caused me to awaken in unimaginable pain; I have never been so grateful for intravenous opiates in my life.

 

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