All Pizza Is Good Pizza

Last year, Domino’s Pizza ran a promotion for a few months wherein participants in their rewards program could earn points toward a free pizza by taking photos… of pizza. It makes sense: Eat pizza, earn pizza. The twist was that Domino’s didn’t care what pizza you took a picture of, they just wanted you to take a picture of any pizza available to you. That means Bagel Bites, homemade pizza, high school cafeteria pizza, a competitor’s pizza… all of it would earn you points toward your free pizza at one of their restaurants. When I read about this online, I thought, “Why wouldn’t they require that you eat their pizza?” It was clearly an intentional decision made by the marketing team at Domino’s Pizza, but it wasn’t immediately obvious why they were willing to give free pizza away to people who weren’t even eating their pizza, to people who might not even really like their pizza.

But, that’s exactly the thing: They recognized that it doesn’t really matter whose pizza the participants are regularly eating. They recognized that if they’re going to attract new customers or entice a previous customer to return, the most likely potential customer is one that already loves eating pizza, not one that doesn’t really care about pizza. So they reminded those pizza-eaters that they’re pro-pizza, no matter whose pizza it is. They put their money where their mouth is and rewarded pizza lovers for already supporting the pizza industry. Then everyone held hands and sang of world peace….za.

I think there’s a lesson here. Clearly Domino’s believed that this promotional strategy would be profitable for them in long run or they would not have implemented it. They have plenty of pizza to give away, sure, so it’s not a huge expense on their part to hand out a few pies to the most committed pizza-eaters. They also likely knew that making a statement in support of any and all consumption of pizza would create buzz and instill a perception of benevolent, selfless pizza advocacy in the mind of the consumer. It would be like a major musical performer giving away free concert tickets to a couple of fans who had attended and supported a bunch of other live music performances. It’s a matter of making it very clear what you stand for and understanding that sometimes the greater good is above and beyond your own immediate interests, but that supporting the greater good also supports all other areas involved.

Maybe you see where I am going with this.

Within the nudist and naturist community, national organizations are a bit concerned at the moment with the overall health of their clubs and membership numbers, and that’s not a surprise to anyone. I think for some, though, the touted belief and interest in the longevity of nudism and naturism as a lifestyle can come across a bit disingenuous in the context of a perceived heightened emphasis on rescuing dilapidated clubs with dwindling visitorship. To be clear, I am not saying any of this to be critical of any national nudist or naturist organization. They’re all doing what they can and are passionate about their causes. In crisis mode, it’s natural to aim your attention at the areas in the most immediate danger.

So, back to pizza. How does this relate to pizza? What Domino’s Pizza did is recognize that all pizza is good pizza, not just the pizza you buy from them. The more people out there buying and eating pizza, the more likely they are to benefit from those consumers; the more demand there is for pizza, the more profits there are to share. The same idea is true for nudism and naturism. In the long run, of course we need to pay attention to the success of nudist clubs, but we won’t increase demand for nude recreation by focusing all of our energy on directing people to clubs and resorts that are not easily accessible for most people. We can, however, increase demand for nude recreation by supporting and promoting it wherever it already occurs or where people are already interested in it.

I think it might be tempting to turn a blind eye to nude and clothing-optional beaches simply because they might, theoretically, detract potential paying visitors away from clubs that need as much support as they can get. After all, if a product is offered for free over there, how can we sell it over here? I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I’ve always seen vastly greater numbers at nude beaches than I’ve seen at clubs. There’s already demand there, and there’s a real need for nude beaches and other ad hoc gatherings. Those free spaces are entry points for so many new nudists and naturists. I think perhaps we also need to be careful here to avoid looking at the right to be nude as a raw commodity to be sold. Yes, clubs and organizations need to bring in funds to remain financially solvent, but if we really believe in nudist rights, we should be averse to accepting and potentially profiting off of limited access.

Leaving work early and spending an afternoon at a nude beach 20 minutes from my old office in Portland, Oregon.

If we want to invest in the longevity of nudism and naturism as ideals, we need to promote it even when it doesn’t make us money or benefit us directly. In so many cities and states, nudity is criminalized. So many places don’t have a single place to enjoy social nudity at all, let alone free or low-cost social nudity. Nude beaches have been lost. People are being penalized for being nude in their own backyard or inside their own home. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to the nudist and naturist movement as a whole, including for landed clubs that are struggling to survive, to promote, advance, and reward social nudity anywhere that people are interested in it? Unfortunately, while Domino’s is in a great place to give away free pizza, I think nudist and naturist organizations are in a pinch here because they can’t really afford to spread themselves thinner or involve themselves in affairs beyond the club walls. On the other hand, can they afford not to? That’s worth some serious consideration.

Long story short, all nudism is good nudism, not just the nudism you pay for. The more people out there enjoying social nudity, the more people there are that will want to visit a landed club or resort; the more demand and interest there is for social nudity, the more potential participants and members there are to promote the overall cause… and even to contribute to it financially. On top of all that, getting ahead of the movement and showing up to support all social nudity wherever it occurs would be a really, really good look for any national organization forward-thinking enough to embrace it and attach their name to it. Finally, yes, let’s make sure that we save the clubs and resorts, but let’s also consider that part or most of that solution lies outside of the clubs themselves.

Crossing the Threshold

I’ve been calling myself a nudist for more than half my life, even if those first few years were spent hiding in my bedroom at my parents’ house in the country, so I admit that I may no longer fully recognize what it feels like to try stripping down for the first time. That first time is nothing like all the times that follow. I’ll admit, even now, there’s still a brief moment of anxiety followed by relief each time I strip down at the beach or at a naturist park, but that moment of exhilaration is nothing like the very first time I stripped down. Sometimes I forget that, and I know that I should be more forgiving of those who haven’t already crossed that threshold before, who don’t know what’s waiting on the other side of their clothing.

In June of 2018, my brother-in-law had just graduated from college and wanted to take a trip somewhere, somewhere warm and sunny where he could relax. After some research and weighing all the options, we decided on San Diego since none of us had been there, we could spend some time at the beach, and it was relatively inexpensive to get there from Portland, where we were living at the time. For some additional context, my brother-in-law was living with my partner and myself, since he was a student and we all benefitted from splitting the rent. Neither my partner nor my brother-in-law would consider themselves nudists. My partner is very supportive and participates when he feels up to it—he’s been with me to beaches and clubs and he is able to enjoy it. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, knows that I’m a nudist but does not partake, does not engage, is not interested in the slightest. So, despite my willingness to bring him along to local beaches around the Portland area, he would never. However, while planning the trip to San Diego, I remembered that there was a great nude beach there: Black’s Beach.

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The path down to Black’s Beach, 2018

I had never been in a nude ocean beach before: The beaches near Portland were along rivers. I let them know that I wanted to check out Black’s Beach, even if just for a few hours one day. It actually worked out perfectly because there was a lot to do in San Diego and there were only a couple of sunny days while we were there, so after spending one afternoon at a textile beach, I convinced my partner and brother-in-law to spend an afternoon at Black’s to soak up the sun. Under any other circumstances, my brother-in-law would have never gone with us to a nude beach. I honestly am not sure he really wanted to go at all, but he conceded to the majority vote. When we got there and made our way down the surprisingly treacherous path to the beach, though, he refused to take off his swimsuit and shirt. My partner was a champ, though. I would have expected at least some reluctance to be nude in front of his brother for the first time in his adult life, but he didn’t hesitate to set a good example, to be brave and show his brother that it there was nothing to be afraid of.

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Me and my partner at Black’s Beach, 2018

I was a little hurt, to be quite honest, and frustrated, that my brother-in-law wouldn’t at least try it. I realize that it’s not easy to take that leap, and I would have hoped that he would feel safe to try it with people he knew and trusted. I wondered, “When do you think you’ll have an opportunity to try this again? Do you think you’ll regret it if you try it? Do you think you will be judged?” I tried not to press him, not to make him feel even more uncomfortable being there, but it was difficult for me to feel comfortable at the beach with him sulking in his shirt and shorts. It made me feel judged. My partner and I still had a great time, though. The water was great, the sand was warm, there were lots of other young sunbathers enjoying the beach while we were there. I took a book with me, some sunglasses, some sunscreen, and it was just what I was hoping it would be. As a nudist, though, I still felt like I failed at introducing my brother-in-law to an experience that he could have really enjoyed and that could have gone a long way to help him with some of the body image issues that he’s told me about before. It’s important to not push people into something they don’t want to try, to not pressure them into something they’re not ready for.

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Me at Black’s Beach, 2018

At the end of the day, I do wish he would have just tried it. I wish he would have let go for just a few minutes to feel the breeze, the sun, and the waves on his skin. I wish he could have had what I’ve had all this time. As a nudist or naturist, breaking through that barrier in the minds of our friends and family must be the hardest part. How do you undo someone else’s repression and internalized shame? We forget that for many of us, becoming naturists and nudists did not happen with the flip of a switch but with days, weeks, months, or even years of time to process the idea of social nudity before gathering the courage to enjoy our first experience. But even if I couldn’t give him that freedom that day, even if I couldn’t remove all of that blockage and shame, I did still provide him with a valuable experience: He was able to see naked men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors enjoying the beach, living without shame or fear. He was able to experience that in a setting with people he trusted, with people who were comfortable enough in their own skin to model that same courage and openness of spirit that all the other beachgoers were displaying. Even if he didn’t partake, I know he didn’t dislike the experience. I know that it must have had an influence on his perception of the human body and maybe one day he will have the courage to try it for himself. I just hope he has the opportunity again some day.

If you’re reading this and wondering if it’s time to try nudism, know that you don’t need to rush yourself. But also know that you won’t regret the experience.

If you’re reading this and can relate to the difficulties of introducing friends and family to nudism, try to be patient and understanding. It’s easier for us because we have already crossed that threshold and we know what’s on the other side. We just need to be there waiting for them, even if it takes time.