It was the summer after my junior year of college, and I was working as a camp counselor in Connecticut. For three years, I’d been stuck at a women’s college that I sardonically referred to as “the nunnery,” and I was absolutely giddy to be socializing with guys again.
So one night, after returning from a night off in town, a bunch of us counselors decided to go skinny dipping down at the pool. I’d never been skinny dipping before. In fact, I’d pretty much never done anything against any rule before. I was a people pleaser … and an innocent one at that. I managed to make it through four years of high school and three years of college dateless. Suffice to say, I’d never seen the opposite sex naked and was pretty self-conscious about my own anti-supermodel body. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of doing something improper felt like exhilarating rebellion.
I was one of the last ones down to the pool, and the other counselors were already swimming. It was really dark, and I was actually grateful that I couldn’t see anything. I slipped off my lavender hoodie robe and draped it over the fence next to my towel, then hopped into the pool in my striped swimsuit. I modestly removed my suit under the water and tossed it by my other things.
What a freeing experience it was to feel the cool water slip across my skin. It was dark in the pool, and there was something magical about being secretly naked under a thousand stars. I swam over to my friends, and there was a certain excitement knowing that I was naked with members of the opposite sex, even if they couldn’t see anything. It was my first public nudity, and it felt deliciously naughty.
So there we were, swimming in our birthday suits, talking and laughing, when someone spotted a flashlight coming toward us from across the field.
“Oh no, Hal’s coming,” someone squealed. Hal was the camp owner, and the light seemed to be coming from the direction of his house.
The next moments were like fast forwarding your DVR. I blinked and everyone was out of the pool and running back to their bunks. It all happened so fast, I didn’t even get to see any of the guys naked, better yet compare them to the pictures I’d seen in a college friend’s Playgirl. I was the last one out of the pool and ran over to the fence to fetch my towel and robe. But in the mad dash, someone had accidentally grabbed my clothes ― every stitch of them. All that was left on the fence was a robe just like mine, but pink and about 6 sizes too small. I was standing there naked and alone, with the equivalent of a washcloth to wrap around me … dripping wet, with no towel or swimsuit … and the light was coming closer. So I panicked and ran into the woods.
There I was, naked as Eve in Eden, squatting behind a tree, hoping someone would realize they’d grabbed my things and come back to find me. The flashlight veered away, thank God. Whoever it was had witnessed the mass retreat and assumed there was no one left by the pool.
Now I was alone in the woods with mosquitoes and spiders and God knows what … shivering with one arm over my boobs, while the other clutched the pink toddler robe in front of my southern lady parts. I looked down at the robe in my hand and realized it was Peggy’s, my dear friend from college. She must have grabbed mine by mistake. Surely she’d realize how big my 2x robe was on her size 2 body. Please, Peggy, I prayed. Please realize what you did and come back for me.
Time passed and no one came. I knew I’d have no choice but to wait it out until everyone in camp was asleep, then make a run for it. So I plotted my path. I’d run from tree to tree, hide behind “Dinks,” the five-year-old cabin, then do a mad dash behind girl’s Bunk 12, across the dark porch, past the dining hall and down to girl’s Bunk 2. The entire concept was horrifying, but what other choice did I have? I prayed there wouldn’t be anyone up late, making out on the porch. I figured if I waited about an hour, that would do it.
So I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
I prayed that a possum wouldn’t bite my behind and give me rabies.
I prayed that a skunk wouldn’t offer me some perfume.
I prayed there were no foxes in Connecticut … that the raccoons were preoccupied with garbage and that snakes weren’t nocturnal. Oh my Lord, were there cobras in these woods? “I’m a city girl,” I cried. “Please don’t let anything bite me.”
When I thought enough time had passed, I braced myself for my run, my heart pounding like Bigfoot at a tap recital. And that’s when I heard feet in the grass and a tiny voice whisper my name.
“Parri” … “Parri” …
It was Peggy! My pint-sized friend realized she’d grabbed my clothes, and she came back for me!
“I’m over here,” I whispered back, waving my hand over the weeds. She tossed me my robe, I quickly slid it over my head, and we tiptoed back to our bunks. I thanked my lucky stars that night as I fell asleep, safely tucked in the covers on my cot.
But I didn’t realized just how lucky I really was until a few days later, when one of the girl counselors came down with a wicked case of poison ivy below the belt. Rumor had it she was romping in those same woods with her boyfriend.
… giving new meaning to the words “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love.”
Rest assured, this cured me of any further need for public nudity.
Because nothing says “keep your panties on” like almost having a poisonous vine plant itself in your lady garden.