Even a city as densely packed as New York has some secluded spots where a girl can get some sun in privacy, or close to it. A few clearings in the northern reaches of Central Park, for instance, are remote enough that we’ve enjoyed them Emperor’s New Clothes-style. (What, you don’t see our bathing suits? But they’re woven of the finest transparent silk!)

But perhaps our favorite secluded spot is this enormous boulder in Riverside Park, on the far West Side, overlooking the Hudson.

It’s tucked away among the trees without any signage to point you to it, and even if you stumble onto the narrow dirt path that takes you there, you can’t see anyone lying on top of the rock if you’re standing on the ground. And who would go to the trouble of climbing to the top of an enormous boulder?

Well, we would. Because once you do, you discover one of Manhattan’s truly wonderful and remote oases. Yes, you sometimes spot broken glass littering the surface, or other sketchy bits of refuse; every Eden has its serpents. But if you want to relax unobserved and unmolested it offers a sprawling, craggy, rugged sanctuary, which also happens to be perfectly suited to our current situation, since it’s easy for people to distribute themselves 6 feet apart along the massive rock.

It’s a particularly nice spot to bring first-timers since while you’re up there you’re not visible to random passers-by who might stare or take issue. Not that we get much of either anymore — New Yorkers seem to have gotten used to the idea that women can go topless the same as men can — but just in case. And we did have several first-timers this time around.

We also had old friends there, some of whom we hadn’t seen in an awfully long time.

Two of the new members in attendance were celebrating birthdays, and we were delighted to celebrate with them. (Randomly, they happened to be the oldest and youngest members there.) A few of our number were preparing to head off to their first year of college. One had recently moved to New York from overseas. One had spent the summer leading BLM protests. Several were starting new jobs or looking for them. In other words, our usual diverse range of backgrounds.

But what all these women had in common (along with the couple of trusted men who tagged along supportively and respectfully) was this: a conviction that equal rights isn’t an empty phrase, and that feminism isn’t an empty promise; that strong, smart, confident, independent women can do anything their male peers can, and need to be free to; that the human body, and specifically the female body, is nothing to hide or to be ashamed of; and that sometimes, on a warm summer afternoon, there’s just nothing better than the touch of sunlight on your bare chest. Half the population shouldn’t be denied this simple pleasure.

And so we partook of it, along with other simple pleasures, like snacking on ripe summer fruit, enjoying a cold beverage —

— or reading a good book.

It was a blissful and empowering afternoon. We’re thrilled that so many of our members showed up for it. The crisis of the past five months isn’t over yet — but at least in New York it feels like life is cautiously returning.

Which brings us to this invitation: if you’ve never tried going topless outdoors but you’re curious about it, we hope you’ll drop us a note. You can email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com, or find us on Insta or Twitter. One way or another, reach out. Because all women deserve to share this experience. And the summer isn’t quite over yet.