Archives for category: 2013

IMG_2778aWhen morn in late September sunlit dawns, 
Presentiments of autumn nowhere seen,
Nor wintry breezes, nor the touch of rain 
That lately has defiled so many days,

And in its stead the warm caress of air 
As temperate and all-embracing as 
At summer’s peak, but with a plangent strain
For well we know its like won’t come again

For many months, we take ourselves outdoors 
And share with friends of vintage old and new 
A draft of vineyard’s fine fermented crop
And orchard’s too, together with a feast

Unmatched in time’s remembrance; yea, we glut
Ourselves on flavors fair and, fairer still, 
The gentle hand of Helios on our all-
Unburdened bodies; thus we meet the end

Of summer’s season with defiant mien.
You say tomorrow beckons, cold and drear,
And well you might; but for today we play
In summer’s final bounty of delight.

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IMG_2543The latter days are upon us. It feels like fall. Suddenly afternoons in the park are brisk rather than sweltering, and walking off the street and into the sauna in a spa doesn’t feel redundant.

On a recent afternoon that was not only brisk but rainy, a small band of us visited a lovely spot in midtown called Athena Spa, where they’re cool about nudity, even the co-ed variety. The environment isn’t so photo-friendly (ever try carrying a fancy digital camera into a steam room?), but we snapped a few pics of ourselves in maximum relaxation mode.

Well, maybe not absolute maximum—but for the moments that were even more relaxing than these we turned the camera off.

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IMG_2593One of our old friends returned to New York recently after spending time in Egypt and Turkey and Israel and India. As it happens, she can pass for a native of any or all of the above—in Egypt, Egyptians think at a glance that she’s Egyptian, in Turkey a Turk, and so forth. And so, while travelers from, say, Japan, or lighter-skinned, blonder-haired travelers from the U.S., got a pass, what our friend got was a great deal of unsolicited advice about what she shouldn’t do outdoors. Such as exist, outside the company of a man.

In Egypt in particular it wasn’t advice, it was exhortation: a woman in the street without a man by her side—either father, brother or husband—is any man’s, to do with as he will. And if she makes the mistake of dressing provocatively to boot, she is taking her life in her hands.  (How many rapes per day are there in Cairo? Do you just want the official, reported figure…? How shall we count gang rapes?)

Of course, there is more going on in Cairo right now than attacks on women. But when the revolution passes (and it will, they always do), the plight of women will remain. On the “women’s car” on a train—and, my god, I could just stop there, couldn’t I? that there even is such a thing, in 2013—on the “women’s car” on a train, women covered from head to toe stole curious, eager, wondering glances at the western women, the ones who dared to wear short sleeves, and pants. But only glances, only peeks, and then they returned to their covered-up existence.

Why do we go topless in the park at the end of summer in the middle of New York City, where it is legal and any woman may do so if she wishes?

That’s why.

That’s fucking why.

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IMG_2473In the spirit of revisiting all our old haunts, we took another trip to the High Line, Manhattan’s newest park, built on an old elevated freight train track near the Hudson River, in the Meatpacking District. It was crowded as heck, this being the Friday before Labor Day weekend: meatpacking indeed. We hadn’t been here since a rainy day back in 2011, when we were practically the only ones in sight. That was fun, too, but this was better.

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Out and about, mixing and mingling, and nary a hostile nor a creepy stare to be found. What a day! Not only did we get popsicles, but the guy running the popsicle stand knew all about us, was a follower of this very blog. (Hi!)

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Before heading up to the High Line we gathered at a more terrestrial haunt, the adorable and minute 14th Street Park, which consists of a single grassy mound surrounded by meticulously maintained foosball tables and folding chairs.  Just across the avenue from Chelsea Market, which tempted us to sin with its freshly made miniature doughnuts and red-velvet whoopie pies. Damn it, Chelsea Market, it’s like you want us to wind up in photos with our mouths full and our fingers covered with delicious, delicious cream!

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If summer has to exit, this is the way for it to go: sparkling and glorious, sensual and rich, with friendship for all and sweet tastes on the tongue. And instruction for the next generation.

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“Mommy, why are they naked?” this little girl asked. “Why don’t you ask them?” the very sensible mother replied. The girl came over, not shy at all. “Why are you naked?” “Because it feels nice,” we explained, and she nodded: made sense to her.

When she’s our age, may she feel comfortable in her body and live in a city that encourages her to.

Happy Summer 2013, everyone.

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IMG_2141Yesterday was the sixth annual “International Go Topless Day,” celebrated around the world, both in cities where female toplessness is legal (like New York) and ones where it is not yet legal, making the celebrations there more of a protest. It’s an event we support, though we don’t have the same enthusiasm for the group that started it (it’s a weird quasi-religious outfit whose beliefs involve UFOs and extraterrestrials) and though the official event in New York is often overrun by pervy guys and aggressive reporters covering the event in the laziest and most cynical ways possible. But for all its flaws, it’s fundamentally a good thing: a time when women get together and demonstrate that equality is important and that toplessness is equally reasonable for both genders.

And now that the day has passed, we’re going to go back to doing what we do, quietly and in a relaxed, natural fashion, all summer long (and spring and fall, too, weather permitting). Because in the world we choose to live in, every day is Go Topless Day.

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IMG_2239In our last post, we alluded to the fact that some of the people who enthusiastically gathered around us in Washington Square Park were a little too enthusiastic. Overall our experience in the park was joyful and wonderful…in particular for the first hour and the last hour we were pretty much left alone and not bothered by anyone…but it was marred at the midpoint by some unfortunate behavior on the part of a handful of guys who didn’t seem to care how uncomfortable they made us if it meant getting close to a topless girl. Afterwards, one of our members asked if she could write a few words about how she feels on this subject and share them here. Of course we said yes.  The floor is hers:

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We meet for fun, mostly. We don’t like tan lines or being too hot on a summer day, enviously eyeing cool and carefree topless men. We do like books, bodies of all shapes and sizes, and hanging out. When people ask what we’re doing and why, we typically answer in these pretty simple terms: it’s fun, y’all.

And it should be fun.  Law—and increasingly, popular opinion—support the idea that the female body is not particularly more obscene than its male counterpart, and our group rarely meets with negative attention (occasional stink-eye aside).  An excellent and fantastically photogenic case in point:

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People of both genders are often pleased to see us, and for every stink-eye there are at least two people (especially old ladies walking their dogs!) who voice support and excitement.

But for every two of those there’s someone—guys, sorry, but I mean a someone of the male gender—whose support is maybe just a little too enthusiastic.

Men who sit just a little too close.  Men who lurk in nearby bushes (that has to be uncomfortable, dude). Men who snap incessant pictures even when asked to stop.  Men who approach to say “Any chance of a date?”—that’s verbatim, by the way.

Honestly? It’s guys like this that make me (personally, mind—I speak for no one else) want to go topless in public.  Because it does make me uncomfortable and sometimes angry. And I don’t think that’s right. Like most women, I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to catcalls; it takes a special something extra to make my skin crawl.

I know the reason most women would never feel comfortable taking their top off in the park—and, sadly, the reason many women don’t even feel comfortable walking down the street in something revealing as a tank top—are these men with that special something extra, which, I assume, is something somewhere between ignorance and misogyny.

I don’t want that type of man to be in control of what I do.

So we don’t let this type of harassment ruin our day.  We have our supporters, each other, books and sunshine to counteract it, so, hey, creepy guy, fuck off—we’re just here having fun.

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So…what’s “too enthusiastic”?  Too enthusiastic is doing shit you’d never in a million years do if we had shirts on, and that you would never in a billion years do to a guy you don’t know, whether or not he had his shirt off.  It’s stuff that violates the universally comprehended rules of common courtesy and personal space. Yes, we’re out in public, and yes, we’re doing something you don’t see every day, so sure, you might feel like snapping a picture to remember it by or to show your friends. That’s fine. You can be friendly, like this guy…

IMG_2131…polite, respectful, and after a brief hello, gone.

Just don’t be a creep. It’s really not that hard.

IMG_2109We’ve been to Washington Square Park before—but not since the very first time we met, back in the summer of 2011. It was high time for another visit.

So off we went, a small band that included one current NYU student and one alum (for extra neighborhood cred), meeting up by the famous arch and baking a while on the grass before heading into the fountain for a cooling-off dip.

IMG_2175IMG_2024IMG_2027IMG_2274Has there ever been a more wonderful sensation than cool water on sun-warmed skin? It was blissful. And we’re happy to report that none of the Village denizens complained about the topless women frolicking in their midst.  (Though a few were a bit overenthusiastic, as a few always are; but that’s a topic for another post.)

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The Dixieland band that was playing in the park that day, led by a topless (male) tuba player, came over to serenade us with a tuba rendition of “My Heart Will Go On,” leading us to take a stab at imitating the famous Leo/Kate prow-of-the-boat pose…

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…and then someone handed us a pair of maracas, so we could play along.

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Later, we got the most delicious gelato I have ever tasted, from Mario Battali’s “GelOtto” cart, and listed to visiting Australian balladeer Lachlan Cross, who was in New York on his way to Burning Man.

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All in all, one of the finest summer afternoons any girl has ever had. It’s on days like this that you wish summer could go on forever…

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