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The summer of 2020 ended on September 22, but lingering breaths of warm weather have been teasing us ever since. And we’ve been taking advantage of every last one. If it’s somehow 70 degrees on Halloween, we’ll be out there, eating our Skittles and candy corn in the altogether.

But Halloween is still weeks away, and it was more weeks away when we took our last visit of the year to the hidden clearing in Central Park where we enjoy the luxury of solitude and the concomitant freedom to get naked in the sun. Yes, generally it’s only toplessness that is permitted in public places in New York, but there is an exception for the creation and exhibition of art, and photography is art. In any event, solitude means no one sees. And how can you meet a giant balancing boulder with anything less than your full naked self?

Of course, the giant balancing boulder is only one of the spot’s many charms, and we enjoyed the rest in our usual, eponymous style.

(Eponymous! Concomitant! Who knew a visit to our blog would be more demanding than the SAT?)

What did we do all afternoon? Bask. Stretch. Share tales of pandemic-era woe, like the time opening a jar of hot sauce led to a finger brace.

Read, of course.

Munch, of course.

And sew masks. Because pandemic.

And then…and then…we went home, knowing fall and winter were nipping at our heels. But we’re grateful for the last days of peace and pleasure, warmth and comfort.

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.

It’s been legal in New York for 27 years for women to go topless in any public place where men are allowed to do so. We’ve been doing it for the past 8 years, educating people about this legal right and giving women in New York the chance to exercise and enjoy it in peace and comfort. More than 400 women have participated in our events, and we felt good about the number of people we’d managed to reach.

Who knew that there were still hundreds or thousands more we hadn’t reached, eager to go topless but not sure how to go about it?

Well, there were. Just a few weeks ago, one of the founders of our group decided we needed to have an Instagram account (she’d previously created our Twitter account and this very blog, so we’re inclined to trust her judgment on these things).

So we started one, and within days we’d topped 1,000 followers. What’s more, the vast majority of those followers were women, in New York, and hundreds of them wrote to us to say they’d like to come to one of our events.

We invited a few dozen to join us at Summit Rock in Central Park, the park’s highest point and consequently one of its more private spots. More than twenty people showed up, mostly ones we’d never met before. Everyone was unbelievably nice and warm and open and friendly and supportive — all the things our group has always been, and it was so great to see it continue when new members came into the fold.

We brought reading material for anyone who came without — books by Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates and Christa Faust and Naomi Novik

— but our members also brought their own, ranging from schoolwork…

…to beloved fantasy novels…

…to YA classics…

…to good old-fashioned newsprint.

People came solo…

…and they came in pairs.

We climbed trees (Shh! I don’t think you’re supposed to, in Central Park!)–

We ate strawberries —

And we just fucking relaxed.

And we did all this with our breasts bare, and not one person — not one — gave us so much as a dirty look or complained or stood and stared.

On the contrary, one man passing by recognized us and stopped by to say he’d seen our all-female production of The Tempest on that very spot a few years earlier and had brought his daughter (then 7, now going on 10), to open her eyes to the fact that the female body is nothing to be ashamed of. A woman passing by with a fluffy white dog kindly allowed us to ooh and ahh and pet the gorgeous creature. And that was the sum total of our interactions with passersby. Nothing but positive.

You can do this too. You can do it with us (just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com — or message us on Insta, @Topless.Pulp), or you can do it on your own. We’re equally happy either way! One of the best messages we got recently was from a new Insta friend who wrote to say she couldn’t make it to our event but, “I mustered up the courage to take off my top alone in Central Park last week. Mega empowering so thanks!”

We’re changing the world, ladies. By the simplest act in the world: being free. Joyfully, blissfully, happily, wonderfully free.

On this Independence Day and every day, we hope you’ll join us in pulling off that shirt, that bra, that bikini top and enjoying your body as nature made it. Be bold, be open, be a woman, be proud, be free.

It was warm, finally. It was sunny. It wasn’t summer, technically. But after a long — too long! — winter and a cold — too cold! — spring, we can be forgiven for calling the first truly warm and sunny day of the year the start of summer.

It’s our ninth year of meeting outdoors in New York City’s parks and plazas, celebrating the fact that in New York it’s legal for women to be naked from the waist up anywhere it’s legal for a man to do the same thing. This seems like such an obvious concept that it’s inconceivable to us that anyone could disagree with it — but we know that in most parts of this country and in most parts of the world, doing what we do could get a woman arrested, or worse.

But not in New York. Since 1992, it’s been legal, and since 2011 we’ve met well over 100 times, all over the city, with hundreds of women taking part in our events, all to spread the word that it’s not only legal but safe and sane and comfortable and fun and healthy and liberating and…human. Who wouldn’t relish the warmth of the sun on her skin? And why should half the human race be denied that simple pleasure?

To kick off our 9th season, we met in Washington Square Park, one of the most laid-back spots even in this very liberal city. Spring was in the air. Young lovers were kissing, babies were playing drums —

— and we were there too, nearly 20 of us, laying out our towels, our snacks, our reading material. Roughly half the people who came this time were first-timers, which is always wonderful.

There were two pairs of sisters in attendance —

— and friends brought friends.

Halfway through the event, we were joined by two women from Houston who saw what we were doing and asked if they could be part of it. Of course, we said: the more the merrier. And sure enough, they made us merrier.

What did we read? There was Joan Didion and Michael Moorcock, Donald Westlake and Stephen King.

And there was Batman.

There were also strawberries and dried apples.

There was sunscreen, never fear. (Some of you always express concern about this. It’s okay. We know how to take care of ourselves. Really we do.)

There was an honest-to-god rainbow — our very own private rainbow!

And there was great conversation, ranging from nipple piercing experiences to how lovely it was that more than a dozen women could lie topless in the grass in the middle of a city park and not attract a single leer or nasty comment or complaint.

One of our participants wrote afterwards, “That was my first time ever going topless in public and the experience was…very liberating. I didn’t expect that most people would be completely unfazed by us, but then again, NYC is a place of much spectacle, so I’m not that surprised. This is definitely something I would take part in again.”

Another wrote, “My experience at your event was amazing! I was nervous at first. I realized, although the idea of going topless in public didn’t faze me, I’d never actually done it! Once I talked with the other participants, I felt completely at ease. Being topless in the sun felt natural! And it is most definitely an unexplored woman’s right. I applaud the brave and welcoming community you’ve created. In fear of male gaze, I would’ve never dared to do this alone. Afterwards, I felt accomplished, proud, and free.”

A third had this to say: “I was shocked by how relaxing this afternoon’s event was and how much I gained from the experience. I was happy to see other women (not to mention possibly trans/non identifying folks) show up and just get topless. I think I was a little nervous in the beginning but that feeling quickly dissolved and I just stopped caring after like 10 minutes. Everyone was friendly and the environment worked well because the vibe is pretty liberating in Washington Square Park.”

This has been our experience over and over and over again — a lot of people are nervous to try it, but when you do try it, you discover almost instantly just now natural and normal and wonderful it feels, and you wonder why in the world you never did it before.

Would you like to try? We welcome all women, whether you’re nervous or bold, new to toplessness or an old hand at it. Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and we’ll be glad to answer your questions and find an event that’s right for you.

Don’t let another summer pass you by! it’s your right and your privilege — and it would be our privilege to share the experience with you.