IMG_6819On Father’s Day, we went out to Central Park on the stroller-friendly Upper West Side, somewhat unsure of the reception we’d get. Would families out celebrating in the sun welcome us or not?

IMG_6754When someone from this family approached us, we thought for sure they were going to ask us to cover up or move. But no: they just wanted to know if we’d take a picture of them with their phone. We were glad to oblige.

A bit later, a police car rolled to a stop not far from us, and two officers climbed out. We thought for sure they were going to come over and tell us they’d gotten complaints. But no: the officers walked over to a group some distance away, and from the gestures that ensued we realized they were explaining to the group that we had every right to be doing what we were doing. Then the police officers got back in their car and drove away.

Preconceived notions.

That a family would be more likely to reject us than embrace us; that the police would be more likely to hassle us than defend us. Both turned out to be false.

IMG_6824What’s another preconceived notion? That women don’t have the same freedom to go shirtless in a public place that men do, simply because of the chromosomes swimming around our bodies.

IMG_6777Preconceived notions aren’t always false. But they can be. And you should always challenge yours.

IMG_6807The next holiday on the calendar is the Fourth of July — a fine occasion to challenge your preconceptions, while declaring your independence from vexatious clothing, from gender stereotypes, from body shame.

Won’t you join us? All it takes is an email, to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

If you’re brave enough to expose your front, we’ve got your back.

(P.S. If you’re not sure you’re brave enough, you can always do what this member did:

IMG_6758There’s a way for everyone.)

IMG_6600The last time you saw Central Park’s Summit Rock on our blog, it was because we were performing The Tempest for what turned out to be an audience of millions (thank you, media!). This past week, we returned for something a bit more low-key and laid-back — but no less important.

IMG_6526IMG_6524This was one of our plain old visits to the park, the sort where half a dozen of us get together and hang out and read books and enjoy each other’s company, and do so naked from the waist up, just like men have been doing with impunity for the past century or so.

IMG_6616Should this be a scandal? It should not. It has been legal for women in New York to go topless anywhere a man can for twenty-some years. But you still rarely see women doing it, and it’s not because on an 85-degree day no woman would ever want to. It’s because women don’t know they have this right, or don’t believe they do, or don’t believe men know and believe it, and don’t want to deal with the hassle if someone objects or reacts in some other inappropriate way.

Well, that’s why our group exists. Because there’s safety in numbers, and comfort in doing it with friends if you’re going to do it at all. And that’s why we’re excited to extend our invitation to you: if you’re a bold, body-positive woman, if you’re in New York or expect to be here sometime this summer, and if you’re curious about exercising your own right to go shirtless in the park on some upcoming warm summer day, drop us a note. Tell us a little about yourself. We’re at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com, and we’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, here are some more photos from our last adventure for inspiration.

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IMG_6430We’re always hunting for interesting, cool things to do around NYC, and when someone told us about Escape the Room we totally had to try it. Fortunately, they were happy to have us come by and play naked in their space.

IMG_6453What is Escape the Room? It’s this cool puzzle game where you and half a dozen other people (your friends or total strangers) get locked in a room full of puzzles, and you have to solve all the puzzles in order to find a key and get out of the room in less than 60 minutes.

DIMG_5146We had enough people to fill two rooms, so half of us did a Victorian/Sherlock Holmes-themed room…

IMG_6452…while the other half did an espionage/James Bond-themed room. Here’s us as secret agents:

DIMG_5299The Victorians managed to get out well before the hour wound down — not quite record time, but a good enough showing to land us on the Wall of Fame.

IMG_6472The secret agents got right down to the final puzzle…but in the end time ran out.

IMG_6478But it’s okay. Fun was had by all. And how often do you get to unlock secret doors and string mysterious clues together and race against the clock, all while hanging out naked with friends?

Not often enough, is the answer.

We’re thrilled to have gone and can’t wait to go back.

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IMG_6252You may have noticed a rather paltry number of books in our recent book club photos. No real reason for this, beyond the self-evident one that it’s hard to read when you’re playing with a puppy or walking a street fair (or performing Shakespeare). But we did get back to basics on our first visit this year to our favorite rooftop sundeck. (Which has been freshly painted blue and white for the season — yay, new colors!)

Before we could catch up on the latest from Max Allan Collins and Erle Stanley Gardner, or old favorites by Tad Williams and Deborah Harkness, or even work by non-pulp types such as Alison Bechdel and Elizabeth Benedict, we had to doff our garb–

IMG_6000IMG_5848IMG_5821–and also welcome a group of seven undergrads from Purdue who’d contacted us to say they were visiting NYC as part of a queer history tour that would take them to New York, Paris and Berlin, and could they meet with us while they were in town?

IMG_5948cIMG_6019IMG_5990Of course we said yes. And what an amazing group they were! Engaged and curious and passionate and intelligent and concerned and whip-smart. And so young! The world, we must say, is in better hands than we feared if these students are representative. (Sadly, they’re not. But if they were!) You can check out their blog about their travels here, and you won’t be sorry that you did.

Then it was on to our books, supplemented by our usual heady mix of edibles and submersion.

IMG_6178IMG_6074IMG_6187IMG_5879To this mix we added a bit of physical exercise, although of the moderate variety, trying to outdo each other by holding forearm planks (don’t ask why…it seemed like the thing to do…).

IMG_6162IMG_613420160530_141306The afternoon flew by, chased by the threat of rainstorms at its heels, and never have minutes felt more fleeting or more precious. The summer hasn’t even begun yet — but we can never have enough, and these were hours to be savored.

So we savored them.

Kudos to the unflappable pizza deliveryman, undaunted by the dozen or more naked people he walked in on, and to our visiting guests, and to our hosts whose roof we used. And kudos to you, too, our readers. Remember: if you’re a bold, body-positive woman in the New York area, you can join us sometime yourself. Just email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and that might be you in the inflatable pool, or planking on the fake grass, or reading in the sun, without a care or a stitch.

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IMG_5338“Lucky dog,” wrote one fan of ours on our Facebook page, when we posted photos from our most recent day out. Was she speaking metaphorically? Not a bit. There was an actual dog in the photo, he’s two months old, and his name is Charlie.

He’s also the cutest little thing imaginable.

IMG_5240Charlie may have started as the animal companion of just one of our members, but he’s well on his way to being our group mascot.

IMG_5201IMG_5242IMG_5220He’s even shown a knack for scandalous photos…

IMG_5294IMG_5299IMG_5355IMG_5359Will Charlie make appearances at future events? We certainly hope so. Someone out there can probably resist a beautiful little puppy, but it isn’t us.

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IMG_5171What else did we do over the Memorial Day weekend? (Other than enjoying a street fair on Broadway.) Well, we went to a lovely park — not saying where — and found a lovely secluded boulder — not saying which — and lay out under the sun in a state of undress suitable to the elevated temperature and intense sunniness.

IMG_5606IMG_5531IMG_5215How naked is naked? And how naked is legal? We’re fortunate to live in New York City, where any woman can go topless anywhere and anytime a man can. What about going further? Well, we know that full nudity is permitted in the context of a play or other artistic performance or exhibition, like our recent production of The Tempest in Central Park. The exemption for artistic activities has also enabled photographers like Spencer Tunick to shoot photos of fully nude individuals in public places. We were taking photos as well (as you can see), and we think they’re no less artistic than Tunick’s. So why shouldn’t the same exemption cover us?

In any event, some of us took the opportunity to lose that last shred of fabric.

IMG_5068Did it make a difference? Well, it felt awfully nice. And bothered no one (since no one who wasn’t in our group saw). And made it possible for us to create some photographic art, which we are delighted to exhibit for you here.

IMG_5407IMG_5435IMG_5503IMG_5277Could New York City someday be forward-thinking enough to choose some area in some local park and officially designate it for nude sunbathing? We’d like to think so; we’d like to see that happen. But in the meantime we’re glad that opportunities like this one sometimes exist. It’s lovely to lie topless in the sun. Even more so if you can be topless all over.

IMG_5585ETA: Several of you asked for (to quote one correspondent) “more, please,” including a few who wanted proof that the male member who joined us was in fact as brave as the women and wasn’t secretly wearing a C-string or something like that.

Happy to oblige. We got lots of great photos this time.

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IMG_5756Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

This marks the (unofficial) start of summer, and with it the start of street fair season, when New Yorkers — if they don’t flee the city entirely on weekends — spend their weekends at these migratory festivals full of guilty-pleasure food (crepes! zeppoles! mozzarepas!) and miscellaneous tchotchkes (dental tools! chopstick art! old LPs!). The weather is invariably hot, usually humid, often stifling, and any man in the crowd can walk without his shirt on. But you never see women doing it. Never. And how is that fair?

So we took matters into our hands.

IMG_5744We visited the annual fair held on Broadway, up on the Upper West Side. There were half a dozen of us and hundreds of other pedestrians, and yes, we got our share of stares and double takes. But overall people were indifferent or at least trying to appear so. A few nasty remarks floated our way, but we chose to ignore them. We’re not out to pick fights; we’re out to set an example. (And eat some crepes and buy some dental tools.)

IMG_5695IMG_5800IMG_5704IMG_5688The most satisfying moment came when we passed a young mother nursing her baby. She looked at us passing along the pavement, a smile bloomed on her face, and she let her nipple fall from her son’s lips. She had no reason to cover up, and she didn’t. The open-air exposure of her breast was nothing at all, not with the six of us strolling along the same block.

We’d like to think she’d have been equally brave with or without us there. And maybe she would. But we’re also proud as hell to have provided another example of women unafraid to exercise our legal rights and unashamed of our bodies.

If you’re unafraid and unashamed too — or would like to be — we’d love for you to join us sometime this summer. Just send email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself, and we’ll get back in touch.

Together we can fulfill our mission: making the street a little more fair.

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