IMG_9013Yesterday, on a brisk and blustery November afternoon, 21 of us gathered for a lesson — our first! — in acroyoga. A combination of acrobatics and yoga, it proved the perfect antidote to the pre-winter blahs, teaching us the rudiments of Bird Pose and Throne and other suchlike, following a warm-up of stretches, planks, and Downward Dog.

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Leading us in our adventure was yogini extraordinaire Lotsie Cash, who instructed us not only in the physical skills necessary to suspend each other’s bodies upside down in mid-air but also the self-confidence, trust, and wisdom embodied in the practice. She was a pleasure to work with and, though conspicuous in these photos as the one person wearing clothes above the waist, totally non-judgmental about our enjoying the session either topless or fully nude.

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Our thanks also to Dunkin’ Donuts, for filling their signature Box O’ Joe with hot chocolate instead; to Tate’s for making a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that totally doesn’t suck; to Pearl Studios for not minding a dozen-and-a-half naked women in their midst (and three naked boys); and Amazon.com for rushing us a pile of yoga mats on ridiculously short notice.

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Fun was had. We did things we didn’t know we had in us. And once you start down that path, who knows where it might end?

Suddenly winter doesn’t seem so bad…

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IMG_8745Ever since Athena closed over the summer, we’ve lacked for a spot to visit to warm up on cold days and dry off on rainy ones, a spa where management understands that saunas are best enjoyed in the nude and that women and men can share such facilities without there necessarily being anything sexual about it.

But today, at last, we christened a new favorite spa. We’re going to keep its identity to ourselves for the time being, but it’s lovely and well run, and if not quite as large as Athena or as roomily arranged, it has a charm all its own. As usual, a spa environment is not the very best for taking photos, so forgive, please, the grainy/fuzzy quality. But we wanted to share with you some of the joy of this oh-so-joyful afternoon.

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IMG_8579Showing uncommon tenacity, the temperature hit a summery 82 degrees over the weekend. So we chased the mercury up and out onto the sun-dappled terrain of Sheep Meadow — the very spot where we first welcomed the advent of spring not so very long ago. It was a lovely chance to gather in one of New York’s most crowded and yet most serene spots, where as one of our number commented, “No matter how strange you are, you’re never the strangest person in sight.” We certainly weren’t — that honor goes to the couple performing acrobatic maneuvers, perched on one another’s knees, arms and shoulders, or possibly to the several people standing on their heads. (Their own heads, not the couple’s.) Hell, we weren’t even the only women enjoying the sun topless, which was a true pleasure to see. Four summers ago, when we first formed our group, we would have been.

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As for us, we can very happily report that no one interfered with our exercise of our freedoms, or said anything to us, or even bothered us non-verbally unless you count one verging-on-elderly man who knelt a couple of feet away, staring, until we told him that this was rude, at which point he picked up and knelt next to another topless woman elsewhere on the lawn. (We sent an emissary to point out to him that this was not an improvement. He finally left her alone too.)

One of our newest members, possessed of an artistic bent, brought body paints and, using another member’s torso as her canvas, improvised in color and line.

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All in all, a terrific, chill, laid-back moment in the sun. At one point, someone spotted a plane in the sky, leaving behind it a trail of skywriting:

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“GOD…BLESS…AMERICA…,” we read, as the message emerged letter by letter. Unironically written, we assume, and taken in the same spirit. Pick your god, or cherish your lack of same — it’s as fine a way as any of expressing thanks for living in a time and place where we can all bare our bodies equally and face no scrutiny or disapprobation for this innocent act.

And with that we bid the summer of 2014 farewell. We’ll have events in the fall and winter as well — but there’s nothing quite like summer.

We leave you with one more pic, sent in by a friend who couldn’t make it to Central Park but joined with us in solidarity from her Brooklyn backyard.

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If you want to join us sometime — either in person or in sprit, via selfie — just drop us a note at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We welcome all women bold and body-positive and wise to the fact that a nipple is a nipple is a nipple. (Gertrude Stein said that, didn’t she?)

Just grab your favorite book and set your breasts free.

IMG_8353A few weeks back, we put up a blog post lamenting that no hotel with a rooftop pool had the courage (or the brains, or the heart, to get all Wizard of Oz about it) to let us use their pool topless, even though it’s legal for women to go topless anywhere in New York a man can, and all these hotels of course let men use their pools topless.

Well, we had one last hotel to try, the Dream Downtown, and god bless them, they said yes without the slightest hesitation. We asked several times, to make sure we’d heard correctly. Topless sunbathing is allowed? Yes. By women? Yes. We won’t get there and mortifyingly be told to put our tops back on my some staffer who hadn’t read the memo…? No.

So we went. Rented one of their two poolside cabanas, laid out our favorite reading material, dispensed with our tops, and…nothing. Better than that, actually: the staff all made us feel at home and welcome, interacted with us warmly and supportively, and assured us that we weren’t the first to enjoy this liberty there (though we may have been the biggest group to do so at one time). Other patrons using the pool or the adjacent restaurant seemed either oblivious or amused. No one seemed the slightest bit troubled, much less offended. The afternoon passed blissfully; we can’t remember a happier one. We only wished, as we emerged from the heated pool into air the temperature of autumn, that we’d discovered this grand hotel sooner.

You better believe we’ll be back next summer.

IMG_8409IMG_8341IMG_8223IMG_8204IMG_8199IMG_8267IMG_8303IMG_8333IMG_8473IMG_8325IMG_8359IMG_8242IMG_8137091814-MRK4091814-MRK3091814-MRK2IMG_8299IMG_8288IMG_8431IMG_8148IMG_8548IMG_8370IMG_8489IMG_8517IMG_8270IMG_8115And for those of you who believe a video is worth a thousand pictures (and thus 10,000 words?), we offer this moving tribute to the pleasures of the pool:

 

IMG_7868Quick, we thought…before it gets too cold out…to the park!

Believe it or not, in four summers we’d never previously met in Union Square Park. Why not? No idea. But we hadn’t, so that’s where we went, bringing books with us that ranged from Naomi Novik’s upcoming UPROOTED to Michael Lewis’s Wall Street expose, FLASH BOYS. (No, we didn’t mistake Lewis’ title for an imperative…)

IMG_7789IMG_7828OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_7855Joining us was a journalist from France interested in writing about New York’s attitudes toward toplessness…

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She seemed entertained by the particular set of passers-by who stopped to say hello, ranging from a painter who’d previously happened upon us in Bryant Park to a fire alarm system technician on his lunch break to this fellow…

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…who announced that he’d just taken an Adderall, didn’t know whether we were a hallucination or not, and that he’d recently been named “the illest homeless man in New York City.” Hm.

He also called one of us “a genetic miracle.” Adderall makes you say the sweetest things.

The sun had a strong showing, almost making it feel like summer again. Its days are numbered and we know it, but while there’s life in it yet, we’ll soak up every ray.

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By afternoon’s end we were still full of pep and yearning, so after making like amazons…

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…and 1950s housewives…

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…we took a topless stroll out of the park, culminating in a stop at a Mr. Softee ice cream truck.

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Did that finally cool our fires? For a time. But there’s never enough Mr. Softee to quench us for long.

More! we call. More! And again: More!

More soon.

IMG_7913So, a dip in a rooftop pool is one of the great ways to cool down on a hot late-summer day…but it’s not the only way, as one of our members who works as a bartender downtown demonstrated with great proficiency the other day.

IMG_8005We brought the ingredients for margaritas, mojitos, mimosas and cosmos, while she brought the tools of the trade: shaker; strainer; muddler that could double as a fierce butt plug. Corks were popped, screwtops screwed, limes halved, jalapenos quartered, ice smashed against the wooden floor. Drinks were sampled and spilled, spills were licked up. Fresh mint leaves got muddled, and so, by god, did we.

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Did we get any reading done? We did, until the pages started to blur.

IMG_7981IMG_8018After that it was all conversation, some of it about the waning of the season and what we would do to keep the group together over the colder months to come. We have Ideas. Some big ones, some small ones, but no shortage of plans; now it’s just a matter of figuring out which and when and how and who.

But first we plan to drink summer to the lees, much the same as we drank our delicious selection of what Alex Trebek would call Potent Potables. In the altogether because, naked cocktails. Just as lovely as naked reading. And it’s another thing you can’t do in the middle of Central Park. Yet.

IMG_8060IMG_8033IMG_7986IMG_8008IMG_8066IMG_7916IMG_7954IMG_7917IMG_8079Oh — and just to wrap up the rooftop report, here are a few pics we’d planned to include last time but didn’t find room for. Say hello to two of our newest members and one of our oldest, back again after more than a year away. And two of our most steadfast, too, just because, well, we love them. :)

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IMG_7707We had a notion that some hotel in New York City — where after all it is legal for women to go topless anywhere a man can, and has been legal for more than 20 years — might be willing to let us use their rooftop swimming pool sometime, side by side with all their topless male guests. We offered to rent hotel rooms so we’d be guests too. But no: they were all terrified to allow bare-chested women on the same roof as bare-chested men.

“This group seems incredible – and very fun!” wrote a representative of the Empire Hotel. But: “Because this is a private space (with food and families) – we require our guests to wear tops. So I am not sure that we would be the best fit for you. Thank you for understanding.” Yes, of course we understand: food, after all. Our bare breasts (unlike men’s bare breasts) will tend to cause milk to sour and meat to spoil and other food to go bad in other mysterious ways. And families! Individual, separate men, women and children can bear exposure to female mammary tissue, but a family, no, a family will explode like popcorn on a hot stove if you wave a nipple in its direction. A woman’s nipple, that is. A man’s nipple, no problem. (True, he wrote “we require our guests to wear tops,” not distinguishing between women and men — but we have a feeling he meant they require this of their female guests. If they required it of their male guests as well it would be a rare swimming pool indeed.)

Jenny Morales of the Gansevoort Hotel wrote, “You’re more than welcome to join us as hotel guests and access the pool, however being that this is family friendly hotel, going topless would not be an option.” Oh, don’t we know it! We have tried and tried to train our breasts not to be so unfriendly to families, but they’re just incorrigible.

Nicolas Oliveira of the Hotel Americano wrote, “We are supporters when it comes to topless sunbathing and as you said, our Hotel does have international flavor. We choose to be neutral at our pool since at the end of the day we are a Hotel and we need to cater to Hotel Guests first. We do not believe that it will have a negative reaction when it comes to our Hotel Guests, but we also do not want to risk anything because we are a Hotel and our guests are our biggest supporters.” We are still trying to untangle that one. But it sounds like “We choose to be neutral at our pool” means “Please, please, please don’t come.”

Well, Nicolas and Jenny and Unnamed Representative — so be it. Your pools, your rules. But it’s a pity that none of you are willing to stand up to mindless conservatism, to fear and shame. Because what terrible thing are we really talking about here? A dozen happy women enjoying the sun with a little less rather than a little more fabric on. Relaxing, reading, tanning — nothing more, nothing worse. Unless you’re all secretly in the fabric industry and afraid your swimsuit concessions will plunge in value, we really can’t comprehend the danger we represent. Just take a look at these photos and tell us — would this really have hurt you so badly? So badly that you were willing to turn away hundreds of dollars in revenue — maybe hundreds per person — just to keep it from happening…?

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And to the enlightened folk at the Colonial Park Inn (where all these photos were taken, after we gave up on our search for a real pool we could use) we say: thank you. We always feel welcome with you. Your pool may be small, and it may be inflatable, and it may not allow us to swim laps or practice the back float, but at least we can ditch the swimsuits. Which is the best way to enjoy a pool.

And get this, you’re not only comfortable with breasts, you’re even okay with vaginas! And penises!

God bless you, Colonial House. God bless you.

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