Recently, it occurred to me that maybe I’m not running into Mr. Right because Mr. Right doesn’t shop for lipstick at Sephora or hang out on my couch watching The Bachelorette. I need to figure out where he spends his time.
I’m not into the ubiquitious man pastime of reading magazines on the toilet, so I decided to join a flag football team instead, shaking off the memory of a pre-teen me plucking dandelions in the softball outfield. Now, I’m a grown woman — I have the fixings for martinis in my pantry, and a mortgage! — and flag football is just a game … like Scrabble.
I show up for the game, decked out in long sweats to protect against skinned knees. My teammate Jared playfully hurls a football toward me. I crouch into tornado safety position and shield my head with my hands. Jared tells me I need to tuck in my T-shirt so I can Velcro this unattractive flag contraption around my waist. I try to explain that if I tuck in my T-shirt, my waistline will look thick and rumply, defeating the reason I’m here. “It’s a rule,” he says.
“I’ll be the quarterback,” I joke in the team huddle. No one smiles, because this is serious business. One guy seems kind of cute — cropped hair, big muscles, five o’clock shadow. “I’m Jennifer,” she grunts when I introduce myself.
The rest of my team includes a nondescript selection of guys with square-jawed faces whose obvious goal is to — yawn — play football, and two Pamela Anderson types with tanned legs sticking out of short shorts and T-shirts tied into cute knots revealing pert abs. Hey, isn’t that against the rules? Anyway, betcha these girls cry the first time the ball sails their way.
Team captain Matt scratches “X”s and “O”s in the dirt with a stick, like in the movies. I wonder which “X” I am … or are we the “O”s? I take my place alongside my teammates on the field. “We’re going the other way!” Matt snaps at me.
“Block that woman over there.” He points to a horse-like creature snorting at me from the other side of the field. The ball snaps, and I run toward the Horse. She tramples all over me and gallops off into the darkness. Ouch. This is only a game, I remind myself … like Pictionary. I wonder how soon halftime will arrive so I can buy red licorice at the concession stand.
“Run that way and try to catch the ball,” Matt orders. Before I can explain the multiple reasons why this is not a good idea, the ball hurtles toward my delicate facial bones. I put my hands out, not to catch the ball, but to prevent it from inflicting permanent damage. It smacks my middle finger in a direction nature did not intend. OUCH! But I will not cry. I will NOT cry
The score skyrockets to 13-0. We’re the zeroes. Blonde twin Krissy skips onto the field to replace me. I get to work braiding blades of grass on the sidelines. Krissy turns out to be a speed demon in waif’s clothing. The Horse tries to trample her, but Krissy darts away, managing to look adorable in the process.
Halftime. Sweet halftime. Is it only halftime? As Matt swipes his “X”s and “O”s, he directs his comments at me as I’m munching on my red licorice. “LA-dies, this brown object is a FOOTBALL.” I’m a grown woman with the fixings for martinis in my pantry and a mortgage. And it’s only a game … like Monopoly. And I will NOT cry.
Jennifer is ejected from the game for kicking the Horse in the hoof. Krissy leaves the game because she has a date. “Next play is a required woman’s play,” Matt tells us. Collective groan from the guys. “Kandy’s injured.” Kandy cradles her fingernail, chipped on the last play. “Which leaves … Amy.” Another collective groan from the team. “When the ball snaps,” he instructs me, “run to the right and look for this BROWN OBJECT.”
That’s it. My finger may be broken, my waistline rumply, but I’ll show them. The ball snaps. I run to the right. Which is when Matt swoops in, literally picks me up and carries me around the field, planting me where the ball is headed. I’m so stunned the ball sails over my head. The Horse whinnies. Matt curses. The Zeroes remain zeroes.
That night I curl up with an ice pack on my finger and Icy Hot slathered on my wounded pride. What was I thinking, trying to meet Mr. Right in his own habitat? Boys will be boys. And in some ways, I’ll always be that pre-teen plucking dandelions in the outfield.
Oh, lucky you. You‘ve managed to land the most coveted table in town. You know the one. That cool, urban OTR restaurant that’s on everyone’s must-eat list: Abigail Street.
Ever since Chef Daniel Wright won Food & Wine magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef, Great Lakes Division” award — in fact, even before that — people have been lining up for his delectable tapas-style plates. Sharable, mouth-watering offerings such as Hanger Steak with caramelized Brussels sprouts and Sweet Pea and Ricotta Crostini have those in the know happily waiting for hours outside his Vine Street door. You have achieved the impossible. So, what’s the problem?
Your mouth has been oh-so-ready for the dichotomy of the zesty, crisp pita paired against the cool, refreshing cucumber of the Fattoush salad along with the meltingly soft Pan Roasted Cod for days. Thoughts of Chorizo Stuffed Dates occupy your brain even more than your actual human date, yet there’s this sinking sensation deep down in the pit of your stomach.
It’s the crowd.
Everywhere you turn in the NYC-subway-tile covered room are chic, effortlessly dressed women of all ages occupying this supremely hip space. Instantly, the feelings of culinary anticipation you’ve had all week yo-yo back and are replaced by all-too-familiar insecurities. A sudden feeling of angst washes over you as your eyes scan the room and you spy one ultimately stylish, urbane lady, casually draped over a cool cocktail at the bar, and you begin to wonder: Do I fit in? Am I dressed appropriately? Is everyone staring at me? WHY is everyone staring at me?
There’s something about sitting down to dine in one of the most up-to-the-minute restaurants in town that just makes you want to look your best. It’s true, the attire of the crowd does add to the ambience of the establishment, as it should. It’s a sign of respect to the owners and staff of the restaurant who, after all, have spent their hard-earned money and valuable time putting together this magnificent space for your entertainment and dining enjoyment — and it’s respectful to your fellow diners. I, for one, certainly don’t want to look up from my super sexy plate of Chef Wright’s fresh roasted local beets, Grilled Octopus and delicate ricotta gnocchi to see that I’m sitting next to someone in sweatpants. This isn’t the time to forgo grooming or attire and throw on a “head for the drive-thru” get-up.
So, if you’re going to be fed by an expert such as Chef Wright, why not dress like a fashion expert as well, for the complete downtown Cincinnati experience? Coincidentally, just a few feet from the door of Abigail Street is the door to one of the hottest — yet still affordable — OTR boutiques I know of: Sloane Boutique.
Owner Duru Armagan has created a carefully cultivated collection of clothing and accessories, including pieces in all price and age ranges. The personalized service, and the fact that Sloane features lots of local designers and artisans with unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry and fashions, makes it the kind of shop you want to frequent. And the location, smack dab in the middle of all the Gateway Quarter fun, makes it perfect for the whole “ladies night out” shopping/dining experience.
What exactly will the downtown dining divas be wearing this fall? At the fall shows this past spring, Armagan spied and snatched up elegant, traditional tweed jackets in some not-so-traditional colors, which are being paired with casual fabrics such as denim, or rich, luscious leather. Lady-like embellished collars on blouses and dresses are dainty and sweet, often showing up in unique combinations such as leather on silk. Both will be perfect for the “ladies who lunch” crowd.
Personally, I can’t wait for the funky motorcycle jackets in racy shades like Hunter green from a line called Veda, and the furry vests coming into the shop soon. Just slip one of these on whenever you’re rolling into town on your Harley, and casually toss it over your shoulders as you nibble on your wood grilled lamb sliders. I guarantee that everyone in the room will be staring at you, but for this time, it will be for all the right reasons.
From L to R: On Gabriella: Haven Mini, $175; Tatiana Wedges, DV, $76; Stone cuff, Moss Mills, $88. On Ilene: Malia Tweed Jacket, Zoe, $347; Quincy Dress, $154; Orla Wedges, Dolce Vita, $175.
Django Western Taco offers options for drinkers and diners.
Guys, I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other a bit through my previous two “Her Night Outs,” so I think it’s safe to say that you know I like to make bad/obvious/weak jokes. Therefore, it’s only fitting that for my third “Night Out,” I take the person who inspired my terrible joke-making the most: my mom.
Yes, I took my mom out on a dinner date, and no, it wasn’t miles and miles away. My mom thinks I get embarrassed by her, and sometimes I do, but mostly I think she’s hilarious and sweet and I love her. So I took her out for some Southwestern fare at Django Western Taco to show her how much I care.
It wouldn’t be a day hanging out with my mom if we didn’t get somewhat lost, but this time it was through no fault of our own. I had Googled Django’s address on my (sort of) smart phone, but it was pretty hard to find. There was no signage outside, and the address — 4046 Hamilton Ave. in Northside — didn’t seem to exist. I finally called the restaurant, and as my mom was driving us down Blue Rock Road, I saw the street number typed on a piece of paper taped to a glass door, but it was kind of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it situation.
Once we found the restaurant, we parked behind the forest green building and walked in the door. It was nothing like I expected. Rather minimalist, the interior was a refreshing change from the cloying aesthetics so many restaurants and bars try to employ. There were a few community-style dining tables on the main floor by the bar, then stairs that led to a second bar and a secluded, little room to the right with just enough dim lighting and distance to satisfy my desire for a quiet corner to dine in.
My mom and I sat down at a back table, and, thrilled by the tin wall behind us that was painted a rust color, she exclaimed, “Put that in your article!” And so, obedient daughter that I am, I did.
We were promptly greeted by our server. She was very efficient and knowledgeable, effortlessly and succinctly breaking down the somewhat vague menu options. Django’s menu features a large drinks section, with a good selection of beer, wine, margaritas and sangria, and a small-ish food selection, which is all about basics.
Standard Southwestern options such as chips and salsa, guacamole and two different kinds of queso make up the starters section. And the meals themselves come in “lone” or “bowl” options. The “lone” offering of each item is basically a single taco, best suited for someone dining solo. And the “bowl” offering is a bowl full of meat or beans used to create several tacos — best for a group of people. We went with the bowl of Pollo Verde, which was delicious chicken with a lovely cilantro mixture on top. We also ordered the Pickled Six, a selection of six pickled veggies (including jicama and Yukon potatoes), suggested to add flavor to the tacos, and a side of Dirty Rice.
When I said aloud, “I wonder what makes it ‘dirty’?,” my mom replied, completely deadpan, “I think it’s because they put dirt in it.” We laughed for a good three minutes (my mom’s the funniest). We found no dirt whatsoever in the dirty rice; it’s long grain rice tossed with spices and ground meat, and is wholly delicious. Our bowl came with three tortas, which was plenty for the two of us, and, along with an order of chips and guac, we had leftovers.
I should mention here: we ordered margaritas. Yes, my mother, who consumes roughly one glass of wine a year, ordered a margarita. I was stunned. The woman never drinks! But she was off work for a week, and saucily said to my gasp of disbelief, “I’m on stay-cation.” I love my mom.
And I love her even more because she took three sips of the margarita and declared it a tad too strong for her. I couldn’t drink hers for her, as it was kind of strong, and I was getting too full. But this mother and daughter team is never one to pass up dessert, so we threw caution to the wind and ordered the Tres Leches, a moist cake drenched in three different types of milk (whole, half and half, and condensed) and topped with homemade vanilla ice cream. The Tres Leches was just perfect. Not too rich and not too sweet.
We left Django Western Taco fully satisfied, and I’m sure we’ll be back again. Next time though, no margaritas for Mom!
Photography: Jeremy Kramer. Stylist: Ashlee Mello of A Mello Style and Brooke Kellestine. Production Assistance: Joe Mello. Digitech: Andrew Doench. Hair and Makeup: Sarah Memory and Cecili Robison of Paul Mitchell The School Cincinnati. Models: Kara W. and Molly H. for New View Management.
A survey conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute found that interaction workers (a fancy term for office rats, like me) spend an estimated 28 percent of their workweek responding to, reading and organizing their email inboxes — which translates to 11.2 hours of the standard 40-hour week.
While that statistic isn’t surprising, the amount of time I spend sorting through my email does annoy me. And lately, because it’s an election season, my inbox has taken even longer to get through because of the flood of political spam.
Typically, I delete these emails before I even open them, but recently the gender focus and party neutrality of an email subject line caught my attention: “Fw: Fwd: TRUE STORY EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW! — particularly in an election year, whether you are Republican or Democrat.”So I clicked on the message and began to read.
“This is the story of our mothers and grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago,” the message read. “Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.”
I knew where this email was going.
In high school, I had learned about early suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had crafted the Declaration of Sentiments (the document that boldly declared all men and women were created equal), and Susan B. Anthony, who co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) with Stanton. I already had a working knowledge and respect for these women, so I didn’t think I needed to read on.
I was about to delete the email when I glanced at a paragraph halfway down the screen.
It read: “Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night.”
According to the author, suffragists in the early 1900s were arrested for carrying signs in front of the Whitehouse asking for the right to vote. Police arrested the picketing women, known as “Silent Sentinels,” a term coined by Stanton’s daughter, for charges of obstructing traffic. The arrested women refused to pay a $10 fine in court, so they were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia to carry out their sentences.
On November 15, 1917, a night that was later dubbed the “Night of Terror,” 40 prison guards brutally beat the 33 incarcerated suffragists, and then left them without medical attention. They chained Burns’ arms above hear head when she tried to raise the spirits of other prisoners, smashed protestor Dora Lewis’ head into an iron bed, rendering her unconscious, and choked and kicked the other women.
Admittedly, I was a little surprised by the information, and I wasn’t convinced that it was correct, so I took to my bookshelf and pulled out my old women’s studies textbook. Inside, I found nothing about suffragists in jail. Then I turned to the internet, where .orgs, .govs and Google Books confirmed what I had read.
According to the National Women’s History Museum’s website, starting in June 1917 and continuing through October, suffragists like Burns and Alice Paul were arrested at the gates of the White House while picketing with signs that read, “Mr. President, what will you do for women’s suffrage?” and “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
The women were part of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), which was a nonpartisan feminist group that favored a more politically aggressive approach to women’s suffrage than the NWSA. They were the first group in the U.S. to pursue a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign by organizing marches and peaceful protests on behalf of women’s suffrage.
Paul and members of the NWP feared that the onset of World War 1 in April 1917 would sideline their cause, just as the Civil War had done to the first wave of feminism in the 1800s, so instead of focusing on the war-relief efforts, the suffragists decided to pursue their activism by picketing the Whitehouse — where they were repeatedly arrested.
While incarcerated in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, the suffragists were indeed beaten by prison staff, refused medical attention and, after organizing a three day hunger strike, were force fed through feeding tubes. (When Burns refused to open her mouth, the guards stuck the feeding tube up her nostril.)
As I researched, I started thinking about the similarities between the leaders of the American Revolution and the leaders of the women’s rights movement. After all, Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776 because American colonists were not being represented under British law. Supporters of the women’s rights movement thought women should be represented under the law, too. Stanton even modeled the Declaration of Sentiments after the Declaration of Independence in order to stress the American values of freedom, personal rights and equal representation … for all genders.
So take a few minutes to read about the lesser-known leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. And when you go to the polls this November, remember the very real sacrifices they made for equal representation, and for your voice to be counted.
Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) And Angelina Grimke (1805-1879)
Writers And Lecturers
Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina, broke social barriers that denied women the right to publicly speak in the 1800s. The sisters were among the first American women to publicly lecture, and they wrote letters in defense of equal rights for slaves and women. Sarah and Angelina also published anti-slavery and pro-women’s rights pamphlets, which were burned in their home state of South Carolina.
In 1837, Sarah wrote a book, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, which defined the differences between sex and gender, and aligned the abolitionist cause with the women’s rights movement. Sarah and Angelina continued to support abolition and women’s rights throughout their lives. Their courage to stand up for important causes in the face of societal disapproval inspired women’s rights and civil rights leaders to come.
Founder Of The NWP (1885-1977)
Alice Paul, former member of the NWSA, founded the NWP in 1913. While members of the NWSA favored a state-by-state approach to suffrage, members of the NWP supported the passage of a constitutional amendment that would guarantee women the right to vote.
In 1913, Paul organized a march on Pennsylvania Avenue for women’s suffrage. The march took place on the same day as Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. It started off successfully, but soon turned ugly when angry crowds began spitting on, hitting and tossing lit cigar butts at the women marchers.
In October 1917, police arrested Paul while she and other members picketed the Whitehouse. She was sentenced to seven months in jail and placed in solitary confinement for two weeks. While incarcerated in Occoquan, she started a hunger strike to protest her unlawful arrest. She was placed in a mental institution, where prison wardens tried to get her declared insane by psychiatrists. When the psychiatrists found nothing wrong with her, prison officials forced a feeding tube down Paul’s throat.
For nearly two weeks this went on, until Paul smuggled word out to the press of her unfair treatment while incarcerated. In response to public outcry of her treatment, and the jail’s inability to stop the picketers’ hunger strike, Paul, along with the rest of the incarcerated suffragists, were unconditionally released in November 1917.
After women earned the right to vote, Paul turned her attention toward the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee women federal protection. She served as a women’s rights activist until her death in 1977.
Member Of The NWP (1879-1966)
Lucy Burns was a member of the NWP and close friend of Alice Paul. Burns and Paul met in England in the early 1900s, where they both worked as activists for the British women’s rights movement. Burns spent more time in jail than any other American women’s rights activist. On the “Night of Terror,” after prison guards handcuffed her wrists to the bars above her head, other prisoners showed Burns alliance and support, sleeping with their hands above their heads as well. Burns was repeatedly incarcerated and released from prison, but continued to picket the Whitehouse and demand suffrage until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920.
After women won the right to vote in America, she retired from activism, exhausted, and spent the rest of her life taking care of her orphaned niece.
Although Frederick Douglass is most known for his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, he also was an outspoken supporter of women’s suffrage. Douglass wrote fierce editorials in defense of women’s rights like “The Rights of Women,” and “Women and the Ballot,” which appeared in his abolitionist publication, the North Star. In 1848, Douglass participated in the first Women’s Rights Convention in Rochester, New York, where he signed Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration of Sentiments, which, again, was modeled after the Declaration of Independence, demanded that the rights of women be acknowledged by society. While members of the abolitionist community sometimes criticized Douglass for his involvement in the women’s movement, he nonetheless continued to support the cause while also advocating for the rights of slaves in America by publishing editorials, attending conventions and publicly speaking.
Fashion is an aspect of everyone’s life, whether you’re Vogue’s Anna Wintour or a burly mechanic. Even those who claim to “throw on whatever” make a conscious decision regarding what to wear — and what not to wear — based on comfort, appropriateness (social norms, defined dress codes, the weather) and personal taste.
Even though everyone has a unique sense of style, most of us conform to a general uniform that consists of covering a majority of our bodies with manufactured clothing items. And while there’s a lot of room for interpretation and individuality within this accepted paradigm, there are people who skirt the fringe of fashion: those who dress outside their gender norm, those who embrace fantasy fashion and others who forego textile goods altogether.
The Drag Queen
In the daylight, no one would look twice at Tony Cody’s getup. Large-framed with a shaved head, there’s nothing outrageous about his appearance. But when the sun goes down and it’s time to work, Cody transforms into Penny Tration, local drag queen, entertainer, comedienne and contestant on the upcoming season of Ru- Paul’s Drag Race.
Cody entered the drag world on a dare 20 years ago. And what started as a hobby soon became a small business once he lost his day job during the recession. He now owns The SweatShoppe, a retail space where he makes wigs, costumes and other drag accessories to sell to drag queens across the globe on eBay. And at night he, as Penny, emcees at The Cabaret (which presents drag shows several nights a week at OTR’s Below Zero Lounge) and performs across the country. Transitioning from the masculine Cody into bodacious, busty babe Penny looks like quite a task, but as he explains, the steps aren’t really different from a woman getting ready.
“It’s the same rules for makeup and hair — just lots more.” “Start with shaving,” Cody advises. The rest of the makeover takes place at the venue.
“You have to try and get on as much makeup as you can before you start sweating like a pig.” And with the combination of stage lights, gigantic wigs and body padding entailed in each performance, sweating is definitely an issue. “It’s just putting on makeup, like any girl. It’s the same things, just darker colors and more,” he says. “There’s lots of getting rid of and hiding and camouflaging [masculine] features.”
Next, Penny’s body goes on. “Spanx have been a drag queen’s best friend for way longer than girls have been aware of them,” Cody says. “But not just Spanx. Literally old-school corsets and foam padding to create hip shapes and boob shapes. I have a silicone prosthetic that’s a breastplate that kind of goes on like a halter top.”
At the end of the process, which Cody miraculously has down to an hour, his head is covered in a wild mane, his facial features look completely different and his waist is a full eight inches smaller. After years of experience, reading lots of books and taking color theory classes, Cody says you become “an expert of your own face.”
But needless to say, drag is not a look easily transferred to everyday women. “Girls are forever saying, ‘Can you do my makeup?’” Cody says. “This would look crazy at Kroger. In the daylight, this doesn’t work.” Women’s fascination with drag is something that has always intrigued him. “There is something inherently misogynistic about a man dressing up and pretending to be a woman.” He says.
“There’s not a misogynistic bone in my body, but there is something about the act itself. What I’m doing is not exactly trying to be a girl, but that over-exaggeration about what is womanhood.”
One common misconception, Cody says, is that drag queens are all men who want to be women. For him and many others, that is not the case. “I think most heterosexual people assume that drag queens want to be women,” he says. “The vast majority of folks that I have worked with are just happy dressing up. And then, there is also a very large contingent of folks who do identify as female, and this is the way they can express that and fulfill themselves.”
“The most important thing to remember is that drag is theater-lite,” Cody says. “It is on a stage, lit, at a distance, so the fashion aspect is costume, which always follows fashion. … We follow the same color trends that come from France. We look at magazines and we get inspiration.”
The Friendly Furry
If you’re familiar with the term “furry,” it’s probably from some kind of pop culture reference (MTV’s True Life or Entourage). Furry fandom is a subculture within the costume play (“cosplay”) trend, in which people pretend to be animal-like and often dress in fursuits (think mascot costumes). The media tends to portray furries in the extreme, emphasizing the erotic.
But as Newport resident and self-proclaimed furry Joey Shultz explains, that’s a problem most fandoms encounter, and there is really much more to the community. “The furry community has been demonized in the past due to the explicit sexual nature that some of its members feel obligated to flaunt, which is unfortunate,” he says. “I try to steer clear of it, myself.”
Shultz, who was introduced to the online furry community by a boyfriend years ago, describes his definition of a furry:
“You’re a furry when you feel a connection to the animal kingdom in such a way that your human body feels inadequate. You have a desire to be an animal or, at the very least, experience the world from their perspective: to run on four legs through the woodlands, to fly through the clouds on feathered wings, to hunt with your pride in the African savanna.”
Kind of romantic, right?
Sharing his name with baby kangaroos, Shultz loved the animals of Australian outback as a child. He enjoyed reading werewolf stories and watching Nickelodeon’s television adaptation of the book series, Animorphs. He says the affinity with animals was always present, before he even knew what a furry was. This connection to animals carries over into fashion. One could find paw gloves, animal ear headbands, wings, collars and clip-on tails at most malls. But what most people recognize about furries is the fursuit.
Depending on the budget, Shultz describes the range of these costumes as “looking like either a rejected cereal mascot or something that just jumped out of Pan’sLabyrinth.” The high-quality, full-body suits, which can cost upwards of $3,000, are generally saved for special occasions like conventions or “furmeets.”
But most of Shultz’s furry presence is online, where he writes furry fiction, so he does not have a full fursuit. He notes that while he simply cannot afford the hefty price tag, the furry community is split on the suit issue — some furries go all-out with costumes while others take a definitive stance against them. That isn’t to say he does not take part in any costuming. Shultz often wears an animal collar and animalistic accessories.
“I suppose some of the costumes [people] may have seen online as far as cosplay and the furry subculture gocould best be summed-up as odd,” he says. “But, hey, part of the experience is having fun with the outfit and trying to see how far you can let your imagination take it.”
The Natural Nude
Tucked away in Colerain is a community of all sorts of people — families, singles, nurses, pilots, businessmen. They don’t dress up in sequin gowns or prosthetics, clipon tails or fursuits. In general, they don’t dress up at all.
Paradise Gardens Nudist Resort is a home away from home for area nudists, also known as naturists. “When the clothes are gone, there’s no longer an issue of ‘Her jeans are too tight,’” explains Kevin, manager of Paradise Gardens (where folks prefer to just use first names). “Now it becomes more of a just talking and relating to someone as an individual versus having the clothing aspect.”
Before taking over management in November 2010, Kevin had been a member for five years and his office manager, Susan, had been there for 20 years. Both had practiced nudism at home for decades. Different nudist clubs have different rules; for example, Paradise Gardens is family oriented. Kevin points out the false stereotype of nudist resorts being sex clubs. While there are establishments like that, Paradise Gardens offers a safe, child-friendly environment for members.
Another rule to note is that the grounds are not clothing-optional. This means that everyone is expected to be nude (and absolutely must be nude in the pool, sunning area, sauna and hot tub). Susan explains that there’s no pressure on first-timers, who are welcome to take their time. Being nervous to disrobe for the first time is normal, she says, and suggests just jumping into it.
“There’s people of all ages, from kids to people in their seventies. You see all body types from overweight to thin to in-shape. And you just start accepting yourself at some point,” Susan says. “I went from laying on the lawn to getting up and then, eventually, I was out there playing volleyball. Then you start feeling what nudism is about: you feel the water and the air in a different way. You start feeling the sunshine in a different way. It’s awesome and you don’t want to go back.”
Members and visitors of the 30-acre resort partake in typical outdoors activities: swimming, fishing, hiking, volleyball. They organize wine tastings and potluck dinners. Paradise Gardens also hosts a summer kids’ camp and dances for adults.
“We tend to dress up for dances,” Susan says. “That’s where you can be real creative.” Members are invited to break their norm, pick out costumes and wear outfits that might be too outrageous to wear in public. Past themes include luau, masquerade and burlesque. Imaginably, nudists become accustomed to seeing other naked bodies.
Kevin explains that, ironically, covering up can be even more enticing. “On burlesque night, oddly enough, there were more guys just ogling the women — who were all covered.” For the most part, nudism is a private practice. At a club like Paradise Gardens, people can enjoy the clothing-free lifestyle for a while before returning the social norms of the outside world where nudity is still taboo.
“I would describe myself a conservative nudist,” Susan says. “In the textile world, I’m not taking my clothes off every chance I get like, ‘I’m a nudist,’ because that brings a bad name to things. It’s a quiet part of my life. A number of people know [I’m a nudist] but not everybody. I enjoy the dichotomy of being here.”