Many of you who know Bill and me have heard this story before, and many of you have even graciously paid it forward and re-counted the legendary tale to friends; everyone enjoying a good laugh at our expense.
Through the years, we’ve had people who meet us for the first time say, “Oh! So you’re the couple who…” Yep, it’s us. So at your urging to share this story again—and because it definitely ties-in with following your joy—here it is in print.
Following our wedding day in 1994 we embarked on a honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. The week of vacation was magnificent, and it was a wonderful way to start our new lives together, especially after all the fanfare of a big, traditional wedding.
On the cruise ship following our first day at sea, we attended a big meeting led by the Cruise Director telling us what to expect on our first port of call—the West Indian island of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Getting “briefed” on the nude beach
“The island is half French and half Dutch,” he said, “And you may have heard about the nude beaches on the French side…” The group of about a hundred of us seated in the glitzy Las Vegas-style lounge snickered and giggled at the idea, but the voice behind the microphone abruptly stopped us: “Don’t get excited,” he said, “It’s not like you’ll see Bo Derek on the beach; it’s gonna be more like Bo Diddley.”
Then in addition to explaining a bit about shopping, taxis, and customs, the Cruise Director further explained that cameras would not be allowed on the clothing-optional section of the beach.
Everyone had a chance to ask their questions and on the way back to our cabin, my new husband of four days said to me, “So what do you think?”
That night before we fell asleep, we talked and nervously giggled some more about the possibility of visiting a nude beach. As the ship’s engine hummed through the starlit sea that night, we were rocked to sleep and drifted off into slumber, preparing for the next day’s adventures.
Ready to check it out
Morning came and St. Martin awaited us! After breakfast on the deck, we hailed a cab to the beach on the French side which came highly recommended: Orient Beach. And, just in case we got up the courage to see what all the hype was about…we were assured that yes, there was a nude section on that particular beach.
After a wild cab ride across the island, we got dropped off at this glorious stretch of beach. We began our excursion on the clothed side, and it was beautiful! The soft sand melted underneath our feet and the sun beat down on our tanned faces. We found a spot in the sand and planted ourselves.
But curiosity got the best of us! So off we went and made our way up the beach and eventually walked past a sign that warned visitors to leave their cameras behind.
There we were on the much talked about nude side of the beach. Lots of vacationers sans suits—sunbathing, swimming, or walking along the shore. And the Cruise Director was right: sexy film star Bo Derek was nowhere to be found.
Curious about this new experience—and hiding behind our sunglasses—we walked and we walked and we walked, taking it all in. And when we came to the end of the beach, we were at a sort of crossroads with a decision to make.
“What do you think?” “Do you want to?” “Should we?” we asked one another, knowing full well the reference of these vague inquiries. Back and forth, we conversed through uneasy laughter, realizing that this could be a priceless opportunity to get in on the fun, half-way across the world. After all, it was no big deal—this was the way they did it here. There were lots of nude families relaxing with their children, and no one seemed to care either way.
We chose to seize the opportunity.
But wait! How and where do we strip down, we wondered? We didn’t see anyone else taking off their suits—they just sort of appeared naked.
More anxious chatter between us newlyweds ensued: “Do we go in the water and take off our suits and then walk around? Or should we go behind a tree and take them off, or what?” What was the etiquette here? We felt silly and weren’t sure how to proceed. After more fruitless discussion, I grew frustrated and said, “Okay, let’s stop this and just do it here!”
And so off came our suits.
We started walking hand-in-hand, with ear-to-ear smiles on our bright young faces. While my groom scrunched up his trunks neatly into a ball in his fist, I clutched my neon tropical bikini top complete with starchy underwire that measured a foot in length (that would not fold or give) with floral straps and all dangling in the breeze. It was obvious we were first-timers.
The Caribbean air felt incredible on our skin! What a rare opportunity to shed the beliefs we both held so tightly back home—to hide our bodies and their imperfections. These folks down here sure did it right!
About half a minute into our stroll and just starting to enjoy our newfound freedom, I squinted off into the distance and was horrified by an unnatural sight that jolted this perfect moment into a state of panic. “SH*T!” I shouted and squeezed my partner’s hand so tight that it almost cut off his circulation.
Leisurely strolling toward us on the beach was my husband’s co-worker and his wife…both with their suits ON!
Do you ever hear about a defining moment in one’s life that makes time literally stand still? Well, this was one of them. In hindsight, the logical thing to do would have been to simply turn around and walk the other way; no problem. Instead, however, the panic button was fully activated inside both of us and we freaked. The “fight or flight” human response kicked into full gear. And so we ran! We ran up the beach, suits in hand, fearfully looking over our shoulders and hoping the couple didn’t see us.
A few minutes earlier we marveled at how wonderful it was that no one was looking at us, but now…everyone was looking at us. It was not fun to run naked. We made our way up the beach, dodging coolers and beach chairs, jumping over picnics, until we were safely away and could get those all-important suits back on ASAP! To put it mildly, our heart rates climbed up to danger levels.
Now clothed and exhausted from the adrenaline rush, we made our way back to our towels, packed up, and got our cab back to the ship. We were embarrassed and flustered.
At our table of six that evening at dinner—and during the nightly ritual of going around and answering the question, “What did you do today?”—we sheepishly recounted our experience to the group. And to our surprise, we were cheered on by our tablemates! They wished they had had the courage to do what we did! That new perspective helped us move from sheer embarrassment to now feeling a bit proud.
As our group dug into dessert, my hubby kicked me under the table. From across the dining room, the co-worker and his wife spotted us and rushed over with warm hellos and hugs! It turned out that this couple was also on their honeymoon and got married the same day we did. Who knew?! To this day, we still wonder if they saw us on the beach in St. Martin.
Moral of the story: It is a small world, after all.
The couple walked away, and our tablemates busted up laughing, making a mess of their chocolate mousse. My true love and I exchanged glances across the table that needed no explaining. We were proud of ourselves for being brave and liked the idea that we had a story ‘to write home about.’
Fifteen years later, this tale lives on, and still reminds us to be bold and have some fun in life. And it’s a story that seems to bring joy to our friends who love (a little too much) to pass it along.
What crazy thing are you willing to try that would make your friends proud?!
*Note: Remember when you share your joy, the joy multiplies. This post was published in the May 2010 issue of Caribbean Travel + Life - exciting! However, the illustration is not us. :)