Ellen at Sharon’s Party, August 1977
When Ellen and I arrived at Sharon’s house in the country for the nude party, her front yard was full of cars. We could hear music and people making noise from behind the house. We were a bit late, and the days in August were getting shorter. Even before I parked, I noticed a Volkswagen beetle with Massachusetts plates. When I phoned Sharon earlier to tell her that Ellen and I were coming, she told me she would have a surprise for me. I had thought she meant that she had persuaded Carol and Jim to return to the parties. Now I saw it was a bigger surprise than that. Renée and her old boyfriend Bill were there.
I knew Bill was in town because he had been in Renée’s car when she stopped the day before to say hello as I was coming out of the grocery store. In the parking lot, Renée had looked behind her to be sure no one was coming and turned off her engine. She said, in a low voice, “I’m sorry to hear about you and Carol. How are you doing?” That was how I knew news of the breakup had gotten around town.
“I’ll be alright,” I assured her.
Bill said, “That hurts. Sorry.” Of course, Bill would not have been there except for Renée’s recent, more painful breakup with Jerry. I knew he had already made at least one earlier consolation visit.
“We can talk if you want,” Renee said.
“I’ll be all right,” I repeated.
Now, sitting in Sharon’s driveway, I must have looked surprised at seeing Bill’s car there, because Ellen said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Just that there is someone I didn’t expect to see here.”
“No. But she is someone I had tried to get to be my girlfriend. Her name is Renée.” Ellen and I had not seen each other in seven years. I had not had time that day to fill her in all the details of my romantic life. She had not filled me in on hers either. We had been too busy getting reacquainted. But Renée was an important part of my story. “She’s never come to these parties before.”
“I thought you had been to bed with everyone,” Ellen said, smiling.
“Not by a long shot,” I said. “You’ve got an exaggerated idea.” I leaned over and kissed her, and she put her hand on my chest.
I had known that fulfilling Ellen’s wish to go to a nude party might raise a mixture of feelings for me. It was complicated enough when I thought that Carol and Jim were going to be there. In the beginning Carol had been with me and Jim was with Sharon. When our nude social evenings moved into sharing partners, and even when we started the parties, they seemed to enjoy the adventures. But two weeks ago they told Sharon and me separately that they had decided they really wanted to be monogamous with each other.
Whatever Ellen was feeling, she seemed to be in no rush to get out of the car either. We were startled by someone knocking on my window. It was Sharon in a dressing gown, smiling at us.
“That’s Sharon,” I said to Ellen.
“Well, don’t be rude,” she said. “We better get out.”
I grabbed the two bottles of white wine from the back seat, and we got out of the car. I gave Sharon a hug, feeling the shape of her body through her light summer gown. I smelled her shampoo on her dark curly hair. “I was beginning to give up on you,” she said.
I introduced her to Ellen, and Sharon gave her a hug too. The Ellen I knew in the past did not go in for hugging with strangers, but she accepted Sharon’s embrace with good nature. “I am so happy to finally meet you,” Sharon said. “Carl has talked so much about you.”
“We haven’t seen each other for years. I don’t know how he would have a lot to say,” Ellen said. “But he told me about you too.”
“Don’t believe all of it,” Sharon said. “Come along to the house.”
Following behind them, I thought about what I had told Ellen about Sharon. I was satisfied I had not said anything that was not true. I had been forthright enough. I told Ellen that Sharon and I had sex the night before. It was part of a discussion I regretted starting by asking Ellen about the last time she had been to bed with a man. For Ellen it was two months earlier, an encounter she felt guilty about because it happened when the man’s girlfriend, a friend of Ellen’s, was out of town. I told Ellen that the night before was sort of a consolation event for Sharon and me, since it was going to be our first Friday night in a long time that Carol would not be with me, and Jim would not be with her. Ellen commented that it would not have killed either of us to go for a week without sex.
What I had not told Ellen was that Sharon had been in my bed when I received Ellen’s surprise phone call at eight that morning. Sharon slid out of bed and quickly wrote in a notebook I had on my dresser. She stood there nude holding up the notepad with a big grin on her face. “THE Ellen?” she had written. Not telling Ellen about that was at least a lie by omission.
We followed Sharon into the mudroom. There was a row of hooks on eryaman genç escort either side for hanging coats and ski poles and snowshoes during the winter. Now they held slacks, jeans, shorts, blouses, and shirts. There was also a box of grocery bags with handles that people used for stowing their underwear. Sharon immediately slid off her gown, hung it up, and stood there facing us, long and slender and naked.
“I’ll see you two outside,” Sharon said. “Show Ellen the routine, Carl.”
She turned and went into through the doorway into the house, moving away from us with her beautiful long back and tight buttocks.
“I see why she doesn’t mind going around naked,” Ellen said. “She has a nice body.”
“I like your body,” I said. I meant it. After seven years apart, we had spent much of the afternoon together naked. That included having sex in the summerhouse, napping there, having sex again, carrying our clothes back to the main house, showering together, eating a spaghetti and meatball dinner, and having a wonderful long oral session in my bed before getting dressed for the party.
“I’m okay with my body,” Ellen said. “But I think it’s more of a practical body, not a beautiful one.”
I put my hands on the hem of her polo shirt. “Let me see that practical body again,” I said.
She crossed her arms below her chest to prevent me from raising her shirt. “You first,” she said. “Sharon said for you to show me the routine.”
I unbuttoned my shirt and hung it on an empty hook. When I sat on the built-in bench to take off my sandals, Ellen did the same. I stood up to take off my jeans and put them on the hook. Ellen took off her polo shirt and handed it to me. I hung it with my clothes. Ellen waited for me to take off my underwear before she removed her bra. I placed both my underwear and her bra in a paper bag. She did look sweet sitting on the bench topless with her long brown hair over her shoulders. She undid her shorts, scooched her bottom off the bench and pulled them down. I hung them up on our hook over her shirt. She made the same maneuver to take off her panties. I put them in the bag and hung it on the hook.
Ellen stood up and made a gesture with her hands as if to say, “Here I am”. I could understand her calling her body practical. She stood five-four with modest breasts. She had tight abs and muscular arms and legs from rock-climbing, and a scar on her left knee for the same reason. She had a neat brown pubic patch. She was even more fit than she was when she was twenty, but the way she looked moved me like it always had. For myself, I was glad that in the past three years I had overcome a post-divorce chubbiness with obsessive jogging.
If you have been to a nude gathering or nude beach with your sexual partner, you will appreciate that my body knew that being naked with Ellen did not mean we were about to have sex. It was a pleasurable feeling but there was not the same physical arousal. I think it was because I was missing the arousal that I put my hands at Ellen’s waist. She moved in close, giving me one of her memorable tight hugs. After I moment I regretted starting something. I said, “You better not get me aroused just yet.”
Just as I said that, Keith came in naked from the house. “Excuse me,” Keith said. “I hope I didn’t disturb anything.”
“We were just about to join the party. Keith, this is Ellen.” I felt myself shrinking.
Keith just nodded without smiling. He went past us to the next hook where he had hung his clothes and began searching in the pockets of his jeans. Ellen moved, not quite hiding behind me but positioning herself to have me between her and Keith. Keith was a Vietnam combat vet. He was in good shape and kept his face shaved but let his dark hair grow long. He lived at Littlewoof commune with his wife Maisie. He had an intensity that made some people nervous and had a social awkwardness and sudden mood changes that would later be diagnosed as PTSD.
“Here’s that baby,” he said, holding up a rolled baggie. “This is some sweet stuff here, better than that shit they are smoking out there.” He went back towards the house and then stopped, snapped his fingers, and turned around and looked at Ellen.
“Oh, hi Ellen, it’s good to meet you,” he said. “I hope you enjoy the party.” Then he turned again and went into the house.
“That was strange, ” Ellen said. “I was expecting to be embarrassed, but I don’t think he even noticed I don’t have any clothes on.”
“The etiquette is to appreciate but not be too obvious. I’m sure he noticed you are naked.” However, I thought, with Keith you could not be too sure. His mind could be somewhere else.
Ellen and I each carried a bottle of the wine into the kitchen. Allie and Zimmer were there, cutting into a big watermelon. Allie had just laughed at something Zimmer had said. She had curly blond hair and always looked warm and interested when you spoke with her. One night she had made out with me in a diffident, ankara escort bayan utilitarian sort of way while waiting for her husband to return from the dark end of the lawn. I think she was using me a as place holder while Zimmer was busy with another woman. I started making a point to not end up with Allie when the gathering transitioned from nude party to sex party. Zimmer never seemed to have a problem finding a woman who wanted to go off somewhere with him.
Allie did look extremely attractive that night. She was not embarrassed to be leaning forward with her bare breasts over the kitchen island while Zimmer sliced the watermelon in half lengthwise. Both halves of the watermelon fell on their backs on the butcher block table. Zimmer — Charles Zimmer nodded at me and then cocked his head expectantly at Ellen. I introduced her to them, noticing that I was relieved that Ellen could only see Zimmer from his bare stomach up where he was standing on the other side of the kitchen island.
Allie asked Ellen where she was from, and then started to quiz her about Boston. Zimmer interrupted her with his own question.
“Has Carl told you what to expect at these parties?” he asked, sounding sincerely concerned that I might have misled her.
“He told me I would see a lot of naked people, and so far that’s true. He said the first part of the party is just fun, and that people who stay later have sex. Carl said we would leave before then.”
Even when she was in high school, Ellen never got why people were shy talking about sex. Earning a degree in biology had apparently only made her more impatient with coyness. The danger that posed for her was that people sometimes mistook her sexual matter-of-factness with sexual eagerness. I could see from Zimmer’s expression he was about to make the same mistake.
He smiled at Ellen, his gold molar shining in the bright kitchen light. “You could miss something you might regret if you leave the party too soon,” he said. The way he said it conveyed the message that what she might miss would be him. I was moved by some protective or possessive impulse to get closer behind Ellen, who was now leaning against the long side of the island opposite Zimmer.
Zimmer started cutting the watermelon into triangular sections. He held one out to Ellen. “You look like you would like a big one,” he said.
Ellen said, “Thanks!”, as if she had been waiting all day for watermelon. She took the piece and bit into it, with Zimmer watching her closely.
Ellen laughed and quickly put her hand up to her chin. “It’s dripping,” she said.
As if he had been waiting for that, Zimmer extended a napkin to Ellen’s chin. “Let me get that,” he said. He dabbed the napkin on Ellen’s neck and then down towards her breasts. Ellen lurched away from the napkin, slamming her back into my chest.
“It didn’t go down there!” Ellen said. Maybe she meant to sound offended, but she said it in a kind of joking way.
“Hands, Zimmer,” I said.
“Yes, hands,” Allie said. There was no expression on her face.
Zimmer put up his hands in the air. “What?” He said, smiling his gold-molar grin.
Allie and Zimmer filled two big bowls with the watermelon pieces. When Zimmer moved away from the kitchen island, his penis came into view. I had seen it at the parties before of course. It was notably large even while flaccid. Sharon had tried to reassure me that his erection was not much bigger than mine. She would not say how much bigger. I realized now that Ellen, by pressing close to the kitchen island, would have had a good view of him below the waist.
Zimmer held open the kitchen screen door and Allie passed through with one of the bowls in her arms. Zimmer looked to Ellen, silently offering to hold the door for her. She held up the piece of watermelon. “I’m going to finish this first,” she said. Zimmer shrugged and went out the door behind Allie, carrying his own bowl.
“Zimmer is one of the flirts I warned you about,” I said. On the drive over, we had agreed on the rules for our own behavior at the party: Flirting was okay, but no sex. The problem is that everyone has a different idea about just where to draw that line, especially when they are naked and the evening wears on.
“At Wellesley,” Ellen said, “the girls called guys like that ‘God’s gift to women.'”
The actual expression of course is “Men who think they are God’s gift to women”, but I did not correct her. Maybe the way she said it is what they meant at Wellesley.
While Ellen finished her piece of watermelon, I uncorked one of the wine bottles and filled a paper cup. Ellen found a bottle of 7-Up in the fridge for herself. She never drank alcohol because of what it had done to her father. She dropped the watermelon rind into a compost bucket, I found space in the fridge for the wine bottles, and we went through the screen door unto the back porch. The speakers were playing Bob Marley singing “Many Rivers to Cross.”
Sharon sincan escort had the yard lights on for the party. Jim and I had set them up just before summer started, shortly after Sharon’s ex had cleared out for good. Carol and I had joined Sharon and Jim to make first use of the lights playing nude volleyball. The sky tonight was already dark, but the lighting made it possible to play volleyball and croquet in the yard. The citronella torches placed around the yard for mosquitoes also gave off a little light.
Renée was there playing volleyball.
I felt odd. I had been trying to get Renée interested in me for two years, and this was the first time I saw her naked, laughing and jumping up to hit a volleyball, her long blond hair shining in the lights. Maybe there is a word for that feeling in some language. You would need another word to describe the feeling of watching Renée while standing naked with Ellen, the only woman who, if she wanted, could make me no longer care about Renée’s lack of interest.
Renée and Bill were playing mixed doubles with Ruth and Mike. Ruth was a teacher with a shy manner and beautiful figure. Her husband Mike was a jovial contractor with just the beginning of a beer belly. Bill was the first to see me when he picked up a ball that had fallen short of the net. “Hey,” he said waving, “Carl’s here.” Renée turned to see me and smiled. “Hello!” she said. She was flushed from exercise or maybe blushing a bit. I could not tell.
“Hello,” I said back, “It’s nice to see you.” Then, realizing that my greeting sounded like a double-entendre, I said, “Ellen, this is my friend Renée. Renée, this is Ellen.”
Over the past two years, I had told Renée some of my forlorn history with Ellen. Her expression now showed that she remembered some of that. There was something else in her expression I could not read.
Bill was standing close to Ruth, who turned into his lean frame as he was explaining something. “Hey, let’s keep this going!” Mike shouted. “Renée and I are two up.”
Renée gave me a hand gesture that could have meant “We’ll talk later.” She turned back to the net and Bill served the ball. It went to Mike and he hit it back two-handed towards Ruth. Renée’s buttocks jiggled adorably as she side-jumped across the lawn to position herself for Ruth’s return.
The group, Sharon, Zimmer, Allie, Maisie, and Keith were sitting around the fire pit on lawn chairs. There was another guy there I did not know. Sharon had told me the night before that an old friend George was coming up from Connecticut. He and his ex-wife had once been part of Sharon’s circle in New York. He had a square chin and curly black hair down his chest and stomach. He was sitting on the other side of Sharon from Zimmer and was talking in a fast New York City style about nude beaches. They were passing around one of Keith’s joints. The two bowls of watermelon on the grass were already half gone. I led Ellen over.
“You’ve got no control of course who you will see there,” George was saying.
“It’s always been invitation only at our parties,” Sharon said. “That’s what we decided from the beginning, didn’t we Carl? Only people we knew could be discrete, and who,” she laughed, “were also aesthetically pleasing.”
Sharon was the editor of our Vermont college town weekly newspaper. The owner hired her two years previously because of her impressive writing experience and willingness to accept the low salary, despite being a relatively recent New York City transplant and being under thirty at the time. She impressed the community by turning the sleepy advertising rag into something that people looked forward to reading. Her editorship also meant that we did not have to worry about front-page exposes of naked people cavorting at parties in the countryside.
I introduced Ellen to Maisie, who she had not met yet, and Sharon introduced George to us.
“Any way, I was about to say,” George went on, “you go to one of those places and you understand that saying that the kind of people who go to nude beaches are the kind of people who shouldn’t go to nude beaches.”
“Truro was fine when I was there in seventy-one,” I said, “It was all young people. Then Time magazine did a story and that did it in. Throngs of voyeurs showed up and the town outlawed nude bathing.”
“I didn’t know your expertise went back that far,” Ellen said. My visits to Truro were two summers after Ellen had broken up with me. I never blamed her for the breakup. I had not had my head screwed on right for some time and she met another guy at college who treated her better. But that is another story.
“I agree with you if you are talking about excluding lurkers and pedophiles,” Maisie said. “But if you are talking about overweight people or old people, they should be able to be nude in the sun if they want to be.” Maisie herself was very thin. Mike had once called her and Carol the “Skin and bones girls”, which had brought an angry retort from both of them. Tonight, Maisie was topless in her khaki shorts. She had a large nose and a narrow face, but I always thought of her as sexy. Especially after the first time we did a slow dance at Jerry’s bar and I felt how close she held her body to mine.