by: Karene Horst, contributing editor
My happy place is a beach.
I love drifting along the shoreline, admiring the shimmering patterns in the sand the retreating surf leaves behind. Wave-polished rocks with their sundry of exquisite colors sparkle in the sun; under my feet they caress the pads of my toes and massage my arches. A tall breaker crests before crashing toward me, slowly petering into a gentle ripple that playfully splashes my legs as it douses my rolled up jeans in a salt-water bath.
When warmer water allows, I bodysurf. When the sun gets too hot, I hide under an umbrella with a good book or lounge on a towel immersed in conversation with a friend. I lose my bearings and my sense of time staring out into the Pacific. The crescendo of the waves and the wind with the occasional seabird’s call: my favorite symphony. One recent Sunday I caught a glimpse of a whale breaching off the coast of Torrey Pines State Beach in California.
Even smothered with my Covid-19 face gear, I can’t help but smile as I stroll south along the tide’s radius. Sally sells seashells by the seashore, I lisp to myself. A handful of fellow beachgoers pass by and I smile at them, neither knowing nor caring whether they notice the joy and goodwill overflowing from behind my mask.
Riding out this terrifying roller coaster of life with my hands desperately clinging to the cold metal bar for “safety,” I grasp for these brief moments of bliss and savor each peaceful encounter with Mother Nature and my fellow beings. Everything is ok. Or it’s going to be ok. Yes, I might get shot at when I go to the grocery store to restock on butter and organic baby carrots, but not right this second. Right now, everything is good. I feel safe. Happy. I am thankful to God and always tilt my head skyward and offer gratitude for feeling so blessed during these hideous times.
His shocking tan line screams that he is completely naked.
I round a rocky outcropping reaching into the ocean that deters most other beach-walkers. The shoreline below Torrey Pines’ magnificently sculpted cliffs is deserted right now. I know this rare solitude on a Southern California beach can’t last, but for a few seconds I bask in this spectacular scene, relishing the view all to myself.
Then I see a figure stand up and step out of a cleft in the beige and rust-colored sandstone bluffs. A figure in the buff. Male. His shocking tan line screams that he is completely naked.
No problem. I’m approaching clothing-optional Black’s Beach, and I’m no prude. I don’t stare. I continue walking. From the corner of my eye I keep vigil as he retreats out of sight. As a lone woman, I tuck the image away for safekeeping. For just in case. For if something gets out of hand. I’ve floundered into bad situations before so I’ve honed my radar.
But I’m really not bothered. At any moment another fully-clothed beachcomber will wander onto this stretch of coastline. Besides, I’m an adult and I believe that humans have the right under acceptable circumstances to get naked in the great outdoors.
My father would take us snorkeling off the coast of Malibu in the early ’70s when I was still in elementary school. I would glue my gaze to the sand in front of my feet as I stumbled past bronzed couples roaming naked at Point Dume or napping in the sand near Paradise Cove. I would self-consciously peel away my shirt and shorts to reveal my one-piece swimsuit. Not only did their nudity mortify me, but I felt as if I were trespassing on their privacy. I tried so hard not to look, but peripheral vision is 20/20.
As an adult, I obsess over skin cancer and my history of painful sunburns compels me to discreetly cover most of my tender parts more or less. Full disclosure: I once sunbathed topless on the Spanish Riviera and have skinny-dipped numerous times, usually at night and while relatively drunk or stoned and sometimes with a guy whose nudity and accompanying appendage did not upset me.
I understand the desire, however, the threadbare lifestyle never fully appealed to me.
My non-conformist, free-spirited self has no qualms about folks traipsing around naked. But as a woman, as a survivor, I can’t help but see a swinging penis as a weapon. As if someone were marching around waving a gun.
He has timed it perfectly just for me. Alone.
By the time I reach the southernmost bulkhead of rocks I spot another naked male figure clambering over the natural barrier toward me. With plans to meet a friend for lunch, I decide it’s time to turn around.
A few other beach-walkers have wandered into the once empty stretch of sand. I study the ocean swells, hoping for sightings of a whale spouting or maybe a pod of dolphins gliding through the surface.
Instead, I spy the naked man leaving his perch near the bluff. A small cluster of walkers cruise by before he saunters to the water’s edge within my line of sight. He has timed it perfectly just for me. Alone. He stops maybe 15 feet away from where my path will lead me directly in front of him. He wears nothing but a goofy grin splashed across his face.
“How are you today,” he greets me as I approach. He stands still, his arms hanging limp at his side, beaming at me. His penis points toward the sand.
“Great. You have a nice day too,” I respond with a forced joviality while focusing on his face.
Then he does it. He wags his penis at me. Repeatedly rocking his hips side to side, shaking his not so small but still somewhat flaccid dick in my direction.
He reminds me of a little boy, immensely proud of himself for his crayon doodles or whatever nonsense he had accomplished.
The man continues to grin idiotically and I almost expect him to start giggling.
I turn my head away toward the open ocean and maintain my steady pace and even strides. More walkers have braved the northern rock outcropping and slowly trek toward us. I swivel slightly to discover that the penis wagger has foregone testing the frigid waters and retreated to his rocky alcove. Had he slithered out of his hole just for me?
… the image of the man and his engorged member flashed before my eyes and I burst out laughing hysterically once again.
I was maybe 14 years old (although I looked about 10) for my first encounter with a flasher. Coming down from an acid trip, I was walking on Brooks Avenue near Venice Beach toward the No. 2 bus back to Santa Monica. Still sort of tripping but sober enough to return home for the mandatory family dinner. Lost in whatever reverie my brain had fixated on, I almost jumped when a voice called out to me from the narrow canyon of a bland stucco apartment complex.
“Hi there!” The voice rang out. Loud. Shrill. Extravagantly ecstatic. Look at me, the tone insisted.
I turned my gaze to find a man standing with his pants down around his ankles. A gaping, open-mouthed smirk on his face and a crazed-look of apprehension mixed with excitement in his wide eyes. A huge hard-on. I stopped for maybe a second to take it all in before I started laughing hysterically and continued on my short hike to the corner bus stop.
Drifting with the ebb and flow of my waning buzz, I immediately spaced out what I had just witnessed. I plopped onto a bus seat and watched the world pass by through the grime-streaked windows while my mind meandered chaotically. I transferred at Wilshire and 4th to the No. 8 and we made it to Montana Avenue before the image of the man and his engorged member flashed before my eyes and I burst out laughing hysterically once again.
I guessed I had made the guy’s day. His antics didn’t faze me. Reporting him to the police didn’t even enter my scrambled consciousness. I was still sort of high.
Soberly heading north on the beach after my most recent encounter with a man and his johnson, I had mixed feelings. Was he just your average Joe nudist lusting to dip his toes in the freezing cold ocean water, coincidentally timing his jaunt as the rare solitary woman traverses? So what if he expresses his overflowing joy and goodwill with a little wag.
Possibly he was an unabashed, in-your-face naturalist playing head games with the tourists. His glaring tan lines identified him as a newbie to birthday suit venues, so maybe he hadn’t received the memo on the etiquette: don’t stare, don’t touch and don’t wag your penis at the women.
Or had he taken advantage of the fashionable freedom of Black’s Beach to get his rocks off by displaying his manhood to some helpless damsel. Just another asshole trying to get a rise out of an unsuspecting female. Would a woman’s shock, cringing reaction or fearful cries turning to indignant outrage do the trick and float his boat?
Had he simply wanted me to behold his male superiority, his potentially powerful pecker? Did he want to show off his tool and fantasize about his desire for my astonishment and awe or shy approval and respect, maybe envy even?
I was simply mildly annoyed, as I am by most examples of male impertinence.
Many male and female nudists enjoy getting naked and couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of them. Most are discreet and considerate of those easily offended. Some are truly exhibitionists and proud of their junk, strutting around in circles like peacocks. And of course most nudists are terrific people and every other time I’ve wandered into a clothing-optional area, people are nothing but respectful.
But the world is full of perverts and creeps. What had I just been exposed to? This guy certainly passed the icky test and even fully-clothed he still would have given me the heebie-jeebies.
I reassessed my reaction, perceiving it as a bit overboard. I tried to brush off the encounter as just one more weird experience in a neverending dogpile of insanity that one learns to expect in this shitshow we’ve come to know as “The New Normal.”
Or had I regressed to my pathetic and sickeningly recurring state of victimhood that enables his inappropriate behavior by not reporting him to the police or at least the lifeguard? Shouldn’t I have protected the more sensitive beachgoers following my footprints by at least demanding he back off and respect a woman’s right to not have to watch him shaking his shaft!
HA! The police would have laughed at me, hysterically laughed at me, before asking to see my car registration in case I had any outstanding parking tickets they could harass me about.
But I know women who would have felt terrified. Threatened. Upset. Disgusted. Violated. I was simply mildly annoyed, as I am by most examples of male impertinence. The unrelenting sexual entitlement. Look at me and my beautiful cock! My Precious! Watch me prance around naked with my sword unsheathed while you cower in constant fear of being stabbed!
I strive to avoid confrontation. But next time some guy whips out his dong and expects me to pay attention to him and his awesomeness, please remind me to say, “No thanks bud, I’d rather look at the ocean.”
Either that or I’ll start laughing hysterically, which might become my go-to response for just about everything.