I made a zine this year for the Johnson City Zine Fest. It’s about nudity and anxiety.
More specifically, it’s about my own personal anxieties and how nudity strangely helps me handle them. It’s something I’ve been trying to articulate since last year when I finally stopped hiding that I’m a nudist. It’s such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t let it go unaddressed. It took forever to work out, gestating in my head for several months before I sat down and typed out my thoughts, and another two months before I organized those thoughts into a semi-readable outline that I could start building pages around.
I put the actual book together in something like two weeks. It’s only 8 pages, so it wasn’t a LOT of work, but it was still a strangely difficult and somewhat painful process to do. I knew I was really going out on a limb, completely opening up and making myself vulnerable, and I wanted to be as clear and concise as possible so that there would be little margin for any kind of misinterpretation. Even though I didn’t think anyone would want to read it, it was still important to me not only to make it, but to get it right.
Which means that days after finishing it and printing off 13 copies to take to Zine Fest, when I realized I left a sentence out, I went back and wrote it by hand in every copy.
I was really surprised by how well it went over at JCZF. I sold seven copies and traded three others, and the leftover copies were bought by close friends, two of whom are in my figure drawing group. One friend stood at my table and read the entire thing while I was talking to another artist, paid for it when she finished, told me she loved it and understands me better now, and gave me a hug before leaving. I was quietly freaking out as I watched her read it, but hearing her thoughts on it was a huge relief, and I hope everyone else who got a copy wasn’t put off by it or anything. I’ve had to reread it a few times myself to remember how phrased certain things, and I feel pretty good about it. I’ve printed a handful more for upcoming shows, and I think I know of a few other people who’d want a copy, so I guess it isn’t the one and done thing I had planned on it being.
Still, there are things I wish I’d maybe included: I wanted to dive deeper into how I’ve been like this since childhood, how I discovered nudism/naturism, and WHY I felt so much shame about it, especially as a teenager, and why I was so worried for a while (last year especially) that maybe I was mentally ill in some way because of it. I would’ve liked to elaborate on the footnote about being taken advantage of, pointing out how that person behaved around me and talked about my nudity, how there were red flags I didn’t quite pick up on. I wanted to talk about my first few times modeling nude for figure drawing, and how that was the spark that eventually led me to be more and more open about this major part of my life. I wanted to say more about how spiritual it feels to lay naked in the sun, watching deer run by.
I wanted to bring up how lonesome it sometimes feels, being the only naked person amongst your friends, and how I keep thinking about trying to set up a super positive nudist/clothing optional game night at my new house, never going through with it out of the fear that nobody would show up and undress or that someone would make it weird. I don’t want to be some kind of evangelist shouting about how life is better naked, but I still wish I had other friends who wanted to just hang out and play Mario Kart nude, you know?
I also deleted a small section where I wondered how differently people would handle it, how they’d look at me, if I was in any way different, if I were heavier, or had any kind of physical deformities or scars or whatever. If I wasn’t some fairly conventional looking white cis guy, would people be as accepting?
I guess maybe I could always make another zine. Or just write about those things here sometime. I’m not sure.
Either way, I’m happy I made this zine, and I’m happy that it seems to be well received, or that I at least haven’t gotten any ugly comments from anyone about it. The big point I wanted to get across with it was: find what makes you feel human, what calms you down and makes you feel better when it feels like black clouds are trying to smother you, and live by it. My mantra this year has been to get naked and make art as often as I can, and living for those two things has really helped me along. I hope others find something like it for them.