Nipplegate 2018: A Story of Bravery, Nudity, and Ultimate Frisbee
August 23, 2020
Photography: Russ Causley
At the age of 11, I was standing on nudity’s last frontier.
Like most unseen childhood boundaries, it never merited a thought until it was a place I could no longer enter.
I was with a friend at a semi-public natural swimming hole in Florida. Thus far unconvinced by the early onset and entirely unnecessary pre-teen fascination with bras, I was letting my tiny breasts fly free. At this stage of breast development, they were imperceptible in a t-shirt but unclothed you might see my nipples were thinking about making a stand of their own.
But only if you really looked. In my mind, I was as free and discrete as a pancake. And so told my best friend––at her nervous pleas to clothe myself before someone saw––to just call me “Alex” if anyone came too close.
It was easy to rebel against one friend imposing cultural norms, but against the unrelenting template of Southern femininity? I craved belonging too strongly. So I quietly and internally traded my own compass for that of the masses and caged my wildness.
I can’t remember even thinking about nudity again until much much later. Until my first post-grad employment––a weed farming gig in Mendocino––took me far out into the California mountains.
Choosing that job was the first time I let what is wild in me have the reins again. It led me to the grubby freedom I’d spent a lifetime aching for: a small patch of hippie farmers working redwood mountain land, an hour and a half from even the faintest town.
There was no one to impose cultural norms anymore. For the first time since childhood, I began to stretch into what I wanted to do. Which just so happened to be nude sunbathing that summer.
My every cell thrilled and purred under that most essential pouring life force of sun. But behind pleasure: a connection to source crooned with everything I’d forgotten. There was an intimate sense of reunion, touching the desires of my truer self was touching earth in the same unfolding.
The only thing keeping me from entirely blasting off into the astral plane was discovering a weekly social outlet of ultimate frisbee in town.
Ultimate is a really loose sport, like the loosest classification of sport you can have while still being a “sport.” Honestly, it’s much more about the debaucherous bouts of drinking, costumes, dancing, nudity, and side games than the competition itself.
It’s truly the best sport ever.
On one hot August day, my friend Kelly suddenly popped off her sports bra and started playing completely topless in the public park, as if she had suddenly overheated and, without another thought, rectified the situation.
I saw everything I wanted to be in that single act.
I said to a friend––we were all staring at that point––“Someday I’ll be there too.” But as I said it, I realized the simple truth: How would I ever feel ready to bare the breasts I disliked before any audience (other than the trees) if I didn't just do it?
I whipped my sports bra off like the second thoughts crowding in and ran onto the field toward Kelly. She whooped when she saw me, eyes sparkling with the excitement of her own wildness.
Six months later at a tournament, I played a fully naked point with my comrades in front of 500 other clothed people. And somehow, that was so much less scary than that very first time.
I’d always loved the kind of women who were roaringly bold like Kelly. And now I understood: real wildness comes from listening within and having the courage to stand in that most authentic fire of your own truth.