Naked she came into this world; naked she spent a good part of her time on this earth. As did her husband, Alfred. They were the original New York nudists. The Ekharts of the Upper East Side. They were spotted sunbathing in Central Park, on their roof, in their backyard. They wore their hats but nothing else. Arrested a number of times, they managed to avoid any serious legal difficulties because of their money and excellent lawyers.
We feel best when we’re nude, they said. Clothes are horrible. Really, they're not good for you.
“They didn’t like the word naked, because it implied shame, and they, like Adam and Eve, were not ashamed.”
They didn’t like the word naked, because it implied shame, and they, like Adam and Eve, were not ashamed. They preferred nude or natural as ways to describe their lifestyle. They often compared themselves to Adam and Eve before the fall, as they felt they were living a life as close to the first man and woman as anyone else in the modern world. At one time accepted into New York society, they soon were outcast. But they established their own society, their own community. The Au Natural Society. Mrs. Ekhart was president; Mr. Ekhart vice president. She was the more vocal of the two. Which was why it was so tragic when she died.
After a nude sunbathing session, she was pushed off the roof by the butler, an undercover preacher who as he pushed her, yelled, “By the power of Jesus Christ, I condemn your immorality!” Later, after he served time in jail, he became a preacher to ex-convicts. Broken-hearted, Mr. Ekhart remained clothed in black for one year.
But he found love again. The secretary of the group, the widow Mrs. Lattimore, brought him through his grief. They were married in the nude in their backyard by another member of their society, Judge Charleston. Later that day, they packed a picnic lunch and put their hats and marched nude down 96th Street to Central Park and sat and sunbathed until the police came.
Mr. Ekhart, good to see you again, the cops said.
Say hello to my new wife, he said. We just got married. I brought you a wedding present, he said and gave them sandwiches with envelopes.
“He sat in the park and felt the warm sun over his body; the gentle wind caressed him, ticked what hairs he had left.”
Congratulations, they said. We’ll give you an hour.
He sat in the park and felt the warm sun over his body; the gentle wind caressed him, ticked what hairs he had left. He was alive again, and it felt wonderful.
This is it, he said to his new wife. This is it.
At that moment a rock struck Mr. Ekhart in the head, thrown by an angry bystander. The police chased after the rock thrower. Mr. Ekhart fell to the ground. The new Mrs. Ekhart tried to stop the bleeding.
The world is not ready for us, he said, before dying. Not yet, but soon.
This is a true story my great-grandmother told me. Her mother had been the new Mrs. Ekhart. After Mr. Ekhart died she never married again. She devoted her life to the society. To preaching the virtues of nudity. A lot of the world's problems could be solved if everyone could just be nude for a while, she had said. People should just try it out before they judge. That's what the world knows how to do, judge. Let's not judge. Let's just be nude. Like the angels in heaven.