I’m only telling you this personal detail about my wife because you have to be aware of it to understand the whole story of how I came to find myself playing volleyball with an Elvis imitator in the nude. e So here it is: My wife has a perfectly formed body. That’s not bragging, just straight information. That’s the way she is. In fact, she’s a pro. The missus is much in demand as a figure model among Twin Cities artists and sculptors. (That’s her in bronze, for example, at the Burnsville town square.)

I, on the other hand, while kind and warm-hearted, am no oil painting, unless you favor the works of Francis Bacon. If my bathing-suit photo were to somehow show up on one of those “Hot or Not” Internet polls, the response would be “Not” by a landslide. I would probably crash the servers.

This fact was brought home to me dramatically last summer while on a business trip to New York City. The hotel’s bathroom door featured a full-length mirror on the exterior that, when opened forty-five degrees, offered anyone standing at the sink mirror a clear over-the-shoulder view of his own backside. I was standing there fresh out of the shower and shaving as the mist cleared off the open, mirrored door. I was confronted with an unfortunate spectacle.

When a guy reaches a certain age he reflexively sucks in his gut when passing a reflective surface, but there’s no way to retract a sagging posterior. From the rear I looked like something out of a Grannies Gone Wild video. Roast beef and gravity had teamed up to tenderize me. Yes, I’d taken a few body blows with the ugly stick.

In profile, things didn’t appear much better. This looked like the pale, pasty body of a man whose last regular exercise was playing the tuba in marching band. I steeled myself and took another quarter turn, like a Miss America contestant from a region rife with inbreeding and malnutrition. My abdomen had the doughy center of a half-baked cake. My pubic thatch looked like the habitat of some rare and vicious rodent. I know this is repellent, but I’m trying to be honest here.

When we’re out on the town, my spouse and I make a sort of Morticia and Gomez couple, she all slinky and statuesque, I pop-eyed and squat. We are such a visually mismatched duo that people are relieved and delighted to see how we dote on each other. I guess we’re documentary proof that true love is blind. She would do anything to delight me and I would do the same for her.

One factor that keeps our relationship interesting is that she and I often have different ideas about Something That Would Be Fun To Do. Her ancestors were hale, un-self-conscious Norsemen—Berserkers, I think historians call them—who invented the communal sauna as a way to stay in touch with their bodies through the long season of cold and dark. Their descendants frolic on clothing-optional beaches each summer, a holiday destination that my wife has repeatedly suggested that we should consider. She would talk of palm-fringed white sand beaches and meals of ripe passion fruit, the juices running down our chins and basting our sun-browned torsos. While I do hate to deny her, I felt that such a vacation would be several steps outside my psychological comfort zone. After all, there would be other people around. Naked strangers. I would dodge the issue with the reply that it sounded delightful, but a tropical vacation was not practical for this year’s budget.

So when my adventurous darling asked me to book us a weekend at a nudist colony an hour north of the Twin Cities, I was surprised to find myself saying yes, a moment after the vertigo passed. I had then put the matter out of my thoughts. Until the hotel’s rear-view mirror reminded me that our getaway was fast approaching. And then, gripping the bathroom countertop for balance, I began doing ballet stretches on the spot.

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