I refined the design of my web sites (made it all myself) for years (it only took years because I have no real training as designer). But then I couldn't go further without getting "fancy", and "fancy" hurt things like readability or navigation. There are quite narrow limits on the web because of all the different devices it needs to work on. So I just stopped, my artistic sense would just have to bite its metaphorical tongue, because it had reached a hard limit.
It's not regrettable, much. Form must follow function. Fine art is only free where there is no real function.
[I just wrote some of the above on my tablet/ereader blog.]
A few years ago I moved to Bangkok permanently from my native Cape Town. I am married to a Thai businesswoman, and I should stress at once that we have no time for the seamy side of Bangkok life that brings in so many of the wrong type of tourist. I'd like to share the story of the last few days with people who are likely to appreciate it for what it is. I have changed names; the rest is plain fact.
Despite the notorious night life of Nana Plaza and Soi Patpong, most Thais are very conservative about nudity. In fact, they are bewildered about the fondness of many visitors for lying in the sun and darkening a beautiful light skin that they themselves would pay a fortune to inhabit. My wife, Miao, who is well educated and has lived outside Thailand, has long shared much of this conservatism. She learned a long while ago that it was acceptable to be naked with a lover, and my compliments on her looks (compliments which are frequent and heartfelt) give her pleasure. She is quite boyish in her figure, with broad shoulders and small, firm breasts that some men would find fell short of their taste but which I continue to admire and love years down the line, long legs, a beautiful sloping back, and a loveable tuft of natural pubic hair that has never been shaved but serves to accentuate, not conceal (you may hear the voice of a devoted husband in these words; your ears do not mislead you). Notwithstanding this, however, she has long tended to be defensive about her body in the presence of anyone else; in Cape Town I had little success in coaxing her to explore skinny dipping at the many beautiful locations available, a pleasure that had turned me into an eager naturist decades ago.
We seldom wear anything at home, however, and recently we have been offering free accommodation to travelers via the Couchsurfing site, of which you may have heard. A few days ago, a young Pole whom I shall call Marie came to spend a few days with us. I warned her before we met that we were a non-textile household, and her reply, which was articulate and intelligent, included the line "When it comes to nudity, I grew up in a house with nude bodies of my parents in their home-time, and I am grateful for this lesson of beauty.", which I have just copied and pasted from her message to avoid any temptation to distort and Anglicise her words. What a way to see it!
When she arrived, I met her naked (this is not an issue for me as long as I feel I am not embarrassing anyone else), and she was quite relaxed. As I showed her around the house, introduced her to the cats, and so on, she remarked that she had not in fact visited at a nude household before, but felt she would be able to adjust, and while I made coffee she had that shower that anyone in Bangkok heat learns to see as such a precious refreshment.
Marie came out wrapped in a towel at about the same time as Miao came home from a business meeting. They are both friendly and affectionate people (I have met few Thais or Poles who weren't), and they exchanged the usual smalltalk while I set about preparing the chicken and cashew nuts in oyster sauce. As we ate, we relaxed more and more, and I realised Marie was, deliberately or accidentally, letting the towel slip down over her breasts. They were a pulse-quickening sight, sweet and firm, and I admired them without disguise; I have seen very many naked people by now and am not afraid of my reactions.
Shortly afterwards, Miao went to take her own shower, and when she returned she had joined the naked majority. We chatted a while, and turned in early (jet-lag!). As Miao and I settled down she remarked thoughtfully "Marie has beautiful breasts, doesn't she?" I agreed heartily (the phrase "drop-dead gorgeous" occurred), and Miao chuckled and cuddled up. No jealousy, no alarm, and she went about the house for a weekend that was like a domestic Eden for all of us.
I told Marie about Miao's reaction the following morning, referring to her "lesson of beauty". She thanked us for the compliment and said we'd made her feel entirely at home already; we sat around chatting at some length before I took her out sight-seeing, and I felt entirely welcome to look and admire. There was no sexual tension, just a lovely, giving nakedness on both sides, and when I made a point of saying I wanted to give her an affectionate hug before we dressed to go out, she smiled warmly and moved in to comply.
The weekend continued on the same terms, including posing together for souvenir photographs in the sitting room, and Marie announced before the day was out that she had learned something too; although she'd already been confident about her body, we'd shown her that it wasn't just OK to go naked, it was actively desirable to do so with people one liked. Before she left, she announced that when she returned to London, her Kensington flat was going to become another clothes-free area. And Miao put her clothes back on for the first time only to go to work this morning.
The Couchsurfing project is a heart-breaker in some ways; you meet some quality human beings and then move on, possibly never to meet again; but it can bring the most precious experiences, times to learn, love, be happy. No DOMAI enthusiast will need to be persuaded how important those moments are. (Anyone interested can learn more at couchsurfing.org; a great way to travel and to help others do so too).
For quite a few years growing up I had gone to the Gulf coast for vacations and summer trips. My father liked to fish and we had a family friend that lived right on the water, so it was just a great combination.
The family friend was a retired widow that had lived in the same house for many years. In repayment for her hospitality on our fishing trips my father would do odd jobs and repairs for her. She had a friend just a couple of houses down the beach that was also a widow. She also had family that came during the summer. That is where I met Cheri. Cheri's family would come to spend time with her grandmother in the summer. It seemed that each summer Cheri and I would manage to spend time together in our breaks from school. I am not sure how many years we met in this quiet beachside community but we went from riding our bikes for fun all the way to college age together. We enjoyed swimming and for the most part, getting away from all the adults.
What turned out to be my last summer at this beach was also a memorable one for me. At the time I was in college and was home for the summer, so I was able to make the trip. It turned out that later that year my family friend would pass away, so there was no longer a place to stay, also I was starting my life. I didn't know this was my last trip, but it certainly didn't come as a surprise. I didn't think it would be the last time I spent my summer vacation with Cheri either.
I came home after that first year in college, a bit worn out from the change in habits. I didn't sleep as much, didn't eat right, and probably drank too much. But that is what it was all about anyway. Within a few days we headed to the beach like we had done for many years, as far back as I could remember. When we got there Cheri and her family were there as well, that was normal. I walked down the street to greet her. She had grown from a little girl, to an awkward girl, to a teenager, and now she was a woman. I had seen the transformation over the years, something you notice when you see someone just once or twice a year. Over the years we changed the things that occupied our time together. But one thing that did remain constant, we both liked swimming in the ocean. I was actually a swimmer taking classes and swimming at a competitive level, although it was just within the local area. Cheri enjoyed swimming and trying to keep up with me. Our time was spent both in the water and laying out on the docks that went quite a ways out into the Gulf. Several of the houses along the street had these fishing docks, the length was about 300 feet long. When we were out near the end of those we were well away from everyone else.
The docks were also great fishing platforms. We often had fresh fish caught that day, along with crabs and shrimp from the local shrimpers. It was common for the two extended families to get together for a cookout during our trips. Then when we left for the summer and went home, we loaded up with as much frozen seafood as we could get.
The last few years before my final summer, Cheri and I would spend a lot of time talking and just comparing our lives and futures. She was a pretty girl. I developed a "crush" on her, but it seemed that we were mostly just good friends. The fact that we lived in two different towns really kept us from becoming closer. This was well before e-mail and when long distance phone calls were expensive. The only time I talked to her was on my trip to the beach, so often we had a year's worth of things to talk about.
This summer we had both started college and were living new lifestyles. We looked forward to our quiet time away from the adults. Towards the latter part of my visit we had unique opportunity to spend the day together. Her parents and grandmother were going on a day trip, which Cheri declined. I was going to be alone that day as well. The first thing we did was walk along a long stretch of the beach, where we had often played as younger kids. The area was popular with fishermen and also swimmers. But since it was remote and near a quiet group of houses it was usually not crowded at all. We walked along the beach that morning. There is something about the smell of the ocean that I have always liked, and one thing about the beach, there is usually a breeze blowing.
Once the sun was up we decided it was a good time to hit the water. We walked back to our houses and changed into our swimsuits. I wore a competitive speedo type swimsuit. For the past few years Cheri had started wearing bikinis, which was fine with me. After a few minutes we met again and headed to the water. We both had floating lounges so we could get sun as well, we spent most of the time on those. We got in the water and worked our way out towards the end of the docks.
As we were talking I brought up a class that I had taken in college. I had always liked to draw, so I decided to take some art classes to break up my regular class schedule. I had been told it was foolish to pursue an art degree, but I wanted to learn more. I had signed up for a life drawing class, not really knowing exactly what it was. I was telling Cheri about the first time the class had a nude model. Up until that class we had learned some techniques but not drawn from a live model. That day I was nervous and not really knowing what to expect. I was worried that I might react like a typical teenage male and not really be able to draw anything. But the day of that class had really changed me. I first saw a naked female, but after just a few moments she became a lot more. I was able to see past what my typical male eyes wanted to see and was able to concentrate on her as a subject for my art. It got easier with each class. One thing that helped was that our instructor encouraged communication back and forth between the model and artists, that was awkward at first. As I explained all of this to Cheri I did include the few times when we had a nude male model. I hoped that might even things out for her.
Somewhere during the time Cheri turned over on her stomach to get sun on her back. In doing so she untied the strings to her bikini, both the neck and the back strings. We just floated along and talked for a while. Soon it was time to turn over and tan the other side, this was a regular routine for us, as it kept us from getting sunburned. As Cheri prepared to turn over onto her back she tried to reach behind her to fasten her bikini strings, but she couldn't do it. With this style of string bikini she was just unable to do it without looking. She sat up, with one hand she tried to cover her breasts and with the other she grabbed her bikini top.
She was barely able to cover her breasts, but with one hand all she could do was hold her bikini top. To me it was two triangles with four stings coming out from all sides, it made no sense to me. Cheri sure seemed embarrassed at the time. I was looking because all of this happened so fast, and in a way I was wanting to help.
Finally she moved her arm covering her breasts, "well I guess you have seen these before".
Now I had a view of her bare upper body. "I have seen a few" I responded.
"Well I give up" She said holding her bikini top. She laid on her back, breasts still bare. Then she just fixed the bikini triangles and covered her nipples with them, for protection from the sun.
"I sure hope no one can see us" She said.
"We are quite a ways from shore, no one will be able to see what is going on" I tried my best to be consoling.
We laid there for a while continuing our conversation. Finally we sat up, her loose bikini top fell down. She seemed to have more confidence now, partly because I tried to make her comfortable.
"Well you get to see them again" She said with a bit of shyness in her voice.
"They are nice... you know that I have always had a crush on you" I replied.
"I know you have..." She quickly said but leaving the response open.
I had always hoped she was going to say that she had a crush on me as well, but she never completed that sentence. Cheri spent the next few moments tying up the bikini top strings, once she figured out which end was which. She slipped that loop over her head.
"Would you tie the back up for me?" She asked.
I leaned over and she turned her back more towards me. "Of course" I said. I pulled on the strings like I was getting ready to tie them, but reached up and pulled one end of the top strings and untied that knot.
"You Bum!" She exclaimed realizing what I had done. She turned back around her bare breasts once again enjoying the light of day and I was treated to the view of her perky round breasts.
She was smiling at me as she went through the trials of retying the knot. "Again... but leave the other one tied this time...ok?" She directed. She covered her breasts with the triangles and turned around again.
This time I tied the strings without the mischief. "How's that?" I asked.
"Thank you" She answered.
We sat on the end of the dock for a while. Later we cleaned up and our families got together for supper at one of the local restaurants. A few days later I left, saying goodbye to Cheri and her family. I said goodbye to our family friend. I never saw them again. I often wonder what happened to Cheri. I had done some searches on the social network websites with no luck. That is one of the problems with living in such a large city, so many places to look. I remember that summer as the time when I got to put what I learned in my life drawing class to some practical use. I saw her for who she was and for her beauty, not just for her being naked. I had grown a lot and this was the test that I needed to pass.
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