On the third-to-last day of summer camp, the temperature has risen to 98 degrees, and even the troupers have begun to whine. Halie Nelson, 14, agreed, ''Yeah, I'd rather get all the clothes off, and keep all the clothes off. Here at the Youth Leadership Camp run by the American Association for Nude Recreation, the dress code for regular volleyball -- and for the pudding toss, mini-golf and campfire sing-alongs -- is the same as it is for skinny dipping.
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In the summer of , when I was 12 years old, I spent my first summer away from home, in Zionsville, Indiana, at the Goldman Union Camp Institute, which everyone called GUCI for short, pronounced like the luxury goods line. Founded in for Reform Jewish kids, the place was bland, nothing to write home about: some cabins and a dining hall, an all-purpose building, swimming pool, and play fields scattered in flat, dry, central Indiana. I was shy and self-conscious that year, still dressing in matching outfits that my mother picked out, and the idea of going away for a month was terrifying. But Becky had an older sister from whom she learned about the ways of the world, and she said it was time for us to go to overnight camp. Camp was divided into three age groups, and within each age group there were a few cabins of boys and girls.
As a psychiatrist who specializes in working with teens, I hear "it" discussed often - quietly, tentatively at first, until the teen decides that I am "OK. Does this doctor really want to hear what I have to say about this or is she going to give me a lecture? Can I ask her my questions or will she think I'm stupid? I bet she never had this problem. In fact, I bet no one has every had this problem, but maybe I could tell her it was some other kid, not me. All teens have stories to tell, stories that need to be listened to, stories from which we can learn a great deal. Listening closely, I have realized that teens want to talk about sex, but with adults they trust. They want to be listened to, and they want nonjudgmental conversations. Conversations about sex are unusual among adults, so it is not surprising that they are even more rare between adults and teens.