In 28 years of tending bar on the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten, Willy deKleine has seen it all. Literally.
Willy works at the Perch Bar on Orient Bay Beach. Yes. THAT beach – the one where swimsuits are not required.
In fact, no clothing is required at all.
- “I’ve never tended bar anywhere else, so I don’t know how this compares to other bar tending jobs,” she told me. “I have to wear clothes, because, you know…” About that time, she started the blender on yet another frozen beach drink. Ooh, yes, the blender – definitely a work hazard for unprotected body parts.
In Your Bucket Because…
- You loved skinny dipping as a child and nothing feels so good as the Caribbean sun and surf on your skin.
- Nobody at home will believe you really did it, and you will never tell your kids that you did.
- Good for those who just don’t really worry about what others think or look like.
When Clothes Are Appropriate
When not at work, Willy likes the freedom that clothing optional offers.
“I love to swim and sunbathe in the nude, but some things are just more comfortable with clothes on,” she said. “Volleyball and tennis, you really should have clothes on for that.”
Dining is another activity that requires clothes, according to Willy. The Perch Bar serves a mighty fine cheeseburger and fries – nothing saggy about the size of those all-beef patties. Most customers carry their burgers and drinks back to their beach chairs, but if they choose to sit at the wooden tables and benches inside the bar, Willie insists they first put down a towel.
Willy is Dutch, and like most Europeans, she is less inhibited about those things than most Americans. They come by the dozens the days cruise ships are in port at Philipsburg, fully clothed but looking while trying not to look like they’re looking.
“Most of them just sit and have a drink and then leave,” Willy said, “but you know, some of them end up taking their clothes off and really enjoying themselves.”
“We’re All the Same Underneath”
That’s all well and good if you’re 20-something and in great shape, I told her, but face it – about two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and kind of disgusting fully clothed.
So I asked, “Don’t you think some people should really keep their clothes on?”
I thought she might laugh, maybe point to a particularly large gentleman in our midst, but instead she frowned and shook her finger at me.
“Not at all,” she said. “Everyone is beautiful and with their clothes off, we see that we really are just the same underneath.”
She continued telling me about a woman with a double mastectomy strolling the beach right alongside a woman whose breasts could have made a Playboy centerfold. “Do you know which woman I thought was most beautiful? The one who had the courage to realize her beauty was on the inside.”
Feeling ashamed, I looked away, out at the human beings of various shapes and sizes enjoying the Caribbean sun as much as I. Sure enough, as I pondered Willy’s words, a man walked by with a prosthetic leg. Another man with a scar so jagged across his midsection left no doubt he had led an extraordinary life. Each body told a story about the person inside.
No Giggling Or Sex Allowed
I turned back to our conversation. “But surely, you’ve seen things here that make you uncomfortable?”
Her answer was the about the only thing that startled me that day.
“Yes, it bothers me when people start having intercourse at my bar.”
After I recovered from choking on my rum punch, Willy explained that about once a week, some young couple with too much too drink and no understanding of the nudist lifestyle will begin to engage in sex right there in public.
“They are such idiots,” she said. “I would rather have the prudish gawkers giggling like school children.”
Fortunately, the beach employs a number of security guards who immediately ban those individuals and anyone else with a camera, binoculars or cell phones. (Yes, I received permission to take these photos).
Enjoying our conversation very much, I continued to quiz Willy. “Can you tell when it’s someone’s first time going nude?”
“Sure,” she responded, “the tan lines are a good indicator.”
“Oh,” I said, looking down.
“But you’re doing just fine,” and she smiled as she mixed another drink.
- Most cruise ships with a port of call in Philipsburg offer a shore excursion to Orient Bay Beach.
- It will cost you about $20 to rent an umbrella and beach chairs for the day. Don’t worry about finding a booth or stand to pay. Someone will come around and give your chair a tag when you’ve paid.
- The other end of the beach is one that requires clothes and includes numerous beach bars and water sports.
- Spend your entire vacation without clothes at Club Orient.