Shortly after I met my girlfriend Mary Anne, we stayed for a weekend at that most patchouli-scented of romantic destinations, Doe Bay. The resort, on Orcas Island, is famous for its clothing-optional hot springs and rentable yurts. On our first day there, in June, we swam in the immaculate Jell-O-blue water and lay on the beach speculating about what bald eagles taste like. It was gorgeous. After watching Origami Ghosts play at the resort’s restaurant, we made our first visit to the hot springs.
The pools were full of vacationers and island residents talking quietly and giggling about the sadly unusual experience of being surrounded by naked strangers. We hopped in the least populous pool, where a flight attendant from Texas asked us what brought us to Orcas. We learned she was on a Tinder date with a professional pilot who owned a small plane.
“I only date guys with planes,” she said.
The pilot, who had been showering, soon joined us.
“I never get a thrill from flying anymore, but when this guy takes off, boy I can feel it,” she said.
“Look at him,” she said, “he’s just happy to see all these boobies!”
We later wondered whether she was trying to make us feel comfortable about our boobs, which are small in comparison to her impressive pair, or making an effort to make us feel feminine, because she assumed queer women worry they’re not. Despite the awkwardness of this gesture, we both immediately liked her.
She apparently went on lots of tinder dates with guys who own planes, and had recently been on a spree of such dates in celebration of “getting her lady parts taken out.” Doe Bay had been one of her preferred vacation spots for quite a while, and she told us it had drastically improved over the years.
“Years ago you couldn’t come here without getting algae in your hoo-ha,” she confessed.
Mary Anne and I called nearly everything a hoo-ha for the next week. When we discovered that the four of us were yurt neighbors, she grinned. “Ooh, we’ll try and drown each other out.”
We didn’t see them again while we were there, though we did hear a loud grunt from the direction of their yurt around midnight.
Our last night in Doe Bay, we took a midnight walk and sat on the beach drinking whiskey. There were so many stars the sky looked more light than dark. Meteors occasionally added their brilliant stripes. We heard, somewhere slightly further down the beach, a woman gasp as she came, and then to our left, someone throwing up. Far up the hill a campfire glowed faintly, and we could hear its makers laughing. The rare thrill of being surrounded by naked people returned, though with the possible exception of the gasping woman, everyone there had put on their coats.
I felt a particular sense of possibility I remembered from house shows when I was a teenager—the scope of socially acceptable behavior expanding to the horizon in my imagination. The immensity of the night sky and the friendly Hieronymus Bosch painting happening around us made things I normally worry about seem trivial.
I squeezed Mary Anne under our piled coats, reveling in the adventure we had embarked on together.