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Granted, not everyone is cut out to go to a nude beach, just like not everyone is cut out for birdwatching, rugby or chess. Go alone or with a friend. This writeup is intended for those who have thought about going more than once.

Nervous? Excited? Excitedly nervous? That's OK. It's to be expected. After all, it's not every day that you drive to a place to take off all your clothes in front of strangers. A few things will calm the butterflies of your initial visit.

Find a legal clothing-optional beach. Don't just go someplace where a friend of a friend said you could run around naked. You want to enjoy yourself without having to worry if you are going to get caught. The American Association for Nude Recreation (www.aanr.com) is a good place to start. It has links to listings of nude beaches, clubs, resorts and lakesides. Pick one of those and go. Where there are groups of nudists, there is peace of mind.

Choose a weekday. This will mitigate any shyness since the beach will be less crowded. Parking will be easier, and although the place probably won't be deserted, you'll have more of a choice as to where to lay your towel.

Go on a cloudy day. Face it, summer may have already rubbed you with a whole stick of burnt sienna, but if you were born with fair skin, your fanny (and for you ladies, most likely your boobies) will shine as white and pure as trout bellies, no color inside the lines. Beware, you can not force feed an all-over tan. Try and you will pay dearly. Trust me on this. It is best to ease your skin in to it. An overcast day filters the hammering UV rays, and you'll be able to stay out longer. Use sunblock anyway. Anything for babies ( SPF 40 or higher) is good. If the sun shines bright and hard, make sure you slather it on your virgin places like cake frosting, early and often, especially if you are doing a lot of sweating or swimming. Which is, of course, encouraged.

Just because you can see the equipment doesn't mean you can use it. Sadly, some people believe a nude beach serves as an acceptable stage for public sex, either alone or with others. If that's what you're in to, please oh please stay home. You may be arrested, thereby endangering whatever tenuous rapport we have with the local officials. Lotion your parts as directed and leave it at that. You've been warned.

A nude beach is still a beach. The idea is to have fun. Be courteous and considerate and friendly. Pack out what you pack in, trash and all. Bring things that you would normally take to a clothed beach: beach chair, umbrella, refreshments, book, towel, frisbee, bodyboards, fishing poles.

Now you've reached the beach, walking past groups of nudists enjoying a day at one of nature's great playgrounds. Oddly, being clothed, you may feel out of place. This will change in a few moments. Pick your spot and arrange your beach camp as you like it. Towel just so and umbrella angled correctly. Now the time comes.

It is really not such a big deal. Just pull off the shirt and drop the shorts. There. Maybe you'll feel a little self-conscious for a second or two, but the deliciousness will kick in.

Pale pores drink the sun like parched, searching lips. Breezes whisper generous welcomes to previously hidden skin. Like a freshly shedded snake your skin learns a new language written on pages of air with consonants of light and vowels of wind. Walk toward the ocean, dive in and relish the new freedom.

And guess what? No one is laughing or staring. You're naked. Big whoop.

That's because as much as going to nude beach is about chalking up a really cool life experience, it is also about body acceptance. With nothing to hide, the folks at the beach feel comfortable in their own skin and with benign inattention create an environment that allows you to do the same.

I can not deny that sometimes clumps of wrinkly-butted old folks indeed dot the shoreline. However, on any day I can also see taut 20- to 60-something couples walking hand in hand or watch an intense volleyball game. Young families looking for shells. Surfers. Fishermen. People chat and play like anyone else except that they choose to wear no clothes.

So if you feel like visiting, please do. If you find it is not for you, that's OK. If you go, however, I've got a feeling that you may return and even begin to coax your liberated epidermis toward a subtle shade of teak.

Come February you might be bundled in three layers of clothes and perhaps sniffley and you'll remember that bright day you embraced the sun and wind and water with your body unclothed and perfect as it is. You may pad in stockinged feet to the calendar and circle a day in early June when you'll begin work on eliminating your remaining tanlines.

You'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

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