Where dreams come true: you don’t have to expose that manicure for hot tub class. Photo courtesy of Greg Von Doersten/gregvondoersten.com

We asked our readers what they thought about hot tub etiquette: keep it classy or get crass? You overwhelmingly said it should be dirty. But we asked ski-bum-turned-ripping-mom Rachel Walker and crassmaster Rob Coppolillo to hash out the fine points of sharing a tub of steamy, bubbly water with other human beings.

Covered Up

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who prided herself on her lack of modesty. In college, she shed her clothes and streaked a raging house party. Post-college and ski bumming in Jackson Hole, she told a bro that “wearing a bathing suit in the hot tub is like wearing your underwear in the shower.” His bemused reaction so tickled her that she recycled the line almost weekly. She equated nudity with brazen confidence and dropped her drawers as often as a potty-training toddler.

Then one evening, this woman, now living in Boulder, Colorado, accompanied a handful of graduate students to a party in Estes Park. There was, conveniently, a hot tub. As the night progressed, folks slipped into their bathing suits and then into the spa. The young woman scoffed. Then she bared it all and jumped in. She was the only one in the buff.

“Prudes,” she teased, trying to sound good-natured.

“Don’t you feel exposed?” asked a fellow hot tubber.

She considered the question. Until then, her response would have been an emphatic no. But as she contemplated the situation, it dawned on her that this is the stuff of nightmares: Being completely naked in a sea of clothed people. Suddenly she did feel exposed, as well as defensive and embarrassed.

For weeks she couldn’t shake the evening’s vulnerable feeling. She agonized over whether or not to wear a bathing suit in a hot tub. Skinny dipping felt forced. Not skinny dipping felt like capitulating. Then, one night, exhausted by her internal conflict, she simply donned a suit. Instead of feeling overdressed, she was confident. There was power in restraint. There was beauty in being selective about who got to see if the “curtains match the carpet.”

As age and children took a toll on her body, she would later ponder if she had what it took to hot tub naked. It was a silly question. After all, her decision to cover up had nothing to do with superficial vanity. Rather, she was simply following priceless advice: Always leave them wanting more.

After giving up her dreams of running a nudist colony, Rachel Walker chose a freelance writing career. She covers a wide range of issues for an even wider range of publications from her Boulder home office.

Hanging Loose

Those of my generation will remember the celluloid triumph Revenge of the Nerds. A rousing coming-of-age tale, the story relates how a merry band of “nerds” mature in an intolerant, bullying world of jocks and dullards. The nerds employ their superior intellect to create all manner of mayhem. In one instance they even manage to peep into the women’s locker room. As their hidden camera pans down, the alpha nerd utters one of the most famous lines in all of cinema:

We’ve got bush…we’ve got bush.

Now, were we to be swayed by the high-falutin’ language and logic of my interlocutor, Ms. Walker, we might believe that once the nerds got their glimpse of bush, it would have sated their curiosities. But I ask you, reader—when has a little bush been better than a lot of bush?

These days, societal norms dictate a much tighter “bush,” male or female. It’s 2012, so please don’t assume I am advocating for a ‘70s-era take on feminine grooming and manscaping. I assure you, when I say to you we’ve got bush, I mean it in the figurative sense. And in the gender-neutral sense, as well. And what I really mean is that, male or female, when it comes to hot tubbing, it’s better to be in the buff.

My bottom line is thus: in a world short on beauty and daring, make your hot tubbing a brightly burning middle finger to the world of tightwads, moralists and Palinites. Strip down, hop in, kick back.

Naturally there will be a percentage of your fellow tubbers who have no business whatsoever showing bush, bum or anything else. Avert your eyes, recoil your legs, but tolerate them you must. Within any profession there will exist the low-performing and the undeserving—to wit: I’m being paid to write this. Does this mean Toni Morrison should cease to publish?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a manscaping appointment in a few precious moments and Rinaldo doesn’t like to be kept waiting.

EO contributing editor Rob Coppolillo has poached more hot tubs than he’s been thrown out of. He regularly waxes and never gawks at fellow nude tubbers. Unless they’re hot..

Reader Response from the Web

Because in the world of anonymous online comments everyone has a say.

Let’s be honest. Most of us want to see naked people in hot tubs. And we do sometimes, but when it does happen, it’s never the people we want to see naked. It’s the disturbing people. It’s downright scary.

—Blake

Get ready for our next question, dear readers: is it cool to ride a snowmachine in for backcountry turns?  

Let us know and butt heads at ElevationOutdoors.com