How To Make Vacations Awkward


“I don’t know,” I mumbled nervously to my husband. Lowering my voice, I leaned in. “Ask him if it’s clothing optional.” Billy looked back at me with eyes that begged not to have to ask this stranger about public nudity. But I nudged him back toward the man awaiting our answer.

We’d only been in Cancun about fifteen minutes before things got awkward. But those first few moments had been glorious.

I bumped my suitcase up the last few outdoor steps before entering through the wide, automatic sliding doors. I was startled to not feel the rush of air conditioning when I stepped inside. Instead, I was gazing at a massive courtyard, filled with lush plants and the sound of bubbling waterfalls. Exterior room doors circled around the fragrant garden, and my eyes followed the floors up to the blue, open sky.

I stopped and stared. I could hardly take it in. The fresh smells. The gentle breeze. The warm sun. The milling guests.

Billy and I were alone - just the two of us. Our toddler and one-year-old were at home with grandparents, and we were on our first-ever week-long vacation together. I was planning to sleep the entire time.  

We scurried to the check-in desk, giddy with delight. I continued to take in the wonder of our surroundings while Billy chatted in Spanish with the attendant, confirming our reservation.

This is when things took a turn.

Billy grabbed my elbow and guided me a few steps from the counter. We’d been married seven years at this point, and he already knew I’d need a moment where “change of plans” and “we need to make a decision” are involved.

“So the guy is telling me that the hotel is very full this week, and they are asking if we’d be interested in relocating to another hotel they own. It’s just a few blocks down, and he thinks we’ll have a more relaxing time.” Billy paused. “It’s adults only.”

I watched a young girl wrapped in a floatie walking by with her parents. I was excited about this little getaway just the two of us, and the potential for serious peace and quiet was definitely appealing. But I had selected “family-friendly” accommodations intentionally. Because public nudity.

In my fervent researching of all the Groupon trip offers, I had noticed - buried in some of the Jamaican and Cancun trip descriptions - the phrase “clothing optional.” So not my scene. I had decided I’d rather be safe than sorry and had instead gone with “family friendly.” Give me a tired toddler crying over his ketchup touching his chicken nuggets over a room full of people where I’m the only one wearing a swimsuit any day. That’s a different kind of nightmare.

So I directed Billy back toward the check-in desk. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble, “Why don’t you ask him?” I ignored that, but I did huddle in close this time to figure out what was going on. Billy spoke. I heard the word “ropa.”

The check-in attendant looked directly at me, stricken. And, in English, spoke quickly, “No, no, Señora, you will need to keep your clothes on!”

My eyes widened. I could think of absolutely zero words in English or Spanish. But my mind was racing. That’s not what I… no… that’s not why…. oh, for the love!

What I should’ve said was, “Are you kidding me? I’ve given birth to two babies in the last four years. I’m perfectly fine keeping my clothes on. In fact, I insist on it.

Also, my own home is like a nudist colony. My dream vacation is a hotel full of people who wake up every day and dress themselves appropriately. And if they stay clean enough throughout the day that they only need the one outfit? More power to them!

I am actually here to experience a little bit of privacy for the first time in a long time. I just want to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up on my own accord to sip some coffee on the balcony.”

But I said none of that. Instead, I was embarrassed - which probably read as disappointed - and mumbled, “Oh, okay.”

We took a taxi to the new hotel.