Established over 55 years ago on the shores of Lake Winnipompac, Mel & Noma’s Topless Beach has long been a destination for sun worshipers who believe that nature is best enjoyed without the burden of clothing. While the beach was a popular summer retreat for much of the ‘60s and ‘70s, membership has begun to decline in recent years as age, vanity, and compelling skin cancer PSAs have taken their toll on the membership base. Struggling to make ends meet, the club recently announced that it would be opening up its ranks to an entirely new set of topless beachgoers, starting with a 2022 Ford Mustang convertible.
While some long-standing members are put off by the club’s ever-widening definition of “topless,” convertible owners are joining in droves, happy to have a new venue where they can show off their rides and get a little sun. The move to expand membership comes at a fortuitous time for convertible drivers, thanks to two major factors: the seasonal rise in temperature and the seemingly never-ending rise in gas prices. Convertibles tend to be less fuel-efficient than many other types of vehicles leading to a big bill at the pump, but the beach gives drivers the perfect opportunity to show off their ride without ever having to fire up the engine.
“I’m the type of guy who keeps my shirt on even when I go into my backyard pool, so I never imagined that I’d find myself at a nude beach,” says Mike Dean, the first convertible owner to become a member at Mel & Noma’s. “It’s been a really enlightening experience. I’ve met some interesting new people and have a newfound appreciation for my own lack of weird skin conditions.”
If you ask Dean, the ideal beach body is bright red, has a wide stance, and weighs around 3,500 pounds. While body positivity has come a long way in recent years, some might balk at describing anything that weighs 1.5 tons as “ideal,” but for Dean, there’s just nothing quite as sexy as seeing his Mustang catching some rays. Dean says the crowd has been welcoming for the most part, though some haven’t been so keen. “There have been a few dirty looks from those who don’t think I’m respecting the spirit of the place. My response is the same every time: I would be happy to get naked, but the leather seats are just too hot,” says Dean.
While management says they’re happy with the uptick in membership, they are aware of the awkwardness between established members and newcomers. In an attempt to build a better sense of community, the beach recently hosted a meet-and-greet to encourage fraternization between the two groups.
“At a certain point, we realized that there wasn’t a lot of mixing going on. Many of our older members know each other by name, but the new vehicle-based members have just been referring to everyone either by their model name or ‘that lady with the weird moles,’” says Mel Harris, one of the founders of the topless beach. “It’s a little impersonal, so we’re trying to address that, though I will admit that Debbie does have some weird moles.”
Some new members have been a little disillusioned by the whole experience, citing a lack of pavement on the beach, post-beach car wash facilities, and the club’s strict policy against self-pleasure. Others say it’s been an eye-opening experience that’s led them to question their choice in automobiles.
“If I knew places like this existed, I might have never even bought a convertible in the first place,” says Jared Duchamp, a Corvette driver who joined the club earlier this year. “Let’s be honest: the main reason to buy a convertible is to up your chances of seeing people naked. I guess it worked, but I’m just a little miffed that the guy who rolled up in a Dodge Neon that he turned into a ‘convertible’ with a hacksaw gets to enjoy the same view as I do; even though my oil changes cost almost $150.”