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‘I Went To A Naked Dinner Party, And It Changed The Way I View My Breasts’

fude naked dinner party
'What I Learned At A Naked Dinner Party'Courtesy of Isabel McMahon

Closing one's eyes is encouraged during the breathwork sessions of The Füde Experience, a weekly naked dinner party, but I can't resist sneaking a few glances. To my left, our breathwork guru is interpretive dancing around the room, and in an unexpected cameo, her tampon string joins the dance. On my right, our fearless meetup ringleader Charlie Ann Max is documenting the room with multiple iPhones. As for the 15 other brave—and completely nude—souls in the room, they were doing a mix of yoga, dance, and meandering across the silk tarps that covered the 650-square-foot loft floor.

Nervously, I slip into a movement of cat-cows. A gospel-like rendition of Adele's "Someone Like You" fills the Brooklyn loft alongside the scent of palo santo, sage, and butternut squash—dinner is almost served.

According to its website, Füde brings vegan food, nudity, art and self-love together to help participants find their “purest selves and experience true transformation.” Founder Charlie Ann Max started nude-optional family-style dinner parties in her Brooklyn apartment in 2020 and shared pictures of her naked body (and others') on her Instagram—until her account was officially deleted for violating community guidelines. Inspired, she created Füde, its name a wink to Max’s German background as well as a riff on ‘nude’ and ‘food.’ Now a bi-coastal affair with weekly events in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, it's become an intentional space where Charlie and her guests indulge in both plant-based cuisine and liberation, equally savored.

At this naked dinner, our breasts were the guests of honor.

While many of the Füde events are simply dinners served with a side of self-exploration, this one featured a plaster nipple casting workshop led by Carina Hardy, the founder of the formerly named brand Elppin Jewelry (that’s 'nipple' spelled backward). She came armed with with plaster casting liquid and a curiosity for our "breast stories."

But before we bared ourselves and our souls, the intimacy coordinator greeted all of the participants as soon as we walked into the loft, explaining how the evening would unfold. It was reminiscent of a safety briefing before a haunted house, or an exclusive nightclub like Berghain.

Upon stepping into the studio space, my focus immediately honed in on another group of five women—ethereal, nude, and surrounded by silk drapery. To my right stood an open clothes rack, and the women around me began undressing in plain view. With a touch of hesitation, I started shedding my winter layers, trying my best to appear smooth and graceful. It felt like all eyes were on me as I sock-hopped out of my tights, jeans, and sweater.

A palpable nervous energy filled the room. Our group of 15 women gathered in a circle, sitting cross-legged and facing each other. There was minimal small talk, and Max took the lead in introductions, encouraging us to share a bit about ourselves and what brought us there. The responses varied from "I've heard from a friend" to "This is my third dinner" and "I'm hoping to meet more women open to experiences like this." When it was my turn, I revealed my journalist status, and I sensed the tension in the room dissipate. The guests seemed excited to be part of an event worthy of being written about.

a woman holding golden nipple casts
Isabel holding an ice sculpture at Füde.Charlie Ann Max

My decision to attend this dinner, in particular, was fueled by a mix of factors: I am constantly trying to further my practice in “body neutrality,” I’ve become more aware of my breast health since my mother overcame breast cancer, and, candidly, I wanted a good story for my next clothed dinner party.

What I ended up taking away from the experience was more than just a quirky anecdote; it recast the way I understood and appreciated my body.

My connection with my breasts runs deep, especially because my mother is a breast cancer survivor.

Being in an environment where my breasts were not only on full display, but also a topic of conversation, brought me back to my 17-year-old self, sitting at my childhood kitchen table with my two brothers and parents. Such serious family gatherings were rare, and the gravity of this one felt surreal.

Yet there sat my mom, composed as she delivered the news of her breast cancer diagnosis. No chemotherapy, she assured us, but a regimen of radiation and hormone therapy, along with five years of medication post-treatment.

Although I was outwardly stoic, I felt rattled inside. The tension was palpable, especially when one of my brothers broke down in tears, amplifying my own discomfort. The weight of the moment was undeniably crushing. It was the first time I truly grasped my mom's—and, by extension, my own—vulnerability.

Like many women, my feelings toward my breasts are in a constant state of evolution (unlike my actual breasts, which have maintained their 34B status since age 14). However, recent genetic testing has brought my breast health to the forefront of my mind.

At 21, during my inaugural pap smear, my doctor casually asked about my family’s history with cancer. I mentioned my mom's bout with breast cancer fours years before–she had a grade 2 tumor in her breast removed when she was 51. With her clean bill of health today, my doctor suggested a genetic panel, which analyzed 36 of my cancer-related genes and required a comprehensive deep dive of my extended family's health.

Months later, the results revealed no alarming mutations but flagged "uncertain significance" in my ATM and CDK4 genes, two genes that can play a role in the development of cancer. My genetic counselor clarified these results were neither good nor bad for now, and that I could get another update in a decade. Still, early testing was wise, given my elevated genetic risk.

Celebrating my breasts at a nude dinner party, instead of fretting over their future health, was a refreshing change.

After we undressed, we were told to shut our eyes and sprawl out on the floor. I could sense myself sliding into the awkward space of judgment and started giggling at the kick-off of an hour-long breathing meditation. I had hoped to dodge this kind of detachment that night; authenticity was the goal, not judgmental laughter.

Eventually, I started to ease into the moment. Just when I was getting comfortable, the real work began. Carina ushered small groups of us into another part of the room for the much-anticipated breast casting session.

As I watched the cold plaster brush against each woman ahead of me, their shivers mirrored my growing dread. I found myself spiraling into anxious thoughts, "Would the plaster rip away my nipple hair? Could it actually freeze my nipples off?" When it was finally my turn, the initial shock of the cold, gelatinous plaster against my left nipple was surprisingly soothing, thanks in part to Carina's reassuring presence. It felt comparable to spreading the world's thickest face mask over my skin—a familiar form of self-care, just on a different body part.

As I felt the plaster brush over each nipple, the evening reached peak intimacy.

While the plaster dried, we explored our breast stories. Charlie and the team prompted us to share with thoughtful questions: How has your relationship with your breasts evolved? How do you find pleasure in your breasts? What do they signify to you?

isabel mcmahon with her nipple casts at fude naked dinner party
Isabel McMahon with her nipple casts at Füde naked dinner party.Charlie Ann Max

Puberty was a hush-hush secret in my small Catholic school upbringing. I didn't even get a taste of sex-ed until my senior year at public high school. The unexpected feelings of shame during my nipple casting took me back to my younger self, stirring up a wave of sadness and embarrassment: getting my first training bra and my period were dreadful moments in my girlhood. At the time, these topics were shrouded in silence, and I mistakenly interpreted that quiet as something to be ashamed of.

With an awkward laugh, I courageously shared, "I used to feel like my nipples were too brown." A few women laughed—not in a mean way, but as if they understood my self-deprecation all too well—while others looked with deep stares of compassion.

Despite my initial awkwardness, sharing my breast story reminded me of how far I've come. I hadn't realized just how grateful I am for my breasts until that moment. The other participants echoed my appreciation.

Ash Rucker, 35, recounted the time when her breasts made their debut at the age of 11. Her mom dubbed them "rosebuds."

Victoria Murdoch shared a less amusing memory, recalling a classmate's mother calling her a derogatory name after her breasts made their grand entrance.

Raina K. Puels, 29, expressed gratitude for growing up in a household where nudity was as normalized as morning cereal.

For Max, her breasts serve as a timeline of womanhood. "I never felt like I was getting older. The way I can tell is the way my boobs are,” she said.

An experienced corporate manager shared a poignant moment about a loved one battling breast cancer—a sentiment that resonated deeply with me.

nipple casts
The dinner guests’ nipple castings at Füde.Charlie Ann Max

Reflecting now, I’m in awe of my mom's resilience. She faced her diagnosis head-on, refusing to let it define her. As a young adult now, I'm humbled by her strength; it was an anchor of calm during a stressful time.

These days, witnessing her commitment to her physical and mental health—through her strength training classes or her dedication to projects she loves, like redecorating her apartment almost weekly–fills me with admiration.

Group nudity became my exposure therapy: It helped me move beyond my self-judgment and embrace vulnerability.

The allure of a naked dinner party, as Max explained, lies in connecting with like-minded individuals. This was the driving force that drew me to the event—to meet other women embracing their bodies and, hopefully, to undergo a transformative experience in how I perceive my own.

a table with food and candles
The dinner spread at Füde.Charlie Ann Max

It's very Gen-Z of me to be more comfortable sharing my inner thoughts in TikTok’s void, but simultaneously feel hesitation about opening up in real life. Plus, my fair share of body image issues stems from being plugged into the world of social media and its unrealistic body expectations. That's why I was relieved that the attendees represented a diverse range of ages and body types. What brought us together was a shared desire to go beyond the surface, exploring deeper aspects within ourselves and with each other.

Max emphasizes that being naked and shedding layers accelerates conversations to a "raw vulnerable point." Surprisingly, these vulnerable moments surfaced more quickly than I had expected. Despite my initial skepticism about the breathwork meditation, I found myself candidly opening up to the group about my body insecurities in a way I had never done before.

Showing—and sharing—my full self felt like a release.

As the casting session wrapped up and the dinner bell rang, women gathered in small groups for intimate chit chat. Stripped of graphic t-shirts and trendy boots, there's little left but to move beyond small talk and signaling.

After about an hour of baring it all, I did feel much more open-minded about my own body, too. Sure, there were moments when I'd glance in the mirror and scrutinize the parts I have insecurities about. Are people looking at my stomach rolls? Is it weird that I trimmed for this? But overall, it felt liberating to be naked.

There's this whole narrative of shame that comes with scrutinizing yourself in the mirror, a la that one Mean Girls scene, sizing up every supposed flaw, especially when that shame is rooted in fatphobia. But there's something oddly freeing about baring it all in front of a bunch of strangers, shedding layers both physical and emotional, and unpacking the stories we've spun about what our bodies mean to the world.

The presence of an intimacy coordinator at the dinner, and at every dinner hosted, added to the sense of reassurance. Knowing there's a point of contact to guide you out of the room or offer a hug and a listening ear contributed to making the night a thoughtful and safe experience.

a table with candles and food
The candlelit dinner table at Füde.Charlie Ann Max

Suddenly, I found myself appreciating my body in ways I hadn't before: my ability to walk to the train each morning, perform a down-dog at yoga class, or thrash in a mosh pit at a punk show. It’s also constantly evolving, as is my health, and I’m grateful for my ability to take care of it as best I can.

I called my mom after the dinner party and recounted every detail of the naked rendezvous, leaving her slightly taken aback by my unabashed bravery. She pleaded with me not to "go posting" any nude pictures (whoops). While the notion of having a pair of golden, avocado sized nipple casts gracing her living room mantle was not her cup of tea—"I wouldn't want that thing on my bookshelf," she said—it still marked the beginning of a refreshing, candid dialogue about our bodies and health.

As for me and my golden nipple casts, I took away a sense of transformation: I trashed my full-length mirror. I've embraced physical activities like ballet and rock climbing for the transparent joy they bring, unrelated to altering my appearance. I've become more diligent about scheduling my yearly OB-GYN appointments and mindful of the foods I consume.

I’ve even started my own nudist practice, which mostly involves washing my dishes after I get home from work, sans clothes, with my breast casts in full view above my sink.

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