Thank you, Katharine Hepburn.
You see, Katharine Hepburn is the one who started the tradition of skinny dipping in the Cloisters. The legend goes that when she was tired of studying in the library (because back in the day, TGH was actually a library), she’d go refresh in the fountain in the Cloisters. Bryn Mawr’s website has the following to say about that tradition:
At Bryn Mawr’s Centennial Commencement Convocation on May 18, 1985, Hepburn addressed the rumor that she used to swim naked in a fountain pool in the Cloisters of Bryn Mawr’s Thomas Library. “The truth is that I was desperately trying to study and retain what I’d studied,” she said. “I’d spend the night in the library, get exhausted, then dip into the Cloister pool in a mad effort to stay awake. It was an act of the greatest virtue. And a fact that I had no bathing suit.”
Somehow, it’s become one of those things you need to do before you graduate — not really something that will keep you from graduating if you don’t (the way using the Senior Steps before senior year will), but a tradition nonetheless.
Skinny dipping is a blast. The Cloisters, Taft Garden — it’s all good. Mostly, it’s just communal Mawrtyr time; it’s a bonding moment. It’s also really low pressure (or at least, it always has been for me) — I’ve skinny dipped with people wearing a fairly wide range of clothing. Some people join in the fun fully clothed. Whatever floats your boat. Like most Bryn Mawr traditions, it’s not about pressuring people into doing things they make them uncomfortable.
The coolness of the water, the random conversations, the opportunity to meet new people, the complete “only at Bryn Mawr” feeling of the moment, the chance to do something a little daring while still not doing anything dangerous — there are so many reasons why I have such fond memories of skinny dipping at Bryn Mawr. I love Bryn Mawr.