Thursday, June 18, 2009

Note from the Beach

Body Language
A woman walks by in a teeny bikini with a body that has a history—a body that has delivered children. A body that maybe has seen better days. People mutter, She should take a look in the mirror! and I wouldn’t be caught dead in that. Often these muttering people are women. I have been guilty of these judgmental thoughts myself, though I usually don’t voice them.
Those remarks almost never are targeted at men, no matter how gut-heavy they are.
My question is, Who made those rules? Who decided what kind of bodies should be put on display? Who established these standards that almost nobody can meet?

You can’t tell how good a shell is by feeling it underwater with your toes. Like as not, when you dive under and bring it up, it’s a broken bit of a seapen or a wave-worn bit of a clamshell. Except for sand dollars, and you should leave those alone.

I love the sea, and I’m afraid of the sea, and maybe that’s the way it should be.

Our condo complex is nearly filled with an extended family that has been arriving in couples and quartets for the past two days. They caravan back and forth from the beach, carrying sand toys, umbrellas, and wriggling toddlers. Yesterday an enthusiastic young woman returned over the dunes from the beach to find a latecomer sitting out on his balcony. We’ll call them Ted and Jackie.
“Ted!” Jackie said. “I didn’t know you were here. We’re all down at the beach. Come on and join us!”
Ted said, “It’s buggy down there.”
Jackie frowned, perplexed. “I haven’t noticed any bugs, not down by the water. If you stay out of the dunes, it should be all right. I have some bug spray if you need it.”
“There’s a shark alert,” Ted said. “Lots of sharks out today.”
“What?” Jackie looked over her shoulder, then back at Ted. “How do you know?”
“I Googled it.”
“Ok, well, um, I guess I’m going back,” Jackie said. “Come on down if you want. If not, we’ll be back in a little while.” And she walked back toward the boardwalk, shoulders slumping.
I always make up backstory for scenes like this. Ted never wanted to come at all. Ted wanted to go to the mountains. Ted is the Debbie Downer of family vacations.
And I thought, Next time, leave Ted home.

Dragonflies like to hang out at the beach. I don’t know why.
As if there needs to be a reason to hang out at the beach.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen talking on their cell phones on the beach. I thought I was bad—I brought my work tools with me, but I leave my cell phone and my laptop in the condo. And it’s not just that I don’t want to get sand in the keyboard.
Still, people who know I’m at the beach will call me and say, “Did you get my email this morning?” and “Didn’t you get my voicemail?” And I say, well, no, I was at the beach all morning.
They always seem surprised.

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