Not because they’re not beautiful! They are. They’re perfect. But just because that kind of self-consciousness and relentless rightness is not as much fun as screaming from the waves with a giant, falling-down tankini bottom full of beach pebbles and your own unkempt bush:
1. The person who is a teenager. That fabulously skinny one. Or that fabulously plush one. Or that fabulously medium one. Because, ugh, look at them tug disgustedly at their swimsuits. They are missing out on their own gleaming, sand-sugared perfection, their strong bodies and unassailable health like twin engines of a glorious machine, like the twin hearts of a sleek and powerful two-hearted colt. Oh, your bodies! I want to say to them. They are here to be neither decorative nor scorned. They are here to house your one wild and precious life, to be that life: locomotion, laughter, thinking, sex, all of it. Treat that body like a guest you are lucky to be hosting (and I will try to do the same).
2. The grad-student couple assiduously reading matching copies of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. I mean, even The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants feels a little ambitious for the great outdoors. I myself like to fall asleep in such a way that the print transfers from the quarter-read New Yorker “Shouts & Murmurs” column onto my whitely sunscreened cheek.
3. The person with the little baby in the sodden, sandy swim diaper nursing inside the broiling, fly-filled and lonely nursing tent, waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to remember her, to bring her an iced coffee from the concession stand. Oh, sweetheart! I’ve been there. Take the baby back to your air-conditioned motel room, lie down on the clean bed and flip on the HGTV. The beach will still be here when your child is a normal age.
4. The person forking kale salad into the cheerless face of her son, who is holding up his sandy hands like he’s under arrest. Don’t get me wrong! At home, I feed my children the kale salad and the sprouted spelt groats and the bread I bake from my own freshly ground righteousness. But it’s the beach! God didn’t invent Lay’s New York Reuben potato chips so that you would fork fermented beets from a glass Tupperware. (Although I wouldn’t mind, if he were on the beach, being the million-dollar-winner of the Lay’s potato chips contest! “New York Reuben.” That’s like, $333,333 a word, which makes me feel like maybe I’m going about my writing career all wrong.)
5. The person who keeps a towel around her 30-year-old waist so that nobody will see her (gorgeous) 30-year-old leg flesh. I’ve been there, but just wait. It’s so much better to be 40 or 46 and shuck off the concealing raiments of shame and modesty and narcissism. Practically nobody, it turns out, is really very interested in my generously dimpled thighs! Sure, my children gesture and cringe exaggeratedly at the place where bikini waxing might properly have occurred, but they’re not really my target audience. Because that target audience? He is lying right here with his appreciative hand on my ass.
To think that I used to pity people like me: All hairy and rumpled, laughing Fritos out of my nose and shamelessly rubbing pasty white sunscreen onto my pasty white legs. Who knew middle age was the key to unlock my beachiest happiness?