rant: going to the beach sucks
Sun, surf and sand make Kate Stanton one crabby lady.
I’m not immune to the charms of the ocean. There comes a time every year, when the air is so thick with heat I can see it wavering in front of me, that a dip in the sea feels like just the thing. I’m tempted by a vision of myself as a sexy, blissed-out beach creature, instead of an angsty George Costanza type, always teetering on the edge of a neurotic breakdown. Could this be the summer I coax my hair into an elusive ‘beachy wave’? Maybe! Sometimes I have elaborate fantasies about moving down the coast, where I’d live like one of those cool surfer babes from Blue Crush, riding the waves at dawn, seducing square-jawed American quarterbacks by dusk.
I want to like the beach, I really do. I go a few times every year. I always have high hopes. But by the time I’ve hauled a tonne of equipment towards the water, stumbling over lumpy dunes while my thongs whip hot sand up my legs, I remember the truth: going to the beach actually sucks. I’ve been bamboozled, once again, by a Point Break rewatch and eerily euphoric Byron Bay influencers.
When I’ve spent 30 minutes drowning my body in SPF and arranging all my stuff, I wonder why I’ve bothered to leave the house at all. I’ve had to bring the house with me – water, snacks, hat, towels, mags, books, and so on – just to make a giant, overcrowded sandpit more bearable for a few hours. I’m also very pale, so the sun must never touch my skin, or I will shrivel up like a sun-dried tomato. And God forbid I touch the sand, either, because it will work its way into all my nooks and crannies, mixing with sweat and sunscreen to create a scratchy, relentless goop. Meanwhile, I’ve got clammy, polyester swimsuit bottoms riding up my nethers. Instead of the sexy, blissed-out beach creature I imagined, I’m a grumpy, stinkin’ hot, lubed-up chicken schnitzel.
Remember, too, that beaches are ridiculously windy, so you have to spend a lot of time stopping your expensive brolly from hurling into the sea, or quite possibly knocking a child over the head. Don’t even get me started on the ocean. There’s nothing there for you but riptides, sharks, stinging jellyfish, and worst of all: that gross feeling you get when your feet touch something under the water you can’t see.
Then there’s all the intangible baggage. I’d like to say I’m unbothered by silly societal expectations about bodies, but decades of sexist advertising have done their work on me. I’m a little finicky about exposing my jiggly, hairy body parts to random strangers. Do I need to remove all the hair on my body below my neck? I’m flabbergasted by regular beachy types and pool loungers (I’m thinking of you, Love Island contestants) who spend so much time in bikinis and are as sleek and hairless as dolphins. How is this possible? Do they have in-home waxing assistants? Do they sleep under a laser hair-removal machine? I could shave every hour and still have stubble under my armpits, not to mention a bad case of razor burn.
Being at the beach is a lot like writing or running, I suppose. I don’t like doing those things, but I like having done them. The torture of the activity itself is occasionally worth the satisfaction of bragging to other people about it. That’s why I love leaving the beach, when my skin is still warm from the heat, just before the sunburn surfaces. I delight in peeling off my sticky bathers, putting on dry clothes and popping a photo on Instagram. At least I can look like I had an awesome day at the beach. Everyone will assume so; they don’t remember how much it actually sucks, either.