I’m loathe to disappoint the surfers and merpeople in my life, but I have to come clean: I hate the beach.
Now, I want to clarify that I do not harbor hostility, pun intended, to beaches by definition. There is nothing wrong with a sandy shore by a body of water. I do understand that the ocean is a very cool thing. It’s essentially a massive pool full of animals that are really adorable at least hypothetically. The ocean looks really great, especially! People paint it and photograph it and get it tattooed on their bodies which doesn’t say a ton but it says something.
When I was nine I wanted to be a marine biologist for a week. That’s practically a first aquarium visit rite of passage, isn’t it? I was like any normal kid that liked to poke a sea cucumber.
What I’ve come to dread is the tradition of the beach. Trips to it and afternoons at it and what those mean, what they entail and what they require of me, which is to enthusiastically relax inside of what I can only describe as a dirty beach-sized oven.
My relationship with the beach is like my relationship with Magnum ice cream bars: life-altering for ten minutes quickly followed by regret.
Have you ever tried to read a book on the beach? It’s an exercise in choosing the lesser of two evils: a book-shaped tan line featuring sore arms, or a sunburned back featuring broken elbows. And yet there is an entire category of books dedicated to this very practice! I can only imagine the genre is reserved for light-hearted topics because the process required to consume them is anything but. My current theory on why no one invites me to the Hamptons is because my favorite vacation pastime is to read inside on a couch. Either that or no one likes me. Frankly, either feels plausible.
In terms of relaxation, the next best options are to go for a walk (sounds hard) or to day drink (which I’m not good at and don’t feel the need to explain) or to literally just lie there. In the heat. Not unlike a raw piece of chicken does for 10 to 12 minutes before it’s eaten. And, now that I think of it, that’s about how long I last before I check my phone for the time (a near impossible task to do in the sun) just in case it’s actually been four hours.
It’s never been four hours.
What follows is a lot of wondering if I’m burning, if I should keep my sunglasses on (to avoid going blind) or take them off (to avoid a weird tan), if backpacks make good pillows (they don’t), if there is sand in my mouth (there is), if fallen headphones will ruin Christmas (definitely) and mostly continuing to wonder how long it’s been.
You know what doesn’t put me at ease? Multitasking combined with trying really hard to have fun.
I almost don’t want to broach the topic of sand because I could write a dissertation on how inconvenient it is to lie, run and play on billions of teeny tiny pebbles whose love of sandwiches rivals only their love of human cavities. As in body holes, not tooth ones. It doesn’t help that as a kid I thought that I’d get cancer if a grain of sand made its way up my vagina.
Is now a good time to move on to sea creatures? Because I had a recurring nightmare as a child about a giant squid eating my mom while I watched from the beach. It did not improve my relationship with the ocean.
Is there something wrong with me? Do I need to learn to relax? Should I get a therapist? I might believe I sucked at relaxing if I didn’t enjoy television and snacks so much. I really do like the beach in theory and from a distance. Like from a paved walkway that is extremely close to it and home to several ice cream vendors.
Am I a wet towel in human form or is everyone kind of lying at least a little bit about how fun the beach is?