Welcome to Is This Weird? A column dedicated to confessions that don’t necessarily keep us up at night, but demand an audience all the same.
Once upon a time, there was a girl. She grew up on a lake so large she forgot to care that it wasn’t an ocean. She moved from city to town, river to lake to sound, until she found an island to call home. Every summer since, she has rested her weary New York bones by taking a thundering train to a crowded bus, patting across the hot beach sand to let the waves lap at her calves, and making a promise to herself: This year, I’m gonna pee in this thing.
Along with being terrifying, the ocean is vast, majestic, rising, and apparently, full of pee. But not mine, for I have not peed in the ocean, which, according to most of my friends, makes me the weird one.
In my head, I understand I understand that peeing in the ocean is nbd: The ocean is large and constantly churning; it is highly unlikely I’ll ever catch anything from another person’s pee. Plus, fish live in the ocean and fish are just generally disgusting, so what’s a little bodily fluids between beach strangers? But I don’t know, man. I just can’t, in my heart it feels so wrong. It was my one summer goal last year because I hate feeling left out and also wanted to see what the fuss was about, but every time I tried, it felt like an anxiety dream. Like somehow everyone would know when I did it. Crabs would bubble up around me, the water would turn bright blue like it supposedly does in public pools. Word would spread up and down Riis beach that I had defouled the Atlantic and was to be relegated to land for the rest of my existence.
“Why is this so hard for me??!!!” I recently yelled at my friends upon returning to our blanket after yet another failed attempt at keeping up with the Jones’s bladders. I have always known that I’m a deeply fearful person—afraid of standing out in the wrong ways or “inconveniencing” anybody (which I’m truly working on as it’s important to advocate for myself, especially as a black woman)—and that this is just an on-the-nose expression of that. And then there’s the less writerly explanation which is that I don’t even like peeing in a public bathroom if someone else sees me go in, so isn’t the ocean just like that times a million?
But I want to be a beach person. The care-free, no-holds-barred, pees-loudly-and-proudly-wherever-she-wants kind of beach person. The kind that’s always holding a volleyball and says, “Look at the crest on those waves,” and sounds profound. And I think this is the summer. It has to be. I’m more hydrated than ever before, meaning it won’t be long before I find myself in a dire situation where I will just have to close my eyes, believe in myself, and let go. So if you see me on the beach this summer, water lapping at my calves, give me a nod of encouragement and maybe stand a bit away for a while.
Is This Weird? Identity by Madeline Montoya.