The husband and I are on the beach this week, our first getaway in about three years. It’s also our 25th wedding anniversary, which is always something to be proud of. We love Sanibel Island in Florida, and we have a favorite place to stay. The inn is not the fanciest or trendiest place around, and that’s exactly why we like it. It is old Florida at its best. The rooms are reasonable, and they are right on the beach. I mean, right on the beach. It’s quiet, and wildlife, sealife, beautiful, tropical foliage are everywhere. We’ve seen birds, turtles, even dolphins. Awesome. Anyway.
As I’m sitting on the beach — in fact, I’m writing from the beach even as we speak (blog) — I love to watch the people. And, of course, I like to find humor in what I’m seeing, keeping in mind all the while that I am more than qualified to be the subject of some other blogger’s list of beach fashion faux pas.
I like to classify the people I see on the beach. As I watch, I can definitely see trends, themes, and patterns, all confirming some of the universalities found in humankind. For your review (and, hopefully, a few laughs) I offer here my Beach People categories:
1. The ER Tonight People. These are the tourists from Wisconsin or wherever (not picking on Wisconsin, I’m from Indiana and we take more razzing than anybody, except maybe for people from Cleveland). These beachgoers have transported the fam to Florida on vacation in all their screamin’ white-skinned, pale, and chalky glory. Parts of these people’s bodies have not seen the sun since gas was $1.79 a gallon. They have arrived, and they’re on a mission, with one week to go from ashy to flashy. They cannot return to their hometown as pale as they left — burn be damned. I watch them, like little white lambs to the ultraviolet slaughter, as they splash and play in the surf and sand, oblivious to the early symptoms of sun poisoning. Knowing, just knowing, that somebody’s going to the ER tonight.
2. The Leather Coat Ladies. On the other end of the sun-exposure spectrum are these ladies. They are pros. If there was an Olympic event for tanning, they would be on the team. Now, I get the idea of a nice healthy "glow," a little "color," but these ladies have gone way beyond that. Their skin has become the color I’d like to have a leather coat in, complete with all the wear lines that give a bomber jacket its well-worn appeal. Good for outerwear, but not so good on a woman, I’m thinkin’. I’m actually wondering why they are still laying out in the sun anyway. I’m sure there must be a tan saturation point where they’re not adding any more color. And, how do they find the time to work on that kind of tan anyway? Is their day job on a chain gang?
3. The Speed-Oh Man. O.K., an "older" guy just walked by wearing a Speedo, which brings me to my next category. First of all, why is it that almost always older guys wear a Speedo? No disrespect to older guys, but come on now. I knew full-well when my bikini days were over. When the flesh that’s hanging out of your suit covers any portion of the suit itself, it’s time to move on. And, apparently, when a man buys a Speedo they automatically throw in a gold chain. Holy accessory, Batman, just say “Speed-NO”!
4. The Neander-Beach Man. Often associated with the Speedo, is this guy with major hair on his back. Look, it happens to a lot of guys, and there’s no shame in it. But, for the love of Nair, if you’re going to go shirtless, please consider those of us who have to look at your back. Actually, I think that as women, we have some responsibility here. First of all, we need to tell our man about the hair on his back when we see it. Maybe he doesn’t know it’s there – who looks at their own back? With that in mind, let’s acknowledge that we (women) are the experts when it comes to the removal of unwanted hair. That knowledge is not ours to keep. We must share it with our men. Come on, ladies, let’s help a hirsute brother out.
5. Dorky on Land and Sea. Now, I know you’re on vacation, and you really don’t want to even care what you look like. You’re never going to see any of these people again, right? And, it’s O.K. to let your guard down on things like makeup and maybe even hair, to a degree, on your beach vacation. However, I’m going to suggest that this group of beachies is probably just as dorky in "real life" as they are in "vacation life," and therein lies the problem. But, what makes one a dork on the beach? Well, choice of hat, for one thing. Yes, hats are pretty much mandatory for sun protection, and big, floppy ones can definitely be a nice fashion accessory in a Jackie-O, Martha’s Vineyard sort of way. But, hats with words on them (i.e., the last place you vacationed) and baseball caps with your ponytail or mullet sticking out the hole in the back are not cool. The color of a hat can make a huge difference also; always go for natural fabrics and colors. And, under no circumstances is a Sun Visor to be worn (those just scream retirement village). I think, also, just clothes that don't fit correctly constitute dorkiness on the beach, especially shorts that are too short on a guy. They look like basketball uniform shorts from the '70s, the ones worn with knee-high tube socks with stripes at the top. Yikes.
With regard to footwear on the beach — or, more accurately, footwear not to wear: No wearing of socks and shoes. This is the beach for heaven’s sake. And you may NOT wear Swim Shoes. You know, the ones you can wear to keep your feet from burning in the sand or to avoid jabbing your feet on the hypodermic syringes on the ocean floor. Sure, swim shoes are practical, but suck it up. The cost of dorkiness is just too high.
Last, but not least: Ladies, consider the swimsuit. The bathing suit you bought in 1979 is just not O.K., even if you have only worn it a total of five times. The life of a bathing suit is not calculated by the number of wears.
All right, realizing that I have been a little ‘ornery’ today with my beach observations, I would like to leave you with some true inspirations I encountered during my time on the beach. Here are some really nice things happening that made me feel all ‘squishy’ inside:
Young children in complete awe of things as simple as sand and water.
Dads giving sandcastle-building lessons and romping in the water with their kids.
Multi-generation families having a great time together by the sea.
"Older" couples holding hands and strolling the beach.
I'm getting sentimental. I think I’ve been out in the sun too long.