Bodies at beaches: learning how to be okay with not being perfect

I know beaches. I know the sand and the way the crystal’s burn the pads of feet when it’s too hot to be walking without shoes, but they’re always left off because the sand inevitably filters its way into every orifice a shoe has available until you feel that your feet are wading through the sand anyhow. So you decide to deal with the scorching of the sand beneath your feet because it won’t be long until the cool splash of water remedies the slight tingling and pain building between your toes.

Sometimes on hot days like there is no better use of the day than to spend it sunning and bathing, then sunning and bathing in the waves some more until you’ve cooled down and turned over so many times you look like overcooked chicken.

It’s been hot in Seattle lately. Not too hot, but hot enough that beaches are the remedy. What someone not living in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t understand about the way PacNor’s complain about the heat when it gets above 80 is that there’s something that most of the country has the most places here don’t  – air conditioning.photo

Yeah, it might be in the 90’s and 100’s down south or east of us, but the one thing that most people can reliably count on is that their house, neighborhood restaurants, stores will have the remedy to their heat. That is not something that’s true of the PacNor because with temperatures that don’t reach much above 80 any day of the year except for the occasional heat wave and our environmentally friendly sensibilities, we’ve left most air conditioning out of the equation.

I am lucky. I have a room on the first floor with one window to the south and one to the west. At night I open them wide even though I live in a neighborhood that some Seattleites are a little wary of (I’d say unfairly so). I have a fan and a light blanket (because I have irrational fears of monsters grabbing my feet if I don’t sleep with something over me). I couldn’t ask for much more, but even with how fortunate I am, I was sopping in a pool of sweat most of the night wishing for just a short respite from the heat during the quiet hours.

This morning when I awoke, I hoped for a soft cool morning breeze to filter into my room and wake me like the dawn wakes some heroin in a terrible romantic comedy (oh wait… I love all those terrible romcom’s), but alas there was no breeze. I actually awoke later than usual because my alarm was muted on my phone somehow and the hour difference between 6 and 7am made all the difference; the sun was already over the hills and pouring into the ginormous East facing window in our living room.

I want you to know that this is not me complaining. I waited for this heat every day for the approximate nine months of overcast grey skies. Every part of me feels better in the heat. In the heat I feel like my skin is softer and shinier, my senses more keen, my general nature (along with the rest of Seattle) friendlier, so… I’m not angry at the sun or the heat, I’m actually happy to long for cool air. It reminds me that there is a reason that there is fall and winter and that I should be happy for them too in the times that they come. It’s often hard to be happy here when they come because most summers aren’t like this here.

Summers in PacNor near the water are reminiscent of SF and East Bay life, because it generally doesn’t get above 70 or 75 and sometimes I’m still wearing a sweater in mid-July. This summer’s different though, I haven’t been wearing my usual summer cardigans and I’ve given up on wearing leggings to cover up any inconsistencies in my leg shape. The fact is I don’t give a damn because it’s too hot to give a damn on most days now.

I’ve been walking and sometimes jogging to work and home every day – 3.75miles each way. I have a love/hate relationship with these miles in the heat. The morning is usually fine with cooler air that wipes my sweat away for me; it’s also more downhill on the way. The way home is rife with hill after hill and coupled with the heat I am a sticky sopping wet mess by the time I get home, but the truth is that I love it. I fucking love it! I love sweating and feeling in my body, which is something I don’t feel as much of during the winter months. I think it’s easy to confuse multiple layers of clothes with my body.

I bet you’re wondering why the hell I started off talking about a beach anyway by this point. Well there is a point, I swear, it’s just all in the tying in of things.

Okay, let’s talk about the beach, about what that means for millions of people on hot sticky summer days from here to yore. It’s a wonderful place with water, sun, some bbq’s, Frisbee, beach volleyball and also an array of people with body image issues. How do I look in this? Are people staring at this extra hair on my legs? Others are comparing themselves to that dude or woman 10 beach towels down. Summertime  can get messy with constant body hate.

I saw a facebook post yesterday where a girl ordered a meal for $9.00 and what came back to her was literally one small crab cake with a few side dips. The comments that ensued were #summerdiet #nowonderyoulooksogreat #summerexia. “  The restaurant gave you the ‘re-evaluate life’ special.” I realize these were in jest, but were they? We all know that instinctually we tend to eat less during the summer but the problem is that all summer I’ve been hearing from ladies, including myself, “ugh… I want to go to the beach, but… I don’t look good in my bathing suit.” Does this mean we should be starving ourselves? I hope not. I don’t want the term summerexia to become a fashionable term.

Okay… well does how you think you look in your bathing suit mean that you have to miss out on all of the amazing things the beach has to offer? It shouldn’t, but we all know it kind of does.

Well… I ended up going to the beach the other day with some close friends. By beach I mean grass on a lake with rocks on the bottom, but you know… it was nice cool water. When I first got there I made sure to keep my baby blue bathing suit under a nice summer dress. I did this until a group of friends came by of all body shapes and sizes and took off their outer wear for bikini’s and shorts that certainly let anything I would cover up show. Then I thought to myself, they don’t fucking give a shit AND they shouldn’t. Perhaps they didn’t have the perfect bodies, but I didn’t care and neither did anyone else on the beach, so what the ish was my problem? Everyone’s body is perfect for living in, going to the beach in and dipping into cold water in.

People were running around, getting on swings in the water, laughing about life all while having their very own bodies exposed to the world. What?

I had to decide for myself that I didn’t give a shit about what anyone on that beach thought of me and finally there came a point when I was just too damn hot to care. Toooooo damn hot! I took off my sun dress and exposed my imperfect legs and tummy, got into the cool water and went for the first and best swim I’ve ever been on in a Washington body of water since I’ve lived here.

The beach was perfect. I laid out in my swimsuit eating cherries and turning to sun my back. I didn’t care anymore by the end of the day, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. It feels good even if only momentarily to forget about insecurities and have fun on a beach in the sun with your friends and yourself.

I missed the sand in my toes, but not in my hair and not in every inch of my swimsuit and orifice of my body, so… that’s an upside to rocks. The upside to going out and having a good time without giving a shit about how you look = priceless.

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