There are few places on the planet that induce such blissful childlike idiocy as the beach. I should know. As I write, I am sitting in the airport on an unnamed Caribbean island, headed back towards the bikini-less, sand-less, everyday-ness called home, and reflecting on the the oddities particular to beach culture.
A week ago I was cheerily conjuring images of rum-laden beverages, long days by the water and carefully selecting colorful ensembles in which I planned to hit the town. Today, I find myself flipping through a mental catalog of moderately disturbing images gathered over the past week, wondering what it is about the beach that prompts otherwise rational adults to don paisley spandex, order a mudslide and smash some kids’ sandcastle. (Kids, it should be mentioned, are uncharacteristically well-behaved at the beach, it’s the grown-ups that seem to regress once their over-worked, tightly-wound tootsies hit the sand).
I get it. It’s vacation. It’s time to let loose, have some embarrassingly touristy tropical beverages, (preferably served with mini-umbrellas and maraschino cherries), rent a jet-ski and unwind. As a veteran beach-goer, however, I have found that some things should just be avoided…That is, unless you’re trying to out-tourist Clark Griswold and have a penchant for hair gel and chocolate-based cocktails.
1) Running on the beach. First of all, you serious, early morning beach-runners should be commended. While the rest of us are lying in the sun like the slovenly bums we are, you’re sprinting down the beach at 7 AM refusing to be tantalized by the fumes of freshly-made French toast. It’s the non-serious beach-runners that concern me. If you don’t go running until the hottest, busiest part of the day, and do so only after meticulously coiffing your ‘do and flex your biceps the whole time, you’re not in it for the exercise and just look like the poseur your are. Everyone you’re trying to impress knows you’ve never run a day in your life. The jig’s up.
2) Social networking. For God’s sake, put your phone away. I don’t really see the point in paying money to fly halfway around the world so you can sit and Tweet about it.
3) Speedos. Ah, the Speedo. I realize that as an American I’m predisposed to dislike this particularly offensive garment, but nonetheless, it needs to be addressed. If you’re even dreaming about thinking about putting on a Speedo, do so only after careful, careful consideration. I beg you. Would you want to see Fat Bastard all oiled up in a Speedo? I wouldn’t either. If you’ve already thought about it, here’s one final tip: No one except Daniel Craig looks good in a Speedo.
While we’re on the subject of Speedos and spandex in general, I would also like to address Male Muffin Top and the Ill-Fitting Swimsuit phenomenon. I previously thought muffin top was a female-only conundrum, but I was sorely mistaken; men, just because you think you look good in a Speedo, doesn’t mean you really do (see above). And ladies, think of spandex (read: swimsuits) as Spanx: they’re supposed to suck-in, smooth-out and flatter the body. If your relationship with your swimsuit is more casing:sausage than flattering item of clothing:body, then perhaps it’s time to rethink your beach wardrobe.
4) Over-Confident Tourist Syndrome. This is a big one. If you’re staying at a resort that has provided jet-skis, kayaks or any other grown-up water toys, don’t stroll up to the cabana like you own the place and request a paddle board in a tone that implies you’ve been doing it for years, when in fact you first laid eyes on one three minutes ago. If you do this, you’ve set yourself up for disaster because the 20-year-old kid that just rented it to you is now taking bets from the other employees on how long it’s going to take you to fall off. And you will fall off. It’s better to just embrace the fact that you’re an uncoordinated CPA from Wisconsin than try and pass yourself off as a world-champion kayaker.
It’s also really embarrassing to watch a fully grown man over estimate his windsurfing abilities and have to be rescued by the aforementioned 20-year-old on a jet ski.
5) Booze. This is a tricky one because by virtue of the fact that you’re on vacation, you can generally get pretty tipsy without anyone noticing, but there’s a fine line between “happily tipsy,” and “shamefully sloshed.” I would say a good rule of thumb would be stay away from the hard stuff before lunch, otherwise you’ll find yourself hiccuping and stumbling your way out of the water at 9 AM on a Tuesday (true story), or having to be cut-off from the free shots provided on the rum distillery tour (also true). I would prefer to not be stiff-armed by an intoxicated housewife on her first vacation since her honeymoon as I try to exit the water. A little restraint might be in order.
If you still prefer to embellish your water-sport prowess and prance around in a ‘suit that looks more at home on a Barbie than on an actual human being, well, there’s always Mexico.