Because we are enjoying a marvelous yet inevitably short stint in the “Golden Age of Parenting,” I decided to cash in on my husband’s 10-year-old bribe to get me to move to Israel: “We can vacation in the Greek islands! It will be all beten/gav (rest and relaxation)!” So far, in almost 11 years together, we’d never left the country together.
A Greek getaway was planned, clients and teachers were forewarned, the children’s schedules were posted on the fridge, trusted cousins were called in as backup parents, and Greece-focused recommendations were solicited. One such conversation included a squinty-eyed, hushed-voice friend encouraging us to “take care of things” since it was the first time we were flying alone together after becoming parents. Our minds flew to the mile high club so we peered at her incredulously, but apparently she was suggesting that we write a will. This is why my husband and I married each other, since no one else appreciates tweenaged humor like us.
T minus one and we’re packing. Like most women, I imagine, I have a drawer full of swimsuits in various sizes, sporting a full range from, “I’m with my kids, I can’t deal with straps or judgment,” to, “Hey baby, I’m 24 and I’ve spent 90 minutes at the gym every day for six months. Check out my abs.” The majority of my swimsuit experience (again, common, I’m sure) has been indubitably negative. I hang on to them for so long since they were painful to purchase—it just adds insult to injury when tugging and sweating in a strategically dimly fluorescent-lit changing room to finally find something acceptable, only to discover that the amount of fabric which can fit in the palm of your hand costs $139.
My husband, excited about our trip, encouraged me with a wink-wink nudge-nudge to bring the two-piece variety. While I appreciated his confidence and encouragement immensely, who wants to display stretch marks? Who wants to see stretch marks? I’m 40. With three kids.
I expressed trepidation about the bikini and grabbed my minimizing (thank you, Miracle Suit) one-piece, which I market to him by talking up the lovely crimson color.
He wasn’t buying and sweetly attempted to ply me with compliments when it occurred to me that it’s not about what other people think (including him), but rather how I feel. Internally congratulating myself on my newfound level of self-awareness, I attempted to explain this phenomenon:
I didn’t want to wear a bikini because it causes me to be self-conscious. Beaches are notorious places for staring and comparing, and regardless of reaction, people look.
The prospect of going on vacation to sport a semi-grimace on my face while trying to project false confidence wasn’t attractive. Ultimately, I threw three swimsuits in my bag (yes, it was a four-day trip, so what?) and off we flew the following morning.
We went without a map, guidebook, or agenda—exactly the way all beautiful vacations begin.
On our second day, we rented a quad and explored the beach options. We breezed past this sign and I asked him to back. The truck. Up.
See that last little parenthetical? We’d been on nude beaches before—in Central America, New Zealand, and one in Southeast Asia—but all before kids. I pondered for about a split second, returned the two-day-old wink-wink nudge-nudge, and we promptly hung a left.
We arrived to the sheltered, private cove and parked our quad. We made our way through the (nude) sun worshippers, who paid us no mind, to an unoccupied pair of loungers—and stripped.
I’ve been battling body image issues ever since I went from a skinny tomboy to a C-cup overnight at age 11, but in this instant… I felt free.
Nobody is looking at me. I don’t feel judged. I don’t feel inferior. My C-section shelf pooch is not lopping over my bikini bottom causing me to constantly pull at it. I’m not worried about how I sit or whether my thighs will look better if I bend my knees while I read. Because nobody cares, neither do I.
I realized that it wasn’t the nudity; it was the prevalent attitude that provided me this freedom. Unspoken nude beach etiquette dictates that you always put a towel on your sun-lounger, you don something before ordering at the beach cafe, and you give other people some space. “Mind your business” is the credo.
Yes, everybody’s naked. There are all shapes, sizes, and ages. There are families. There are old people. There are couples. And there is nothing sexual about it. Admittedly, I was surprised by the distinct lack of body hair—man-scaping is obviously more prevalent in Europe than I thought. And yes, sunblock is critical. But I digress.
Let’s be honest, skinny dipping feels awesome. Nothing poking, stretching, or restricting your body while relaxing in the sun is even better. The golden prize is feeling good.
While I’m certain that this choice is not right for everybody, before you dismiss it, consider the possibility of feeling free on the beach. The absolute absence of self-consciousness. It is possible if you simply shed…your clothes.