*yes really. But only part of it.
Having spent a large part of last week on a beach wearing a swimsuit, I am more aware than usual of my body. It’s had one not terribly careful occupier, it has a manufacturing flaw in one leg which has been compounded by attempts to fix it, and it could never be described as lithe or agile. It is built for comfort rather than speed, for slow and steady endurance rather than explosive energy. It bears the evidence of a fondness for good cake and a drink or two. I am rather attached to it.
On holiday I was surrounded by bodies in considerably better condition than mine. So it amused me at first to see ladies reaching for wraps, shirts, sarongs etc every time they moved off their sun loungers. It was always ladies, blokes seemed less worried, donning t-shirts if they were reminded too. But as I saw one woman reach for her wrap to cover herself as she turned over, or sat up to delve into bag for replacement book, I began to see the darker side.
You see, I don’t understand what it was that made the lady so determined to cover herself. While she was still, anyone could look (and all was respectable, this was a Rector’s holiday, remember – swimsuits stayed on!). Who had taught her that sunbathing is fine, but that a body in motion is something to hide? Who had taught her shame and fear?
The distance from my favourite sunlounger to the sea was about half that from my lounger to the nearest place to get a drink (note the psychology, it was supposed to make me twice as likely to swim as to drink, which mostly worked). So I don’t really understand why the norm was to cover up to go and get a drink from the beach bar, even if it was a can being taken straight back to the lounger, while the distance to the sea and back could be navigated without any extra cover being socially necessary. I was visible to exactly the same people regardless of destination. The ones who saw me flollop down to the sea and back knew what that looked like, so why was seeing me flollop along the beach to the bar and back any different?
I wonder if what I was seeing was all about image – it is perhaps possible to arrange oneself carefully to look ‘good’ in repose, and less easy to do so while in motion. It seem a shame to me that while on holiday, relaxing, women were still so very conscious of their bodies.
I’m sure there is a world of social etiquette I am misunderstanding….can anyone explain?
PS I am talking about a beach bar. The restaurant had rules about covering up, understandably. Can’t have people being put off their food!