The beach body
September 15, 2009 By Ian Robinson
It turns out I have the perfect beach body.
Well, sort of. I have the perfect beach body if that beach was in
Afghanistan and I was an Afghan woman covered head-to-toe in a burqa.
Otherwise…not so much.
(Note to nitpickers: Yeah, I know. Afghanistan is landlocked and is rich in assault rifles and mud huts, rather than beaches. If you keep nitpicking every little thing, you’re going to miss out on most of the jokes and your life will be as drab and dull as, well, the chick scenery at an Afghan beach.)
My sister-in-law Carol was a lifeguard at a rich person’s hotel in England one summer, and rich Middle-Easterners used to check in and spread enough money around that the mangement would give them exclusive use of the pool for a couple of hours.
And my sister-in-law would sit up on her lifeguard stand watching as these women in their head-to-toe robes would get in the water and try to swim.
When the robes got sufficiently waterlogged, they would drag the woman to the bottom of the pool and Carol would dive in to rescue them, and tow them gasping into the shallow end.
Thing is, it was pretty much a level playing field for all these women. There wasn’t one of them who could strut around thinking, “I’m so much better looking than that heifer,” because nobody knew what anybody else looked like.
But for people in our culture, in which some bathing suits wouldn’t fill a shot glass if you wadded them up, there’s no such thing as a level playing field when you go to the beach.
It’s harsh and Darwinian.
As a guy, you go through four stages when it comes to the life where the water meets the sand.
The first and best stage is this: Kid.
Kids are not self-conscious about going to the beach.
They’re not worried about whether their bathing suit makes their butt look big.
They’re not even worried about whether they have a bathing suit on in the first place. Little kids will cheerfully swim in a diaper, naked, wearing underwear, shorts, jeans, you name it.
That’s the best thing about being a kid. You live in a permanent state of not giving a damn about much at all.
Children are at the beach to make sand castles, throw rocks at gulls and jump in the water. To get sand up their butts and not care. They are there to dig giant holes that fill up with water. They are there to just…be.
Think about it: When was the last time you felt perfectly comfortable walking along the sand in a bathing suit that was completely stretched out and your unit was flapping around, visible with every step, with one arm covered in melted popsicle and the other hand busily engaged in trying to dig a sand booger out of one nostril?
We will never know that kind of bliss again.
But the second stage is almost as good as the first.
It’s the adolescent strut-your-stuff stage.
There is that perfect moment in the lives of men — at least it used to be, before kids turned into lard-covered, video-game addicts — when metabolism and hormones are in perfect balance.
Every one of the 5,000 calories you consume each day is immediately transformed into energy, like the inside of a star.
That energy is used to build muscle and for leaping and running and jumping and, of course, strutting along the beach for the benefit of the young women who are also enjoying perfect metabolic balance.
Except with women, all that energy seems to go into the production of boobs and butts and attitude, which is why the male of the species is strutting along the beach in the first place.
Mr. Darwin and our genes sent us there to try to transmit our genes to another generation.
Which all starts with six-pack abs.
Which — I don't know if you remember — you did absolutely nothing to earn.
I used to have six-pack abs and the only time I ever did a situp was when I, well, when I sat up. It seems like I just woke up one day and there they were.
Next thing I knew, I discovered beer and the six-pack disappeared beneath an avalanche of six packs.
But that’s OK. By the time the beer habit got serious, I’d already found a mate and reproduced, and as far as Nature, my genes and Mr. Darwin were concerned, my useful life as an organism was over and I was ready for…
Middle age. The third stage of beach life. There’s a reason historians used to call the Middle Ages the Dark Ages.
It’s that part of your life when you clearly remember having six-pack abs and a great beach body and that the young chicklets scattered along the beach actually looked at you and didn’t look away.
Now, if they notice you at all — which is another side effect of middle age; you become invisible to young women — their gaze kind of takes in the gut, the wrinkles and various saggy bits and their eyes flinch away.
And for that you are grateful.
Because if nowadays when a middle-aged guy is jiggling along the beach and somebody says, “Jeez, check out the boobs on that one,” sometimes they’re not talking about a girl.
They’re talking about you.
No wonder they call it the Dark Ages.
But there is hope for you yet. And it’s this.
Old age. Or, as I'm looking forward to calling it, “My second childhood.”
You’ve seen the old guys at the beach. They’ve got white hair on their shoulders and sprouting from their ears. Their bathing suits hang down at the back, exposing their narrow, saggy white butts.
They’re in the water, often playing with grandchildren, totally unselfconscious. Sometimes you’ll catch one trying to dislodge a sand booger with one hand while holding a melting popsicle with the other.
It’s not as good as when you start out…but it beats the self-conscious worrying and stupidity of middle age.
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