THE BEACH

I have never been able to understand why people enjoy an outing to the beach. For as long as I can remember, I have looked upon the beach as disgusting and repellent. When I was a child, my parents were sure they were providing me with a wonderful experience by taking me to the beach, and I could never make them understand that I did not rejoice in it. When I had children of my own, I suffered in silence so as not to spoil their fun. From the moment that I was able to consult only my own inclinations, I have avoided the beach like the plague.

Even in the best of circumstances, a beach is an expanse of burning sand: the same thing that presents a life-threatening obstacle to people crossing the desert. But the sand on the beach is not only burning hot and gritty. The proximity of the ocean fills the air with the stink of the salt water, and makes the sand sticky as well. However, not every beach at every time constitutes "the best of circumstances." More often than not, there are additional afflictions, and the enthusiasts never warn of them before setting out. At various times and in various places, I have met with the following:
     additional stink caused by sewage that makes its way to the sea;
     the local fauna: flies and bugs, sometimes crabs, sometimes stinging jellyfish;
     tar that sticks to your skin. This is usually the result of the practice of oil tankers to flush out their empty tanks in mid-ocean. On beaches where this nastiness occurred, the authorities magnanimously provided us with kerosene and toilet brushes, so that we could remove the tar, and stink of kerosene instead.

Since the sea is nearby, and since you sweat in the heat, the sand sticks to you. An amalgam of sand and sweat irritates your eyes, and infiltrates every crease of your body. The food you eat is disgusting, because you are grinding sand as you chew. It is supremely uncomfortable to sit on the sand, and only slightly less so to sit on those revolting folding chairs. The blinding glare irritates your sand-filled eyes, and makes it quite impossible to read. The whole thing is perniciously boring, because there is nothing you can do except try to ignore the sand, and find a less uncomfortable position -- both hopeless enterprises.

Meanwhile, you are not alone on the beach. You are in the midst of a mob of unlovely people, exposed to their noise and their smell. Worse yet, the social conventions that apply everywhere else are abolished at the beach. The shapeless unsightliness of bodies that are usually disguised by clothing is here blatantly displayed. Garbage is everywhere. The right to personal space and privacy is defunct. Screaming children, activities that throw sand, ball games, games of tag, impinge on you from all directions. There is no way of protecting your wallet, eyeglasses, or other items of private property. There is always the danger of the intrusion of vehicles -- dune buggies and jeeps on land and surfboards and boats in the water -- because there is no way of knowing whether the authorities allow them, or are capable of controlling them.

One of the supposed joys of the beach is the opportunity to swim in the sea. But actually this is no fun at all. You cannot swim on the surface without being battered by the waves, nor under the water without your eyeballs being pickled in salt. There is constant danger of drowning from currents and undertows and sinkholes, as well as from your own inability to withstand the pounding of the sea. As a result, you are subject to the benevolent despotism of the lifeguards.

The other supposed joy of the beach is the opportunity to sunbathe. But actually this also is no fun at all. It consists of a somewhat suicidal proceeding: purposely exposing yourself to invite sunburn (and windburn) to induce first-degree burns, in the hope that after the burns heal your skin will be darker. Many anoint themselves with goo before sunbathing, which is ridiculous. No goo is opaque to ultraviolet rays; or if it were, it would prevent the very burns desired. The most obvious objection to this lunacy is that it exposes you to the very real danger of skin cancer. The fact that this is not enough to discourage the practice, shows how suicidal the whole thing is. But there is yet another question. Do the sunbathers really believe that the tan they acquire enhances their sex appeal? They would be insulted if they were called racists, yet they believe that people choose their sex partners by the color of their skins.

Following the thoughts inevitably aroused by the above: Suppose the sunbather has succeeded, that his/her deep tan has served to attract a potential sex partner. At some point, the sunbather will have to appear naked, and will then be revealed as someone with a minimal bathing suit painted in light skin tones on a dark-skinned body. This revelation might put off the potential partner, or even cause him/her to dissolve in derisive laughter.

And while we are on the subject of sex: In a standard scene in a movie, the young lovers are alone on the beach on a moonlit night. They swim naked in the sea, then come up on the sand to consummate their love. But when you are wet, the sand sticks to every crevice of your body, inside and out. It's too horrible. It doesn't bear thinking .about