Comedy·HEAT WAVE

Here's why I'm never going to the beach

This year, I decided to stop hating summer. Not that I really had a choice.
(Illustration by Mike Butler)

This year, I decided to stop hating summer. Not that I really had a choice: after a winter that nearly broke us all with its cruelty and relentlessness, to reject sunlight and a lack of ice would be an abomination.

You don't come out of Winter 2018™ and begin counting down to see what fresh hell next year brings. Instead, you come out of it reborn, renewed. And while you may suffer from heat stroke and dehydration, it's somehow less terrible than realizing you need groceries, shampoo, and toilet paper and then realizing that you will be fetching all of the above as it somehow snows sideways, and directly into your face.

That said, I will still never, ever go to the beach with you. And here's why.

There is no escape

I need to know that I can leave a place. This is usually why I drive myself, why I warn anyone getting a ride with me that I will go home early (and with no warning), and why under no circumstances will I go anywhere that necessitates a boat.

94% of the time, you can't escape the beach. After driving the several hours it takes to get there, you're expected to put down your towel and sit, surrendering yourself to the passage of time and the fact that you are under the most direct brand of sunlight to ever exist.

You can roam through the beach-centric stores, sure, but they are (without a doubt) very bad. And while you may suggest to your friends that you all grab lunch at some seaside diner, your suggestion is usually met with the reminder that you just got there, Anne, and Cheryl packed enough sandwiches for all of us. The beach is your home now. And you will leave when it says you can.

The bathrooms

Even as a child in my 101 Dalmatians bathing suit, I knew that beach bathrooms were a disgrace. The floors were (are) wet, the toilets were (are) covered in...so much. At one restroom in particular, swarms of flies greeted me and my mom as though we'd arrived in the home that inspired The Amityville Horror. Worse yet, as of this writing, the above were the cleanest beach bathrooms I have ever seen in my life, especially as I remember the year the lake was closed due to e.Coli contamination and my friends and I only found out long after we'd dove in and done our best impersonations of Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush.

I dripped e.Coli water all over that bathroom floor and to be honest, i think it may have been an improvement.

You, suggesting the lake/ocean is our bathroom

Absolutely not and while we're at it, please never speak to me again.

Other people

I love personal space. I'm not a crowd person. I need to know assigned seats are available at most concerts I go to. If somebody I don't know sits next to me at the movies when other options are available, I will get up and move because how dare you.

The beach ignores all of this, demanding that our space is only the size of a large beach towel, and that we are within reaching distance of many people who are not wearing pants (which is fine! I get it, the beach. But also: so much skin, you guys).

And these bathing suit-wearing people are everywhere. They're on the sand, they're in the water. They're in restaurants, at chip stands, and leaning on your car for some reason. There is no place to escape, lest you drive yourself to a private beach and weep. And even then, one of those people is right behind you.

The food situation

If you bring food to the beach, you will be flocked by seagulls to the point of recreating the most horrifying scenes from The Birds. If you leave, you will lose your spot amongst The Sand People, leaving no choice but to acquire sustenance in shifts, alone, and consisting only of whatever's available within immediate walking distance. So: fries. Chips and fries. Maybe a sub? But also probably not. Plus ice cream will only make you thirsty. Also, I really am the most fun person alive.

The inevitable heatstroke

Today I sat on my balcony and did my work, subjecting myself to direct early-morning sunlight for a whopping two hours. As a result, I am very tired. I think I have a sunburned foot. I have consumed my weight in water, and somehow, I still feel thirsty. Also, I am on a balcony next to the indoors and can go inside and nap, which I fully intend to do.

But here's what you can do at the beach: be there. In the sun. That's it. You can be in the sun, and you can read or visit with people or contemplate your existence, but the sun will shine down upon you and force you to feel what it's truly capable of.

You can't do anything about that heat rash, or that sunburn, or that fatigue. You can only endure more of it, until the day morphs into one you will never forget for all the wrong reasons.

"It seemed like such a good idea!" you will think to yourself while wondering how it's possible to be so ill, or for your skin to be so burned despite having applied SPF 15 sunblock at 8:30 a.m. "The day began so promisingly!" you will whisper, taking sips of Perrier on the bathroom floor, your body covered in aloe vera gel. Somehow, despite 16 cold showers, you are still covered in sand, the beach now a monster who refuses to let go.

I tell you this because I understand all of it, but especially now. Thanks to sitting outside in the relentless morning sun, I now have one (1) tanned arm.

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About the Author

Anne T. Donahue is a writer and person from Cambridge, Ontario. You can buy her first book, Nobody Cares, right now and wherever you typically buy them. She just asks that you read this piece first.