Tuesday, February 20

Accidental Exposure

25 October 2005

It's October now and the temperature is steadily cooling down every day. But before the shift in the thermometer and the onset of the rains, we woke not-so-long-ago on a Saturday morning to a blue-sky-high-wispy-clouds-very-warm-late-summer-day and thought “Ah, good day for the beach!” So we prepared our beach bags, donned beach attire and climbed on the bicycles ready for the ride out to Katwijk. It is really a pleasure to be only a few kilometers from the ocean. As we approached the beach front town and followed the streets down to the shore, we became slightly suspicious that we were not alone. No, indeed, it seemed as if ALL of Holland had the same “Ah, good day for the beach” thought that we had. As far as the eye could see in every conceivable direction, there were people! I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that there must have been a million people on the beach that day. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but it was at least thousands. There were beachcombers, sunbathers, swimmers, surfers, seashell hunters, footballers, picnickers, sandcastle builders and beach babies everywhere! Undaunted, we locked our bikes, gathered our towels, our toys and our courage and set off to stake out a tiny bit of sand to call our own. As we walked through the sand toward the shore line, literally making our way through a sea of people here, we (meaning Don and I) became quite aware that there appears to be no dress code for beach wear in Holland. I think it reads something like this: Rule1: If you just don’t want to wear a suit to the beach, well, you just don’t have to. Yes, that’s right I am talking about nakedness. Mostly just topless nakedness, except for some of the toddlers who were completely buck naked—but as for shock value that doesn’t count at all, does it? But indeed nakedness all the same. I realize that this makes me sound like a bit of a prude, which I don't think I am, but I was feeling especially protective of my kids, who to this point in their lives hadn't experienced such a thing before. So we grimaced just a bit and wondered what to tell our pre-adolescent son and toyed with the idea of not saying anything at all and hoped that he wouldn’t notice. (yeah… it could happen!)
You’ve got this pictured in your head right? And you are getting a good giggle from the story, yes?
Well, we opted for the ever courageous, “don’t say anything” stance and pressed forward to find a spot to plant ourselves. Once found we sent the kids off into the water and waited it out. After awhile, Ian came back up the beach from the water and ever so casually said “I guess no one has to wear a shirt here” to which we mumbled something of an ascent while surreptitiously checking his facial expressions to make certain we hadn’t overdone the exposure (pun intended) to European culture.
I guess it’s all in keeping with the “nothing to hide” tradition of the Dutch, so why hide it behind a bikini top anyway? In general, the Dutch seem to have a much greater ability to embrace the uniqueness of their own bodies and don't seem to feel the need to “cover up” that we seem to feel excessively in the States. Indeed, it seems a much healthier sense of self image. That day in the beach, those who were clad in beach attire, didn’t seem to mind that their bodies didn’t fit the model thin image some feel necessary to possess before donning skimpy swimsuits. As a result, we saw a parade of people in clothing not exactly at the cutting edge of fashion and taste, but they were having a damn good time hanging out on the beach for one of the final summer days of the year. Enviable and perhaps something to aspire to, if ever I can shed the shadows of the culture I come from. All that being said however, I really have to draw the line at middle aged pot-bellied men in Speedos. Sorry, guys.

1 comment:

  1. Yes - I didn't vist any beaches in the Netherlands (too early in spring, or fall or winter) but other countries I experienced the joys of seeing topless grannies and fat hairy middle aged men in speedos (at least I think there was a speedo somewhere buried under the belly and back fat rolls covered in hair)