Thursday, April 16

Accidental Exposure

*writing date: 25 October 2005*

It's October now and the outside 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 an unbelievable pleasure to be only a few kilometers from the ocean.)

As we approached the beachfront 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 occupying a spot in the sand and sun.

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 *gasp* nudity. Mostly just topside 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--in fact most certainly am not, 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 exchanged a look, grimaced just a bit and wondered in whispers together what to tell our pre-adolescent, American born and raised son, and postured that perhaps not saying anything at all might mean 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 some frolicking in waves and water, Ian came back up the beach from the water and ever so casually said “So...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. All that said, he took it in stride and went back out to enjoy this stolen day in the sun. We, of course being the sophisticated parents we are, giggled. Until our shoulders shook.

I suppose this, the attire and the attitude, is all in keeping with the “nothing to hide” tradition of the Dutch. 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 at 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, gents. I am so American.


  1. They could've been middle-aged men NOT in Speedos! At least they covered THAT up.

    And really you just described every weekend in the Netherlands since that whole "woe is me it is cold" is just a ruse to make us feel bad. I KNOW the TRUTH!!!

  2. hahahahaaaa was that your first time on a Dutch beach?

    I am surprised though: topless? sure yeah evidently, why cover up? Who'd want bikini marks on his shoulders. Yikes.
    But I thought that both in the Netherlands as in Belgium total nude beaches were in seperate zones with signs indicating that. That's how it is in Scheveningen?

  3. ANYBODY (or any body) in a Speedo. Eewwwww! No matter how the body it's on looks, it seems that a Speedo always squeezes something out of shape.

  4. The speedos! Really, what will be next? Female armpit hair?

    Sorry, I will stop being a literary critic. I meant no offense :)