Every year around this time, as great waves of people start heading to the beach for the much anticipated Spring Break vacation, I can’t help but look back to my own first experience on an honest to goodness beach vacation.
I had received an invite from my friend Jennifer and her family, who made their annual pilgrimage to Destin, Florida every Spring Break. Since my family didn’t do (read: couldn’t afford) the whole vacation thing, I was ecstatic for the opportunity. I was 14 years old and filled with visions of beach fun and cute boys every which way we turned (I had, after all, glimpsed the occasional shot of MTV’s Spring Break coverage).
The morning after we arrived, I couldn’t help but marvel at the powder white sand, the turquoise water, the gorgeous blue skies—it truly was paradise. And so many people! My stomach danced in anticipation. The opportunities to see and be seen were endless.
Decked out in the one-piece suit that my mother had insisted upon, I spent the first part of the day basking in the sunshine, which was so much warmer than the wane Kentucky springtime sun we had left behind. After several hours of baking in the Florida sun, achieving what was sure to be a spectacular tan to make all the people back home jealous, Jennifer and I finally decided to dip our toes in the ocean.
The crystal clear water was icy to our heated skin, so we took our time inching in, laughing with delight as we splashed each other. Of course we had one eye on the cute boys sharing that stretch of beach with us, and pandered accordingly. Sucked in tummies here, strategically shaken out hair there—we were totally working it (as well as any pair of 14-year-olds could).
One pair of boys actually did seem to take notice, maneuvering their skim boards closer and closer. By unspoken agreement, Jennifer and I started playing up our inner girlyness, squealing when waves lapped at the backs of our legs and giggling at anything and everything the other said.
And then the boys actually pointed toward us, leaning their heads together as they spoke. Jennifer and I shared looks of giddy excitement. They were boys! And they were pointing at us! And we were awesome! And—
A rogue wave slammed into our backs, launching us face first into the murky water. I tumbled like a tennis ball in a dryer, thwapping about like a disoriented sea turtle as I fought for purchase. My shoulders, then back, then knees dragged along the sand-paper-like bottom as the wave spun me this way and that. The power of the water pushed me along for what seemed like minutes, though it was surely only a few seconds, before the sea finally regurgitated me onto the shore, choking and gagging on a mouthful of sandy seawater.
I crawled to dry land on my hands and knees, blinded by the saltwater stinging my eyes. My one-piece suit was intact and in place, but had taken on so much sand it was sagging from the weight of it all at my rear. I had no illusions that I looked like anything other than a half-drowned rat sporting an over-capacity diaper.
Through the pain and discomfort, as I patted around for an unseen towel to clear my vision, one distinct sound rose above the pounding surf and crying seagulls.
Great, belly-deep guffaws peppered with the tell-tale crack of a teenage boy’s not-quite-changed voice.
Humiliation swept through me, heating my already sun-scorched cheeks and crushing my adolescent hopes of emulating Brook Shields ala Blue Lagoon. Jennifer came sputtering up behind me, and faster than you can say, “sand wedgies” the pair of us snatched up our things and retreated to the condo through the staring and snickering crowd, where we were prepared to stay for the rest of our lives…or at least for the rest of the vacation.
To make matters even more fun, that first day had been spent without the benefit of sunscreen. Predictably (to you—not to the 14 year old me), I spent the rest of the week slathered in sticky aloe gels and as little clothing as I could get away with while me body produced enough heat to power the Belle of Louisville up and down the Ohio River for a good decade.
I should mention that this trip had also been the first time that I became aware of the necessity to ladyscape, shall we say, and without the benefit of instruction on how to properly go about it, I had wicked razor burn layered underneath that wicked sunburn.
And thank God for it.
Thanks to the lobsteresque resemblance of my skin, I had a legitimate reason to never be seen by the witnesses of The Great Wipeout of ’93 ever again! Yes, I did eventually return to the beach, older and wiser to the ways of that vindictive witch named mother nature, but as long as I live I shall never forget that first trip.
And THAT, my friends, is why I live on a lake ;).
So tell me, what is your ideal vacation? The beach? The lake? The city? The slopes? And if you have a deliciously unfortunate vaca story—do share!