Día En La Playa

My friend Nuria grew up in Catalunya, so she knows where to find the quiet beaches here.  No screaming babies, squawking vendors, or complaining tourists.  (Though those scenes have their own charm, too).

This Sunday she took me to a tiny one, 45 minutes by train outside of Barcelona. Maybe two dozen people in the little nook we picked.

We had a simple day, enjoying the sun and sand and water on our skin.  (Bathing suits: unnecessary.  Ya feel me?)

But even the simple days are also, inevitably, complex.  When you escape the crowds, sometimes you find the loners.

First there was the white guy crouching in the rocks above the beach.  Nuria’s eyes narrowed.  “Qué hace?” she hissed, hackles visibly raised.  She stood up to get a better look.  When she was reassured that he had left, we talked about the violence of voyeurs.  Men who spy on naturist beaches to ogle and masturbate.  A couple of shady characters I encountered on The Camino.  Nuria is one of the most loving people I know, toward everyone she meets, but she also has a temper, and this behavior is a big trigger.  She has been known to throw stones.

So we talked about the ways in which these men are suffering from addiction, lost deep in their own pain and ignorance, and doing such harm to others because of it. How almost everyone on Earth, including ourselves, at times, is addicted to pleasure in some form or another.

And how, fortunately, most of the time, the collective, family vibe among nude beachgoers (who tend to have a higher level of comfort with their own bodies, and less sexual neurosis about nudity) overwhelms the negativity of predatory intruders.  As we talked, Nuria opened up about her past, her own painful histories.  Even on the simple days, these things tend to resurface.

Then there was the long-haired argentino dude who sat down next to us, asking for rolling papers and tobacco.  His speech was so rapid and his accent so heavily Italian that I gave up trying to follow.  One thing I did catch: “. . .parejas?” “Partners?” Pointing to both of us. Well, we are in Spain, a country that recognizes same-sex marriages.  Maybe assumptions here are different.  Maybe this was a heartwarming break from heteronormativity.  Except that…it clearly wasn’t.  I didn’t have to understand this guy’s words in order to see his intentions.  Just the same old sexist fantasy: girl-on-girl action. And even better — a white girl with a brown girl.

Oh, dear.

Why does a day at the beach have to be so complicated?

Except that…it doesn’t.

There’s a lovely saying I’ve heard a couple of times recently, in different contexts.  Just as darkness cannot survive the arrival of light, suffering cannot survive the arrival of equanimity.  When you become equanimous — that is, fully present and accepting — toward something that is bothering you, it stops bothering you.  You just see it for what it is.  Someone is acting out their insecurity.  Someone is doing harm. If the harm occurring is severe, requiring action to stop it, take action. If not, let it be. Let it pass. Either way, the first step is to observe, without a knee-jerk reaction.

Eventually, not finding the response he wanted from us, the long-haired dude left.

Did racist patriarchy spoil our day at the beach?

Well, we took some photos.  You tell me.

[Heads-up: nothing explicit, but maybe not the safest for work]

One thought on “Día En La Playa

  1. Barry Loncke June 19, 2009 / 5:39 pm

    For some, the sun must be enjoyed sparingly. Be wise my sweet girl! But continue to enjoy immensely, for shore. (smile)

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