The Beach: A Bargain or A Bummer?

Costa Rica beachIn this weekend’s New York Times, Roxane Gay gives a litany of reasons to hate the beach.

In Haiti, beach bodies are simply bodies, and beach reads are simply books, because the beach is all around you. … But for the rest of us, the beach exerts a different kind of gravitational pull. Sixty-one percent of Americans don’t live anywhere near a beach. We spend a surprising amount of time hearing about this place we will hardly ever see. We watch commercials, TV shows and movies in which nubile young women and their strapping male counterparts frolic on sand, their hair golden and sun-streaked. Long walks on the beach are the supposed holy grail of a romantic evening. The beach becomes a kind of utopia — the place where all our dreams come true.

In actuality, she points out, there’s sand to get in your crevices, and saltwater to dry out your skin. If you’re black, what’s the point of sunbathing? If you’re tall, you’re uncomfortable on the lounge chairs. Everyone talks about beach reads, but how does one get comfortable enough to read on the beach at all?

She’s not alone. In a recent episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, Glen Weldon also rants about the seashore. The sun is our enemy; it is trying to kill us. I understand these arguments! Yet I am not swayed. The beach has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s beautiful. And unless you are visiting some super secret or special stretch of curated sand, the beach is free. Because of that low bar to entry, it’s a democratic destination. You can complain about the teeming masses of humanity or you can also enjoy the people-watching. If you bring a cooler full of things to eat and drink and your own umbrella so that you don’t need to overpay to rent some much-needed shade, you can have a whole day’s blissed out vacation for almost no money at all. Doesn’t that seem worth it?


Costa Rica beach photo by the author



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