An Unpopular Opinion: I Hate the Beach

Sand has one “n” too many, know what I mean?

06.23.16
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I’m loathe to disappoint the surfers and merpeople in my life, but I have to come clean: I hate the beach.

Now, I want to clarify that I do not harbor hostility, pun intended, to beaches by definition. There is nothing wrong with a sandy shore by a body of water. I do understand that the ocean is a very cool thing. It’s essentially a massive pool full of animals that are really adorable at least hypothetically. The ocean looks really great, especially! People paint it and photograph it and get it tattooed on their bodies which doesn’t say a ton but it says something.

When I was nine I wanted to be a marine biologist for a week. That’s practically a first aquarium visit rite of passage, isn’t it? I was like any normal kid that liked to poke a sea cucumber.

What I’ve come to dread is the tradition of the beach. Trips to it and afternoons at it and what those mean, what they entail and what they require of me, which is to enthusiastically relax inside of what I can only describe as a dirty beach-sized oven.

My relationship with the beach is like my relationship with Magnum ice cream bars: life-altering for ten minutes quickly followed by regret.

Have you ever tried to read a book on the beach? It’s an exercise in choosing the lesser of two evils: a book-shaped tan line featuring sore arms, or a sunburned back featuring broken elbows. And yet there is an entire category of books dedicated to this very practice! I can only imagine the genre is reserved for light-hearted topics because the process required to consume them is anything but. My current theory on why no one invites me to the Hamptons is because my favorite vacation pastime is to read inside on a couch. Either that or no one likes me. Frankly, either feels plausible.

In terms of relaxation, the next best options are to go for a walk (sounds hard) or to day drink (which I’m not good at and don’t feel the need to explain) or to literally just lie there. In the heat. Not unlike a raw piece of chicken does for 10 to 12 minutes before it’s eaten. And, now that I think of it, that’s about how long I last before I check my phone for the time (a near impossible task to do in the sun) just in case it’s actually been four hours.

It’s never been four hours.

What follows is a lot of wondering if I’m burning, if I should keep my sunglasses on (to avoid going blind) or take them off (to avoid a weird tan), if backpacks make good pillows (they don’t), if there is sand in my mouth (there is), if fallen headphones will ruin Christmas (definitely) and mostly continuing to wonder how long it’s been.

17 minutes.

You know what doesn’t put me at ease? Multitasking combined with trying really hard to have fun.

I almost don’t want to broach the topic of sand because I could write a dissertation on how inconvenient it is to lie, run and play on billions of teeny tiny pebbles whose love of sandwiches rivals only their love of human cavities. As in body holes, not tooth ones. It doesn’t help that as a kid I thought that I’d get cancer if a grain of sand made its way up my vagina.

Is now a good time to move on to sea creatures? Because I had a recurring nightmare as a child about a giant squid eating my mom while I watched from the beach. It did not improve my relationship with the ocean.

Is there something wrong with me? Do I need to learn to relax? Should I get a therapist? I might believe I sucked at relaxing if I didn’t enjoy television and snacks so much. I really do like the beach in theory and from a distance. Like from a paved walkway that is extremely close to it and home to several ice cream vendors.

Am I a wet towel in human form or is everyone kind of lying at least a little bit about how fun the beach is?

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Imena wearing Her the Label swimsuit and Eugenia Kim hat reading The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante.

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  • Harling Ross

    Did you climb inside my brain and knit all my thoughts about beaches into beautifully worded, hilarious truths???????

    • Haley Nahman

      lysm harling skeleton twin

      • Michaela Williams

        I was thinking the EXACT same thing. Sand = Death.

  • Can’t tell you, haven’t seen one in ages (literally). 🙂

  • CDC

    I’m an island girl (Dominican Republic), so the beach is as much a part of me as walking at lightning speed down a sidewalk is to New Yorkers. I have to say I’d never really considered some of your points, but even I have to admit beach reading is a big hassle.

    As a seasoned expert (or so I’d like to think) I have to say some sort of lounge chair and an umbrella will be your best friends at the Hamptons, preventing permanent frown lines, burnt skin, and broken elbows. As for the rest… Even I’m reconsidering my next dip.

    • Haley Nahman

      And I didn’t even cover SHARKS.

      You should probably teach me your ways instead of letting my hermitude sway you.

  • I second, third and fourth this. Plus I was a lifeguard for nine years. Can’t we just walk through a park?

    • Haley Nahman

      lol. i would do that with you!!!

  • Ugh Haley…JuSt when I thought we were on the same WAVElength. You don’t like the overwhelming/refreshing sense of humility felt whilst being pinned down by a massive wave? That is okay…we’ll always have bridge walks and maybe some roller disco (cc: Krista Anna Lewis).

    • Haley Nahman

      bridge walks OVER water — V COOL!!

  • Max

    Has anybody ever read ‘Nobody is Ever Missing’ by Catherine Lacey? She beautifully and succinctly summed up my feelings re: the beach:
    “I went outside after my beer and looked down into the ocean and saw a stingray flapping in the water, a jagged C torn into his body and ribbons of blood running out, same color as mine, as anything’s, and I knew that stingray had been chewed by something because that is all the ocean is — big hole full of things chewing each other — and it’s odd that people go to the beach and stare at the waving water and feel relaxed because what they are looking at is just the blue curtain over a wild violence, lives eating lives, the unstoppable chew, and I wondered if any of those vacationing people feel all the blood rushing under the surface, and I wondered if the fleshy, dying underside of the ocean is what they’re really after as they stare — that ferocious pulse under all things placid.”

    • Haley Nahman

      holllllly shit. this fucked me up!!!!!

      “I wondered if any of those vacationing people feel all the blood rushing under the surface”

      terrifying, love it

      • Jane Suppen

        ha, how is that so different from the land animals chewing on each other. Same ol, same ol. That’s life.

  • OMG – I’m the same! I hate the beach too, more because I really don’t like the sea. I much prefer lounging by a pool x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

    • Haley Nahman

      pools are the coolest

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Thank you! I hate it too! I hate the sand that gets everywhere and you still find grains of in dark crevices six months later, I hate sun-beating down on me (I’m not a sun-worshipper and tend to avoid being directly in it most of the time), and I hate swimsuits. Yeah – I said it! If I really wanted to relax I’d be an air-conditioned luxurious room with a nice cup of tea and a book – and an ocean view. Because it’s really beautiful to look at. From afar! But honestly – a walk through the park is my idea of a good and relaxing time. With a nice latte in my hand. Ahhhh…

    • Haley Nahman

      SECOND

  • Maria Dewing

    Small private or residents-only type beaches are okay. All else is a cruel and unusual punishment. Also, marine creatures are not okay. I once saw a bunch of cute little seals while vacationing on Cape Cod. But all that means is there are sharks in the vicinity. GREAT WHITE SHARKS!

    • Haley Nahman

      sharks are definitely everywhere

  • lol @ the broken elbows. my favorite beach activities are napping and drinking. i do love the water, though, which is odd because my mother didn’t let me go in past my knees until i was 21.

  • Amelia Diamond

    I love: the beach, but still this story, and the photos.

  • I think you might be doing it wrong. Get an umbrella and a beach chair. Put the chair under the umbrella and a giant beachy towel under your feet. Bring a cooler full of icy beverages and if you aren’t a weenie, go for a swim.

    • I second the chair. I finally bought one last year (NYC apartment, limited storage) and it was LIFE CHANGING. I didn’t bring ANY sand home. I also use it to read in the park.

    • Haley Nahman

      Okay that does sound pretty nice

    • AlanaNolan

      Totally agree. I used to feel quite the same as the author until my boyfriend – an avid beach lover – suggested we rent an umbrella and chairs. Total game changer. No need to even tote in those things (which in my book, just adds to lists of things that are annoying about the beach). Just sitting there lounging, reading books/mags, listening to music, stealthily drinking dark ‘n’ stormies… What’s not to like?

  • Liz Warners

    I see you louuuudddd and clear my friend. It is just such an event. And I think you are on to something in this piece. Does time slow down while on the beach? It must.
    The only time I enjoy the beach is when fully clothed, and usually in between September and May (aka when it’s not hot). And even then sand always gets in your shoes or pant cuffs and hangs on for about two weeks.
    Of course I forget this about once a year, make a trek out to great old Lake Michigan, and sit in a black hole of sun, heat, and sweat for 2 hours before I go home.

    • Haley Nahman

      oh i 100% forget multiple times a year

  • Vanessa

    The beach is fun if you have a car. Lugging a chair/ umbrella/ cooler/ bag/ grill (kidding- but I see it sometimes) is a pain to take on public transport or bicycle. With a car you can also get home faster after the beach to take a shower!

  • Andrea Raymer

    I grew up just a few minutes drive from the beach, and I hate it… I like the water, don’t get me wrong, but that enjoyment is amplified when I am in my clean pool in my parent’s private backyard. I don’t have to worry about jellyfish stings or crabs pinching my toes. there is no sand. And when i get bored i can just go inside and do something else. It just isn’t fun for me to just sit there.

    • Haley Nahman

      can i come?

      • Andrea Raymer

        If you want to drive 7 hours down to Virginia, sure…

    • Lillian

      The best part about going to the beach is the cold pool after.

  • I hate the beach. I mean, a day spent at the beach with the intent to relax, play in the water, and get tan. I don’t mind a walk on the beach, as long as there’s an end in sight. Especially in the evening or early morning; you know, before all the heat and glare of the sun set in, or just after they’ve faded. The waves are nice, the sound is relaxing. But chilling on the beach sucks. It is boring.
    Give me the mountains instead.

  • Rayna Tobin

    I relate to this article on so many levels. I am always the wet blanket of the group for hating the idea of baking like a cookie in a pile of dirt for hours at a time. I also have a (majorly irrational) fear of dead fish. Yes you read that right, DEAD fish. Those teeny tiny silver ones that wash ashore are my worst nightmare. So the culmination of the sand, heat, and dead sea life are not my idea of a fabulous summer afternoon.

    • Haley Nahman

      thanks for giving me something else to whine about. DEAD FISH

  • LalaN

    theres nowhere else like it in my opinion. my brain goes 1000 miles a minute normally, but at the beach i can tune out, listen to the waves, people watch, and enjoy a cocktail all while under an umbrella on a low lounge chair. i do not enjoy tanning–time truly does stop when in full sun with no water. also important to mention: i don’t have kids, so i get to be the kid. i don’t know about living near the beach, but a beach vacation beats any other vacation in our books. we also grew up going every year, so it feels like home. i just can’t agree. one of my best friends hates sand and would just hang out at the pool, and it just perplexed me. i love to get in the water, i love everything about it except unpacking and packing back up.

  • Charlotte Dallin

    I love the beach so much that even reading about its pitfalls makes me want to be at the beach.
    Although, has anyone ever walked on grass with sandy feet? That makes me want to rip my toes off.

  • The beach is the most fun out of all the places I frequent in the summer. I love not wearing shoes, I love blistering heat, I love wading into the water when the heat gets a little too blistering even for me, I love walking in the surf and finding rocks and shells, I love playing volleyball on it, I love eating hot dogs and ice cream beside it, I love being mostly naked outside, I love reading in any form of bodily contortion, I love chucking my phone somewhere and having to look at actual books and use an actual camera, I love going with a boy and lying on top of each other and kissing a little bit more than usual, I love getting salt water in my hair, I love not having to shower after, I love surfing, I love lobstering, I love kayaking; yeah, I really love the beach!

  • HA I feel the same way!!!

  • Kate

    I relate to this a lot. The beach is non-stop sunburn/freckle terror, sand everywhere, the shame of not getting half-naked versus against the shame of being half-naked in my pale untoned glory, the irritation of tan beautiful people swanning in my field of vision, frisbees thrown at my head, seagulls squawking for my snacks, children squawking for reasons unknown, bros strutting for aforementioned tan girls. Oh my God. Try the beach in winter. It’s much nicer.

  • Senka

    You’re definitely not alone in this. I too like the beach in theory but in practice it proves to be a bit of a challenge. Add to all you listen (sand, burning, insufferable heath, trying to read but failing miserably ) bunch of playing screaming children and adults alike, aka crowd, and it sounds more like hell than the relaxation heaven.

  • dasha137

    YES to all! A scorching day at the beach just is much more work than you think: the prepping, packing, SPFing, finding a comfortable position, worrying about getting burnt, SWEATING and so on…
    My only truly pleasant experience was a few years ago in Mexico: after a transatlantic flight from Europe, I got up jet-lagged at 5am and made my way to the beach-bed and fell asleep in the soft/non-burning morning sun. By 10am I was tanned, rested and ready to drink/eat in a climate-controlled environment. (Sorry, not bragging, just saying “morning sun and no people” are the best kind of beaches)

  • Aggie

    I too dislike the beach. Several points: I do not like walking on the broken seashells before you actually get inside the water, I am very very scared and paranoid when in the water because you know CRABS, SHARKS and JELLYFISH and also I somehow get terrified whenever seaweed gets caught in my legs. Basically I’m scared of the ocean not the beach. Somehow there’s always these weird sandflies by your towel, I really don’t like having to carry my shoes when ‘I walk along the water’, like why? Finally, have you been at the beach when it’s windy?! It’s hell.

  • Anni

    Things I like about the beach: being close to it because I grew up near it, sea breeze, mass picnicking preferably by a fire pit with sneakily hidden booze.

    Things I hate about the beach: SUNBATHING. I am not a “never-get-tan” Asian lady but I do not tan smoothly so naturally tanning is a pain, I am not about doing nothing and giving myself skin cancer and the few times I have done this with admittedly more “basic” co-workers in a attempt to bond I have hated every second. It’s just not comforting for a anxious, list-making talkative geek girl and that is ok just like going to weird sweaty conventions are not everyone’s cup of tea.

  • Myview

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Everyone tries to make me feel bad about my dislike of the beach but I can’t help it. My very fair Irish skin will blister in about half an hour, even SPF 70 isn’t much help, making me a poor companion and sand is a four letter word. I love the ocean. Especially on a overcast windy day, but give me a towel, bathing suit, and cooler and I’ll run screaming as fast as possible.

  • Jennifer Bowler

    This post totally describes my feelings at the beach. I cannot go more than 30 minutes in full sun (with sunscreen) without getting at least a little bit of a burn. If I do go to the beach, we’re there in the early morning. My husband. on the other hand, insists that if we’re going to go we should go at about noon where I’m 100% guaranteed to get totally sick from the sun while he frolics in the ocean. I don’t understand beach people. You forgot to mention the joys of having kids at the beach. While I enjoy watching my sons play around, I hate getting sand kicked all over me every few minutes.

  • JS

    You’re not alone. You know what loves the ocean? SHARKS. No thanks, I saw that movie. Now snowboarding down a mountain with pristine powder all around me? Yes! Also, I’m fairly positive that sharks high both snow and high altitudes.

    My wife and I have gone to Atlantis in the Bahamas and maybe waded out three feet into a lagoon. Overall, it was still pretty fun because there was a lot to do besides sit on the beach next to what is probably a washed up jellyfish.

  • Trent Milam

    Greetings from Wildwood Beach. Please send help.

  • Simone

    The beach is cool. I’ve enjoyed a beautiful beach view at ocean front restaurants, I enjoy taking boat rides, definitely want to go on a cruise one day soon.. With that said, mindlessly laying on sand every weekend (or more) will age you and is honestly just plain boring. I think every beach has a group of old folkes that are crispy brown that literally just sit there day in and day out. They also look like a burnt up old suitcase. I don’t want to look like that one day! Don’t even get me started on east coast beaches. They stink and the water is cloudy! Newport, RI, Jersey Shore, they’re all the same. I wonder how any sea creature can even sustain life in these grey stinky waters. People are really just brainwashed into believing this is a totally awesome hobby. Hey BTW it’s also free. People like things they don’t have to pay for.. I have had 4 separate creepy dudes I barely know invite me to go hang out with them at the beach this summer. I guess this season is great for cheap men trying to pick up women.

  • Jane Suppen

    Wow, I didn’t think about it too much before, but this article is spot on. Yes, you are right. Many (not all) are lying a bit when saying/thinking they “love” the beach. The best thing about it is the sound of the waves is a mental overload that keeps you from thinking too much of your troubles. I do go occasionally, but yes, after going there, I think secretly, it will be awhile before I come back. Part of it is that if you live decently close to the ocean, you feel obligated to go (just so at least you can say at parties that you recently went to the beach?) or maybe just because it’s there (like climbing a mountain). Funnily, the thing about the beach that I dislike most is something not even mentioned. The SMELL. Maybe, it’s because I live in Northern California, where due to the cold weather and fog, the kelp and dead sea animals are not immediately sun bleached into oblivion, but rather are kept in a perpetual state of rot. The smell of a rotting corpse seems to be in the sand and gets on my shoes and clothes, and all over my dog. When we get home, I reek of rotting plants/dead sea animals. It is truly sickening. My dog loves it! But he also loves shoving his face into the garbage.

  • Emily Greene

    I hate going to the beach AND walking. I find both tedious and banal.

  • Chad Chaplin

    The beach is for the simple-minded. It is boring, crowded, hot, and there is little to do. A pool is better…better water, diving boards, squirt guns, etc. And they don’t have the beach goers, who generally are annoying and definitely easily entertained. And most folks at the beach literally do nothing but sit there the entire day. Boring!!!

  • PMJLGHRS

    Tasting salt water splashing in your mouth. Cutting your feet on shells that are trying to bury themselves in the sand. 3rd degree sunburns on the top of your feet because the 100 SPF sunscreen washed off. Dehydrating in 90+ degree heat. What’s not to love? Yeah, I’ll just head up to the condo and watch some TV in the air conditioning. Something I could have done from home sleeping in my own bed.

    I’d rather spend vacation camping in a woods, or in a library and graveyards doing genealogical research.