What I know for sure? That love and laughter will go a long way to getting you through those tough moments. That a deep belly laugh will almost always make you feel better. That sharing laughter connects us and that to love and be loved is all that really matters.
I am a beach baby.I love the soft gritty feel of sand between my
toes, the warmth of the sun on my face, the sound of the surf coming in.But nothing makes my heart flutter more than the
sight of a man in a speedo.
Only, I don’t mean Daniel Craig’s rippling body emerging out of the water after working out for six months
with a personal trainer.I’m talking
about the middle-aged bald guy whose belly rests boldly over the elastic of his
barely-there trunks as he strolls down the beach on his annual vacation.The quiet man who stands alone, facing the
waves , soaking in the rays on his wrinkling skin.Packs of spring-breakers might snicker from their
beach chairs as he walks by.They
may whisper sarcastically as if reviewing red carpet arrivals for MTV.
But I love him.
Nothing says life is good like a man in a
bikini brief on a public beach.I am in awe of
his intrinsic self-confidence. I admire
his complete comfort in his own skin.He
inspires me with his authenticity.He
knows who he is and hides nothing. He is just a content, regular guy enjoying a day in the sun. Work it, baby.
As time goes on it’s an attitude I try to adopt. These days I mostly choose joy over
convention, but it hasn't always been so easy. For the longest time I worked hard
to conform.I'd read an article that said grey
and navy inspired confidence and I'd promptly invest in a wardrobe
of monotone suits.I was convinced they
would give me the self-possession I needed to achieve my dreams but more often they
just gave me heat rash and high dry-cleaning bills.
And then I met Rachel.
Rachel was a young
doctor I worked with.She was top
of her class.A brilliant and funny
woman whose dedication and compassion led her to excel in her field.She was friendly, humble and always ready for a good time.She loved to travel and meet
new people. She seemed to have it all.
But not everyone felt that way about her.Because as smart and successful as she was,
Rachel looked an awful lot like….Barbie.Not
millennial Barbie whose proportions and corporate look have been updated to
appease feminist groups.I’m talking
platinum blond, micro-skirt-and-stiletto- wearing Malibu Barbie whose figure
defies the laws of physics. Some of it
was God given, but the rest…well that girl just knew how to work it.
Rachel would show up to work with her bleached hair freshly
blown out, in a body hugging sweater-dress and thigh high boots.Her patients adored her.She was great at her job and made each of them feel as though they
were all that mattered. I loved hanging out with her.She was generous, interesting and hilarious.
We would go dancing, dissect books over coffee, dish about men.She had a string of boyfriends with whom she
was always going on exotic vacations.Each
was hypnotised by her but none seemed to be quite the right match so they inevitably
faded away only to be replaced by another.
But behind her back, colleagues and
strangers gave her a hard time.Judged that she did not look
“professional”, gave the “wrong impression”, was "attention-seeking", "couldn’t be taken seriously". Eventually her
supervisor made her put on a lab coat but it only seemed to accentuate the low
cut of her shirt and the remarkable “junk in her trunk.”
I asked her about it once.Asked if she ever thought of wearing her hair up for
work.Maybe exchange her red Lee Press-On nails for a sporty French manicure.Maybe she should leave her false eyelashes and stilettos at home
sometimes.She countered simply,
The higher the heel, the happier she felt. To her, airbrushing butterflies on her nails was artful expression. How would trying to be someone else make her a better
I tried to explain, “But maybe others don’t understand
that.Maybe they don’t always respect
you the way they should.” For a few minutes, I wasn't sure she had heard me until she finally concluded,
“I don’t think that’s my problem.”
Eventually Rachel moved away.She was looking for a new career challenge,
and yet another romance had fizzled out so she decided to try her luck in another
city . I lost touch with her, but have
tried to hold on to her message. To joyfully just be myself.To not let others’
expectations wash out the colours that are me. And like Mr. Speedo on the beach, I find myself drawn to
those who are true to themselves. I am
the first to happily consider a job candidate with a pierced bottom lip, to
silently cheer on the cashier with the beehive and fishnet stockings , to be fascinated
by the stories behind people's tattoos.
I haven’t seen Rachel in over ten years but still think of her
from time to time.I wonder where she
is and how she is doing.I wonder if
she is still as self-assured.Did she ever find true love?I
like to think that she did.That she
hasn’t changed. I hope she is still
rocking her Pamela Anderson hair right through middle age. That she still likes
to travel, and that one day I will run into her while on vacation,and
will see her walking down the beach arm in arm with her soul-mate, her hand resting
lightly on his snug little speedo.