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beach bodies: the delightful reality

Sun, sand and surf is a quintessential part of the Australian identity. I’m a big fan of beach trips on hot days and my enthusiasm for barefoot walks, lying on sun-warmed towels, and the refreshing shock of bounding into cool, dark water is not the only reason why sand is forever in my hair. I love beach visits because of the glorious assortment of bodies revealed unglamorously to the wandering eye. We can’t all look like Lara Bingle – but who wants to?

It is early evening, and I am at the ocean’s mouth in the golden light of a fiery sunset. My heart is lifted by the array of body types on display, the collective half-nakedness revealing a plethora of sizes and shapes:

  • Middle-aged bottoms creased with cellulite.
  • Footballers with wide shoulders and sturdy chests thrash in the water after a twilight training session.
  • A Greek man’s taut, round belly is criss-crossed with grey hairs and underlined by black speedos.
  • An elderly lady with varicose veins sports an aqua one-piece and a blue swimming cap.
  • A young man’s smooth, snowy-pale chest is sporadically decorated with blonde, wispy curls.
  • A Sudanese woman wears a spotty bikini with stick-thin legs poking out.
  • Girls with curvy bottoms and bronzed backs lie on their bellies in worship of the sun.
  • The gorgeous roundness of alabaster thighs peek out from a white cotton shirt.
  • A Filipino woman’s pregnant belly stretches a pink tiger-stripe one-piece.
  • A fit couple in their sixties jog along the shoreline before diving into the frothing waves.
  • Saggy breasts, small breasts, breasts large and round, youthful breasts, stretch-marked breasts and a vast palette of skin colours.

I sit on a towel in the midsummer’s eve and reflect on the attitudes I’ve had towards my figure in years gone by. For a decade, perhaps, I ached to look like the models I saw in magazines.  “Too fat,” they whispered. “Your boobs are too little…and that nose? Ha!” The lingerie-clad beauties laughed at me whilst drinking French champagne at rockstar parties, reclining by a pool and stroking pet leopards.

Because most of the women I saw in films, magazines and television conformed to a beauty norm of thin and long-limbed, I denied myself the pleasure of enjoying my curves. I had a guilty relationship with food and weighed myself every morning, convinced that everyone saw my horrible, jiggly faults.

Then, I uncovered the untruths of airbrushing; of the impossible perfection that is flaunted in advertisements for weight loss programs and Diet Coke. I realised that cellulite-free thighs exist only in Photoshopland, and flawless skin is the result of makeup artists, lighting, and photographer’s tricks.

And I went to the beach, and witnessed a range of bodies. I began to understand that magazines don’t represent the genuine population, and it’s okay if my hips are wide or my breasts small.

I smile as I wade into the shallows. Body acceptance is a wonderful thing!

An auburn-coloured kelpie gallops towards me, salt water streaming off her fur, and I laugh with her owners. My joyful camaraderie with strangers is motivated by something deeper: the simple pleasure of being surrounded by beauty.
This is not the beauty that you’ll find in fashion editorials; the surreal perfection of ethereal models is not present. Instead, I celebrate the magnificent diversity of bodies at the beach. At the core of this beauty is freedom, freedom to accept oneself and just be – no matter who is watching.

(Image credit: 1.)

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