Packing up and getting out of town for a few days refocuses my brain. I become hyper-aware of the people around me. I notice the pattern and fit of their clothing. I observe their behavior and wonder how it compares to their behavior back home. In warmer climates I notice how their skin stretches and folds over the waist of their bathing suit. In winter I watch as they cling to their phones and coffees as if those were baby blankets bringing comfort. I record all these things in my sketchbook and draw the ones that really interest me as I sit on the balcony listening to the waves.
This most recent vacation provided so much drawing imagery. It felt like a continuation of our vacation from last June where I first got the idea to begin my #buttdrawingmonday series on Instagram. I suppose that we can easily get used to the idea of what a bathing suit is and that bathing suit fashion can change with trends. I would assume that many of us have a built in fashion filter that fits our own personal modesty level. But when you go to a beach in summer and really start to look around, you have to wonder if everyone has that filter. Or if they just ignore it when it comes to beach attire.
Some obviously turn their filter off on purpose. The senior-weeker with the Bud Light cowboy hat and bright red Speedo bottom is a good example. He walked up with a group of boys and admired one of our sand creations. As he stood there and as he walked away, all around us people discretely pulled out their phones and took photos of him and giggled. Some females also seemed to be wearing as little fabric as possible, regardless of their physique. Some had hip bones visible with skin stretched over them and their extra small suits sagging. Some seemed to also be wearing an extra small suit though they had not been an extra small (or even large) size in quite a few years. The suit did its best to contain the skin that bulged over the top and burst out at every seam. “Ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack” as my dad used to say.
This was not an exercise in beautifying the grotesque. It actually had so much less to do with what the person looked like and so much more to do with the fact that they were proud of it. In a society so obsessed with abs and butt lifts, these people seemed to be blatantly, pridefully trespassing. Ladies might lie down just a few feet from you and your family and stretch out in a square foot of cloth that left absolutely nothing to the imagination, seemingly proud to put their bits and pieces on public display. Grown men would peel their tshirts off to reveal a remarkable contrast between thin, spindly legs and an explosive mass of belly making them resemble a lollipop. Some very much wanting to be seen, others oblivious that they are visible.
These people have mirrors. They have trusted family members. They know they look good in very little clothing. Or they know their bodies test the thread strength in the seams of their clothing. The cool thing is that no matter which end of that spectrum they may be on, there is no shame. They shed their walking around clothes and spend the day on the beach in the equivalent of skimpy underwear not giving a thought to what others may think. There’s something beautiful and powerful in that.
My 10 year old son was recently flailing his arms around and making odd noises for no apparent reason in a public place. I turned to him and said “Dude, stop. You’re in public.” Without a pause he replied “But I don’t care what people think.”
He’s doing his best to teach me stuff.