Sunday, 9 February 2014



     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 Rachel?

     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.


  1. I've been reading your blogs since you've started, and I've consistently been impressed not only with your message, but also with your delivery! You've decidedly tapped into a skill here, that fits you extremely well. With that general praise out of the way (and overdue!), speaking specifically to this entry, I want to say that you took the words right out of my mouth! Though even in that I'm giving myself too much credit; I agree wholeheartedly with every word above, but I doubt I'd have managed to say it anywhere near as effectively. Good for you!! This is a message that more people need to hear (and not just because I have a bit of that gut that hangs over the swimsuit too).

  2. What a wonderful contrast and beautiful example of people who can just be themselves. Your writing is amazing as always Maia. Thank you for this!