Twenty something years ago, long before I had kids, and even before I got married, I remember my best friend at the time telling me she had gone to the beach one afternoon by herself. I stared at her—a mixture of being appalled that she had gone by herself and hurt that she hadn’t asked me to go with her.
“Why would you do that?” I asked, hoping she would tell me she didn’t know I was available to go along. Instead, she told me she went by herself because she didn’t want to be with anyone else that day—she just wanted quiet.
I spent the rest of that night completely miffed. To me, going to the beach solo was on par with going to the movies by yourself or going to a restaurant by yourself. Wasn’t she embarrassed that she was at the beach alone? Would she rather be at the beach alone than with me…her best friend???
If I’m honest, that lone beach trip was actually the beginning of our friendship unraveling. I was hurt and confused by her actions. But now, twenty-something years, two kids, and a husband later…well now, I get it.
Now I am the one who goes to the beach alone. I’m the one who doesn’t want anyone to accompany me. I’m the one who goes for the peace and quiet.
I went to the beach alone this week and it was glorious. I drove down the way I wanted to drive, no one making faces at my inability to set the cruise control, my terrible habit of changing lanes with impatience, and my speeds ranging from snail to The Fast and the Furious. No one to complain that my radio was blasting at a volume of 25 (Yup…it does go up that high). No one to mock my ridiculous posthumous crush on Kurt Cobain and my sudden fondness for flannel whenever Nirvana comes on the radio. No one to change the radio station when I put on the 60s station and sang off key. No one to roll their eyes when I have to stop to use the bathroom before I even get to the beach. No one to make me STOP to use the bathroom before I get to the beach because they can’t hold it. No one to throw up as we exit the Parkway (EVERY. DAMN. TIME.). There was no one to complain when I turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows so I could smell the salty air. There was no one to complain that I went to the beach without bathrooms, the beach that’s never crowded. And there wasn’t anyone to complain that the beach I picked was too crowded. Nobody ran off as I was trying to put sunblock on them either.
There was no one to tell me that 10:45 was too early to eat lunch (so I ate my sandwich because I wanted to) and no one to complain to me that they were hungry the whole damn time. There was no one rummaging through the bag for snacks, dropping my keys and phone in the sand. Nobody begged me to go in the rough water and get knocked down by waves. Nobody told me they had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW and refused to go in the ocean instead. Nobody got sand on my blanket or dripped water on my towel. No one begged me to make a sand castle and then lost interest. I sat there and read my book, took a nap, and stared at the waves on MY time.
It was absolute bliss—heaven on Earth. That is…until a family of five (with four kids under the age of ten) parked down next to me on the nearly deserted beach. They could have gone anywhere on the beach but no, they picked me to torture. The kids proceeded to do EVERY LAST THING my own kids did when they would come to the beach with me…including getting way too close to my blanket and kicking sand on it.
I shot daggers at the harried mother…couldn’t she see this was MY time that her kids were interrupting? Couldn’t she see I’ve done this before? The crying, the screaming, the begging…the miserable beach trips? Couldn’t she see those days were over for me and I had no desire to partake in her miserable beach day? I scooted my beach chair farther away from them.
Then I felt bad. It wasn’t this poor mother’s fault that kids are just miserable beach-fellows. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay…I wanted to tell her that one day, she would be me…she would be by herself on the beach, enjoying the sun on her face and the blessed quiet. I mean…that is until someone else’s kids showed up. So I didn’t tell her anything. I just packed it in for the day and headed home. After all, if anyone’s kids are gonna drive me nuts, it might as well be my own.