JH Mae

We’ve finally been able to enjoy some real summer weather in my neck of the woods the past couple days -- mid-to-high 80s and plenty of sunshine.

So in celebration of this weather, my sister and I headed out to the only beach in the neighborhood, along Lake Champlain -- about an hour away.

The point of the beach trip was to relax by the water and enjoy the weather. We picnicked and both brought books to read. We chatted, drank cream soda and watched the festival of flesh strutting before us.

And oh the things we saw: A lot of butt cracks, navels, cleavage, some butt cheeks, hairy backs, swollen pregnant bellies and cellulite.

We kept our butt cheeks and cellulite covered. Neither of us really wear bathing suits outside our backyards -- and sometimes not even then. Being half-naked in public just isn’t on our to-do list.

I don’t consider myself a prude. The partial nudity didn’t make me uncomfortable but curious -- I stared a lot behind my sunglasses and gradually felt like my body wasn’t really that bad after all.

But somewhere between the nine-months pregnant woman in a tiny bikini and the elderly woman -- also in a bikini -- I began to marvel at how just a small change in material makes such public exposure perfectly acceptable. If those bikinis were made of cotton, not lycra, a lot of people would’ve ended their day at the beach arrested for public indecency.

When you think about it, bathing suits -- especially bikinis, which is all I saw at the beach on two-year-old children all the way up to senior citizens -- are basically underwear. Public underwear, that you can swim in.

I’m not really in a hurry to strip down to my underpants in public. I don’t really need anyone -- except my husband, who earned the privilege to do so -- to see my navel or the bottom of my butt cheeks.

There’s a lot of hoopla these days about loving your body, no matter its shape and flaws, and not comparing it to the photoshopped images in magazines. I’m a convert to that philosophy, but perhaps some people have taken the body pride too far.

During that afternoon on the beach, I watched plenty of women pose on the boardwalk as if on a stage, flipping their hair suggestively, stretching their backs to thrust out their chests or buttocks. And I saw plenty of men do the same -- sucking in their stomachs, flexing their biceps. All of them said: "Hey, look at me -- I’m hot."

Sure you are -- now, at 21. For the most part, these "look-at-me" poses were struck by the under-30 crowd. The over-30 crowd had stretch marks and cellulite and pot bellies, and weren’t as eager to demonstrate to strangers how shapely their butts were or flat their stomachs. They were simply hot and wanted to cool off.

But everyone else -- the people who are still half-children, whose metabolisms have not yet punished them for eating Oreos, who haven’t had kids and can still shop in the juniors section -- was strutting it hardcore, comparing bodies, sizing each other up, striking poses as if they were mannequins.

And quite frankly, that is a contest I not only could never win, but have no desire to join. No matter how hot it is.

JH Mae is a Banner columnist.