Hansen: A summer of flaccid self esteem

Without even trying, Laguna Beach has 50 shades of sand.

We are flush with the glistening colors of the beach, already out in force on Memorial Day. Packed with bodies from Crescent Bay to 1,000 Steps, it was as if summer arrived like a contract, paid for and ready to play.

But what price is summer? As much as we long for the departure of June gloom, do we always feel ready for it? Sure, we want it, but there is this lingering, unspoken reality of failed promises.

As the string bikinis show up, skipping across Coast Highway all barefoot and tender, we suck in and hold our breath just a little, thinking it might help burn calories.

The bikini stores are bedlam right now, frantic and hopeful. For those under 30, there is little fear, only boldness, wondering how far to push it. They splay discreet patches of cloth and rhinestones with surety and imagination.

"It's always been about feeling good about yourself," said Marni Chomenko, a swimwear buyer for Diane's Beachwear. "Once the sun comes out, everybody loves to go out."

For those over 30, it's more about deflection and practicality.

"When you first start shopping for a suit when the season hits, it can be highly depressing, as we know," said Felicia Madrigal, designer at Merrilee's Swimwear. "Different people have different modesty levels — so, how much they like to show, if they're in shape or if they're not. That's why it's nice to provide them with a variety of coverages."

Madrigal is the daughter of the store's founder Merrilee, who opened in it 1977. She has seen a lot of anxiety.

"Different women have different insecurities. For some women it's like, 'Does my butt look big?' For other women, it's, 'Can you see my C-section scar?', or, 'I feel like I don't have big enough boobs in this top.' These are all different insecurities that women have about their bodies. There are different styles that help in those areas."

For men, it's really just about one thing: hemlines. They may rise and fall, but we're still grossly limited by our boardshorts — unless you're from France.

It's a given that we're burly. We're forced to be that way because we store fat for the long winter hunts.

Something like that.

Either way, it doesn't matter your gender or age; the truth is you've been hiding behind sunglasses for years to stare and compare. You covet your neighboring towel and wonder why you didn't get certain indelible gifts. And you chastise yourself for not putting in the workout time during winter.

Now it's June and you don't look like THAT!

That. Little. Tight. Thing.

It hurts, sometimes, just to imagine how much suffering it would take to get anywhere near that specimen.

How much sweat. How much submission.

"It can be depressing," said Madrigal. "There's a saying, 'If you can't tone it, tan it.' It helps to be tan, even if you have to do the spray tan beforehand. I'm telling you, it's not a joke. It feels much better if you're tan in a bathing suit. I don't know what it does to women psychologically."

The psychology is this: Tans are hot. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 72% of Americans believe people look more attractive with a tan.

It is both a blessing and a curse. Skin cancer, of course, is the main concern but more importantly, there is no place to hide the fat when you are practically naked.

"Trying on a bathing suit is horrific and a lot of people, once they come in, will leave discouraged and they'll go get on a diet and come back," Madrigal said. "Women hate this time of year."

Hate, anguish, depression, horror — hardly the stuff of Brazilian G-strings.

But we endure.

We survive this rite of passage because there's nothing like the first blush of summer when we're slightly giddy and intemperate, hasty and lustful.

We are 50 shades of glorious envy, demanding more sun, more heat, more of everything delicious.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World