Reading. It’s the most relaxing summer pastime. Or is it?
The sun is finally shining. You get set up in the sun with your beach read and sit at an angle so you don’t blind yourself from the glare. You keep your legs in the sun. It’s July. You’re probably freezing but you can use your skin as solar panels. You will enjoy summer.
Five minutes later you give up and pull a blanket over your legs and keep reading. Tan lines? What tan lines? As the wind picks up, you struggle to turn the pages and hold down the blanket at the same time.
Only certain books qualify as “beach reads.” They can’t be too light but they can’t be too dark either.
Suspense. It can’t be too suspenseful or it’s a real effort to stay focused on your children near the water. Are they alive? Maybe. But is the bad guy in the book? Well, you’re going to read until you find out.
Romance. This is iffy. Light romance is preferred. But try to navigate a steamy romance and you can be sure your children will choose that very scene to gather at your feet. The eldest will peer over your shoulder and ask the sick-inducing, “Whatcha reading, Mom?” He’ll be surprised at your quick reflexes and burst of anger. And the red flush crawling up your neck won’t be a sunburn.
Murder mysteries/thrillers. Bad idea. These offer too many suggestions on how to make time to actually read your beach read.
Sci-fi/fantasy. Just kidding. Harry Potter is far too complex to attempt to read in 1- to 10-word increments.
Women’s lit. This is safe ground. A book that declares itself “This year’s summer beach read” is considered PG-rated yet with a plot that’s easy enough to digest between squirt-gun ambushes and outrunning anything that resembles a bee (i.e. everything).
There’s nothing like the treat of a new hardcover book with a beautiful glossy dust jacket. You admire the colors, run your fingers over the raised lettering, and check the author’s photo for PhotoShopping. The book is gorgeous. The longer you hold the big beauty, the more you cherish it. The entire book is a work of art and it’s yours!
You read one page and the book slides from its dust jacket and onto your lap. Never mind, you gather it up and tap it back into place. The cost of beauty is high, as they say.
Another page later, the book slides out of the jacket as you try to balance it on your knees while unwrapping a melting chocolate. (Side note: We strongly advise that your snacks be heat proof.)
But, a few minutes later, by the third slide-out, you’re done. The dust jacket is mournfully discarded and you now have a standard white or black book in your hands.
It’s kind of freeing. You could be reading anything. You imagine others wondering what you’re hiding. You hold the secret book with a new purpose and definitely more brass. You just went up a notch in seaside mystique.
However, there’s nothing that ruins a beach read faster than the beach itself.
Several factors contribute:
Children. If you ask them to stay out of the water so you can read, you’ll look up 30 seconds later to see them walking off with a stranger instead. If they’re old enough to use the buddy system, you’ll watch, in no surprise, as they shoot off in different directions until one or both float their hats.
The sand. It’s hot. It’s grainy. It’s everywhere. You try to enjoy digging your feet in for an exfoliation but that farce only lasts so long. There’s sand between your toes and it’s not dry. It’s wet and crusty. It’s annoying. It’s cold. You are actually a little cold. Even with the blanket.
So you dry your feet, brush them off, try to get comfortable. And no sooner do you get the desired status of Dry Feet, when someone’s child (not even yours) comes over to drip on you. You’re wet. Again. You have sandy feet. Again. Your book is full of sand and water. Again. But at least you’ve preserved the dust jacket.
The grand finale
After a few child-rescues, you’ve settled everyone down. They are tossing a football around far from the water, perhaps even in the road. But you decide it’s your moment.
You spread out on the sand, on your stomach, on a towel. The sun is on your back and your book is falling open in front of you on the towel. You’re right out of a magazine spread. You feel young and carefree. You manage to read an entire paragraph. You’re starting into paragraph two in total delight.
And… your back starts to hurt. Your neck too. You try to hold position as long as you can but it’s hard to read when you’re wondering when you can next get in to see your chiropractor.
In the end, you come to the same conclusion you do every summer: You can’t actually read a beach read at the beach.
Happy summer and happy (attempted) beach reading from GTWoman!