Just coming off a week on the beach, I can say one thing for certain: I’ve always loved the seashore except for one thing–bathing suits. Let’s face it–bathing suits are designed to flatter those who are fit and embarrass those who are not. In looking at swimwear on a basic level, one can see that bathing suits are simply utilitarian. They make swimming easier and more convenient. However, on every other level, they are not simple at all. They have somehow come to represent an ideal–a display case for a perfect physique that only a relative few will ever attain or maintain.

Funny thing–on the beach, there are but a handful of things an observant person can reasonably deduce about those in the surf or near the dunes–whether those individuals are prone to lounging or being active (think reading versus volleyball or Frisbee or horseshoes); whether they are prone to swimming or sunbathing (think mostly in the water, or mostly out); and how those persons look in bathing suits. Aside from these distinguishing factors and a few others (you can sometimes tell a lot about a person by how they interact with their child/children during a day in the sun and sand), all else is pretty much equal on the beach.

There may be clues, but it’s pretty hard to tell whether someone is rich or successful or city or country or kind or cruel or educated or not or a Republican or a Democrat or an atheist or born again. And who cares on the beach? It has been said that the library is the “great equalizer” (a quote mostly attributed to Keith Richards). Perhaps it can be said that the beach is also a great equalizer–except for bathing suits, which brings me back to my original premise.

I have decided, at the age of 51, that I couldn’t give a rat’s ass (forgive my jargon/slang) how I look, or how anyone looks, in a bathing suit on the beach. Even as I write these words, I am fully aware that this kind of philosophical thinking may be possible only after reaching a certain age. But I hope not. While I used to care way too much about my beach body (which I never had and never will have), I hope that more and more younger (enlightened) people will decide that stressing over something so inconsequential and meaningless in the scheme of life is a huge waste of their time. And a monumental drain on their self esteem.

If you want to worry about something, then worry about terrorism or senseless acts of violence or civil rights or genocide or your personal finances or your children or your pets or world peace–there are so many things that are legitimately deserving of our worry and concern every day. The past few days have proven that to be true once again as we collectively wonder what possessed someone to shoot and kill and maim innocent people in Colorado in a movie theater, of all places. People go to movies to escape reality. The irony is not sweet.

How one looks in a bathing suit on the beach is not one of the things deserving of our worry and concern.

The sad thing is that there are still many people who seem to think it matters. At least that is my impression based on certain, observable factors. My question is this: How does the way one’s body looks in a bathing suit say anything of substance about the person who inhabits that body in that bathing suit?

Being morbidly obese or in poor physical condition is, of course, a health concern (sometimes) and shouldn’t be ignored. But the concept of an ideal physique should definitely be ignored because so few of us will ever meet that ideal, whatever it is. I’d guess that the ideal physique exists only in the eye of the beholder as is the case with so many other things. I know one thing–judging someone based upon how they look in a bathing suit is like judging the proverbial book by its cover. In either case, one is bound to be either disappointed or surprised. It always pays to dig deeper.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Quite simply put, not all are structured to be well contained in Spandex. Get over it. If you find yourself being ridiculed for the way you look on the beach, rude hand gestures are not only appropriate but deserved. If you find yourself ridiculing someone else, stop. You are being an ass.

Our summer beach vacation is over. I will miss the sound of the ocean, the seagulls, walks on the beach, finding the perfect seashell, and short naps in my reclining chair. I will not miss wearing a bathing suit. I can think of so many other articles of clothing that I would rather wear–clothing that forgives more than condemns. I have a love-love relationship with cover-ups. Yes, I know I said that I don’t care how I look. Old ways of thinking are hard to change.

So this I say to you–go and play in the sand, the surf. Dive under and over the waves. Build sand castles; dig holes. Find beautiful shells and catch fish. Soak up the sun and rest, relax. Think about many things, except for one.

Please do yourself a favor and do not stop to think about how you look doing these things by the sea. Unlike bathing suits and people, the sea and the sand and the sun do not impose unrealistic standards to uphold. They simply require the presence of mind to appreciate the natural beauty of it all. A beauty that is imperfect in the way that all truly beautiful things should be. Have you noticed that the beach is never the same from day to day?

In the sand and the sun, and in the salt water, we are mere mortals inhabiting sacred ground that does not measure our worth in inches or pounds. While much of our flesh may be exposed, our essence is not. That is something that cannot be defined by objective means.

And it most certainly cannot be captured in a photograph taken of a beach body standing in the tide waiting for the next wave, which is either a means to ride or a means to hide, depending on your state of mind.

Take the ride. Do not hide.