Tag Archives: menorca

Beauty and Shame

I’m thinking a lot lately about beauty standards, shame, body confidence, and how I want to be and how I want to parent.  It reminded me of something that happened on one of our trips last summer.

The beaches in Menorca are all topless.  Actually, at every beach we went to, bottoms seemed optional as well – many of the kids at the beach, up to even age 8 or 9, went naked.  And one older gentleman, deeply bronzed with nary a tan line to be seen anywhere on his body, was completely nude as well.

Shortly after we arrived at the beach the first day, I realized that it was topless.  I didn’t mention anything to the kids; I figured the less of a thing I made it into, the less of a thing it would be.  Bridget caught on pretty quickly though (to be honest, there were boobs everywhere) and shot me a wide-eyed look of shock. 

This seemed like a parenting watershed moment. My response would become her response.

So I shrugged.  “They’re just boobs,” I said. “It’s only weird if you make it weird. Every woman has them.”

She considered that and nodded. “And some men, actually,” she replied, “and they don’t cover them up!”  We both laughed.  And that was it.

As we were talking, though, Gabe walked over and caught the end of it.  He asked what we were talking about.

“It’s a topless beach,” Bridget said. 

Gabe hadn’t noticed, but his head whipped around at that, and, confirming that she was right, he turned back to me, mouth agape and eyes popping out of his head.

I repeated my statement: “It’s just a body part. It’s only weird if you make it weird. For everyone here, it’s totally normal to be topless at the beach.”

He looked around some more and then nodded.  He could accept that. 

Obviously though, Gabe went directly to both of his brothers and shared the information.  Two more sets of wide eyes and questions. Matt and I both made it clear that it was simply the way things were.  The boys asked why.  We said why not.  And that was it.

I realized over the course of the three days we spent on the beaches there though, how much healthier an attitude toward bodies everyone simply had, how much less shame there was all around.

There were women of every shape, size, weight, and age at the beach.  Nearly every one of them wore a bikini, and it didn’t matter what they looked like.  And many, many of those women took their tops off.  Old women, young women. Thin and fat, fit and not fit.  Moms and grandmothers.  Boobs everywhere. 

The women inhabited their bodies unapologetically. It was refreshing.  It was gorgeous.  It was so much healthier than the covered up shame you see in so many other places — England and America right on the top of that list.

I was jealous of all those women happily living in their own shapes and sizes.  I wanted to feel so completely comfortable that I didn’t think about sucking in my stomach or wish the bathing suit top I wore had a bit more padding or my butt took up just a bit less space.  I wanted to feel unencumbered.

I left my top on though, and I kept sucking in my stomach. 

Here’s why:

My children were not brought up in a place where seeing topless women is the norm.  They could handle it in Spain because, if nothing else in the last two years, they’ve learned to adapt to different cultural norms pretty quickly.

But having their own mother topless would not have sat well.  Not with them.  Not with me.  We can live with the norms of other cultures, but we live WITHIN our own.

So my top stayed put.  But I learned something about shame and beauty, and that will come with me wherever I go.

Menorca, Spain

I had to turn the heat on in my house today because it was so cold I couldn’t feel the tip of my nose.  While I waited for the radiators to heat up so I could lean against them and get warm, I flipped through the photo album from our summer trip to Menorca. 

Beaches and sunshine — even just in photos  — made me warmer.

Menorca is an island off the coast of Spain, the less-well-known sister to Ibiza and Mallorca. 

Quaint and relaxed and pristine, this was one of the most ruggedly beautiful places we’ve been. 

With a pool in the back yard of our fantastic Airbnb and two beaches within a five-minute walk from our house, this quick 4-day trip was all about relaxation. 

But because we can’t sit still for four straight days, it was also about kayaking and snorkeling and catamaran trips.

We sailed around the island on a big catamaran, jumped off the boat and explored hidden coves, fed the seagulls and the fish. 

My children took turns steering the boat.

The kids had never been snorkeling before, but we bought everyone fins and masks before the trip and they took to it, well, like fish to water. 

Fearless and curious, they swam around the coves and beaches in shallow pools and in water 20+ feet deep, searching out cool fish and crazy rock formations. 

A little octopus, maybe a foot across stretched out tentacle-to-tentacle made an appearance at the beach one day, wrapping himself around Matt’s shin to announce his presence, and for twenty minutes we all followed him and his swirling progress across the ocean floor, just amazed and mesmerized.

White sandy beaches surrounded by rocky cliffs.  Crystal clear water and nothing but sunshine for days on end. 

All the seafood we could eat. 

We baked in the sunshine, read books on the beach, climbed the rocks, and swam in the sea.  

We threw ourselves into the Spanish lifestyle, eating dinner at 9PM. 

Not all of us made it to dessert every night.

Whenever it’s cold this winter, when it’s rainy and windy and raw and damp and the chill gets in my bones and I just can’t get warm, I’ll look back on this trip and remember the perfect sun and it will get me through.

Menorca was amazing.  You should go.

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