I gasp for air as I try to make it back to shore - another wave knocks me over. My bikini top has been hit, leaving my left boob exposed. There's hair in my eyes, and sand swirls around me - my feet can't find the ground. I’m trying to spit the salty water out of my mouth, but it keeps assaulting its way back in. I finally make it back to land, I look around trying to find where I left my stuff - I need to get out of here.
Between the seawater dripping from my hair into my eyes and the tears clouding my vision, I can barely see, but I make it back to my chaise longue. I sit down and take a few deep breaths in an attempt to steady my breathing. I need to get home but my options are not looking too good. The rest of my family is scattered around the beach. My cousins who urged me to get into the water are still in there, their laughs as I struggled still fresh in my mind. My siblings are somewhere on the boardwalk getting snacks, and my parents are walking by the shore. I either walk home in all my sandy shaky glory, or I sit here uncomfortable wanting to crawl out of my skin until someone decides to go home and take me with them. It does not matter what choice I make; this has happened countless times, and both options are dreadful.
The story ends with me in the shower, washing my body over and over again in an attempt to get the sand out of every crevice. Next time I am dragged to the beach, I stare out onto the sea enjoying the view. I bring a book to keep me company while everyone else swims. I am bombarded with questions about why I am not swimming. I try to explain that I do not like it, it's not my thing, I’d rather just sit here. They tell me I am boring, annoying, or a downer. Next year, we play out the same script: they pretend they do not know I do not like to swim in the sea, and I bite back my annoyance. One day, the water looks nice, and I momentarily forget the brawl that the waves and I had the prior year. We had a more forgiving relationship when I was younger, maybe it’ll be different this time. I let my family feel victorious with their persuasion. The same story plays out.
It took me much longer than it should have to decide to stop going in, to just enjoy the beach for everything other than the water. But the people around me can not seem to accept that fact. Every year as summer rolls around I dread being suffocated by questions or comments about swimming in the sea. ‘Just put your feet in, you don't even have to swim,’ ‘The water is so clear, it’s like swimming in a pool,’ ‘How could you not like the sea, it's so refreshing.’ On and on it goes. Each person thinks that they will succeed, they will be the person to convince me - to enlighten me as to how wonderful the sea really is. They will not be, nor will the next person, or the next. I do not care how warm the water is or how wonderful it feels. This seems to be a boundary that people universally have chosen to ignore and push against. Leave me alone and let me sit on the beach in peace.