I was a much younger woman, and still had some fucks to give. Not like now, when I don't give a fuck….
Anyway, I was staying with the parents of the Boyfriend of the Time - the `BOTT'. I’d never been to Perth. Never been anywhere, really. Wanted to be The Compleat Tourist.
BOTT wanted to spend time with his parents. We both lived in Melbourne. I found myself out in a fruit orchard with two elderly people who wanted to know why I was divorced, and when I was going to marry their son (reasons, and why don’t you ask him).
I took the option to have a day out on my own. The rental car was in his name. No, I could not drive it. Insurance, babe. So, I got out on the Albany Highway and hitch-hiked my way into the city. Nice truck driver.
“What’s a young woman doing out here on her own?”
“Bahahaha! Not young, wouldn’t be on my own if boyfriend was cooperative, being held prisoner by in-laws.”
“Sure you want to stop in Perth, not just keep going? I’m going to Busselton.”
“Nah, city’s fine. Thanks.”
I shared my chocolate with him.
I had a plan. Get the bus out to Swanbourne Beach. Be daring. Go nude swimming. Yeah. I need a much more exciting life. I need a kickstart.
The bus took me through the dodgy area of Perth. Slowly the suburbs turned from gentrified to dilapidated, and there were the telltale empty factories, and shops with paper over the windows. Few people around during the day. At night, the red lights would shine.
I found my way to the beach. I fell in love with the sand. I am used to the grittier sand of Melbourne, the small sticks, the broken shells, the seaweed. Swanbourne was a long stretch of open beach, and clean sand, with the green-blue of the Indian ocean.
I loved that it’s late autumn and still warm.
The beach was all but deserted. Up the way a bit was what appeared to be a large person lying on a towel. That’s it. I had the area to myself for this notable moment.
I stripped down to my underwear. I raised my towel, made a pathetic tent out of it and rummaged around removing my undies and bra. I was naked and goose-pimpled but not because of a cool breeze.
I glance around. Still only the large person, and, oh, way in the distance, two people walking towards each other. They hopefully had bad eyesight.
I have red hair, fair skin, and just about glow in the dark. I worried about my body reflecting so much light that ships at sea would train their binoculars upon me.
I dropped the towel. Ta dah! I was officially daring. Nude, on a nude beach. Although, come to think of it, the large person looked covered, and those two people up ahead were…. were heading into the sand dunes together, and both were clothed. And then two men popped out of the sand dunes closer to me, and with a nod to each other, took off in opposite directions. I was the lone woman on the beach. I was the only naked person
The large person broke in half and became two men who’d been having face-to-face sex.
One half of the out-of-the-sand dunes couple walked past me.
“Nude beach is further down, love,” he said.
If those ships at sea had heat sensors, I would have lit them up like a beacon. I was scarlet from head to foot, and not even the worst of my current hot flashes can compete.
I flailed around me for my towel. How had I come to be standing whole metres from it when I was sure I hadn’t moved? I fell over myself as I grabbed for it. I lay on the sand and wriggled into my clothes under my towel.
I’d come to the area of the beach known for gay pick ups. Nooooo! Why had no one told me? Or had they told me, and I hadn’t listened? Nooooo!
I lay on my back on the sand and tried not to hyper-ventilate. The words of my first yoga teacher came back to me, over and over. “It’s just the body.” But it’s my body, and I still cared what shape it was, what marks were on it, what people thought of it, of me. If I was going to be caught naked on a non-nude beach, I wanted people to be shading their eyes and saying: “I say, is that Kate Winslet down there?”
I lay in my embarrassment and watched the clouds, willing their cold white upon myself. I watched my mind and its antics, as it brought up every body-shaming thought, every inadequacy I chose to call mine.
And then I realised, no one cared. Exactly three, maybe four people had seen my mistake (and to be honest, I considered the mistake more humiliating than my nudity). None of them seemed to be interested in women.
I calmed myself down, and set about walking down the foreshore, all the way back to Cottesloe. I sat on that beach a long time, with midday fish and chips to refuel, and considered my thoughts about myself.
As the seagulls pecked up crumbs, I decided then and there, that the fucks I had left to give needed to go. Here seagulls, swallow them along with your dinner. You have them. I don’t want them.
I went back to the orchard, and BOTT eyed me uneasily. He sensed something had changed. He just didn’t know what. Yet.