“Not everyone is always looking at you” is something my mother said to me very often.” There is really no need to be so self-conscious”.
So, when I walked onto the beach in San Diego a few years with a borrowed surfboard under my arm I repeated this mantra to myself. Around me the beautiful people were sunbathing, tending to their beautiful children and generally blinding me with their fabulousness. But no, I was not going to be distracted. This was probably the only chance I would get to surf in the Pacific for the foreseeable future, maybe even ever; I was going to take advantage of it.
As I paddling through the shallow water, I heard the sound of men laughing. For goodness sake, I thought, not everyone is looking at you! Just get on with it. (I should add here that I am not really (remotely) a surfer, I just want to be. I can paddle out a bit on the board and sometimes catch a wave on the way back and about three times ever, I have stood up for a second or two. That’s over about four years of trying.)
Then I found myself looking at a man beside me “Hey!” he said “Me and my buddy were just laughing at you! We always get a kick out of watching people try to surf!”
There wasn’t much I could say to that, so I looked at him gormlessly and nodded to accept his offer of help, wondering if I was forever doomed to be the laughing stock. We waded out a bit more until we got to a place that he said was right to catch a wave. He was chatty and built like a brick shithouse. I lay on the board and he gave it a push.
Wow, I thought, this is amazing. I was literally flying along in the water. I was going so fast that standing was possible with little or no effort from me. It was great! When I came to a halt I looked back to wave a thanks to him and he motioned to come back out and he would do it again. I started doing the Irish thing of “Are you sure? I don’t want to put you to to much trouble..Blah, blah” but he couldn’t hear me and waved again, so I gladly waded out again. And again he gave me a MASSIVE shove and I flew in on a wave, white spray on either side of me, wishing it would last forever. And again he said “come on back out! Let’s go!”
This time, just after I lay on the board, he gave me a few tips on how to stand up with his hand on my bottom the WHOLE time. He had pushed me off before I registered that I probably should object (and also I felt too embarrassed to say the word bottom. How daft is that!) As I flew along I wondered if this was worth it, and decided that it almost was.
One last time he gave me a push (Yes I did accept his offer one more time. I suppose I was hoping it was a one off grope situation. But it wasn’t!) And I got my last chance to fly. Which was fantastic.
And then I went back to the car and drove to my brothers’ house wondering about life. Sometimes people are looking at me, sometimes they are sleazy bastards and then again, sometimes they have their uses.