The judgement of beaches and exercise

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 07:05 14/01/2013

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OPINION: I was lying on the beach deeply absorbed in my book when I looked up and noticed that two women round about my age had set up camp each side of me.

Fear not, this isn't going to be a Sapphic tale about middle-aged strangers getting it on in the dunes - perish the thought - but the older I've become, the harder I've found it to get friends to accompany me to the beach, due to various body issues.

One cobber says it's a matter of having too much skin. Another insists that revealing her flesh would cause visual pollution. So I go alone, even though like every female who's been tyrannised by women's magazines telling us to get our bikini bods into shape before hitting the beach, I have my own body issues.

But I'm dammed if I'm going to let said issues get in the way of a good swim. I was quite touched that those two women, independent of each other, had decided to park up next to me for some silent tribal support, making up a small sisterhood of long- tooths with every right to front the beach.

I read about the recent survey commissioned by Southern Cross Health, which revealed that nearly a quarter of Kiwis break sweat less than once a week. They've probably got body issues, overthink exercise and buy into the nonsense that you have to have the right garments and paraphernalia to run, bike or even walk.

The sight of women in three-quarter leggings and a brand baseball cap, clutching fancy water bottles and doing grim- faced, serious walking, raises my hackles. Do they think they invented it or something? We've been at it since we climbed out of the primordial swamp, and never thought twice about whether or not we were equipped with the appropriate clothing to put one foot in front of the other.

Exercise has become pretentious, expensive and complicated, cluttered with bells and whistles, brands and uniforms. In order to achieve the body beautiful one has to have the accessories to look the part, belong to the right gym, eat the latest food. It's all got in the way of just striding out in the world as our authentic selves rather than neurotically trying to fit into the current exercise trend.

Back to the beach. Remember when the trend was for females to go topless, much to the delight of the lads, and then one season you rocked up to the beach and everyone was covered up and it was all over, Rover? That was pre- Facebook, Twitter and texts, so no one got an email with a directive to put their top back on, there was no social network discussion. It just happened: suddenly it was infra dig to expose one's bosoms.

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I think the disappearance of breasts from the sand happened around the advent of breast implants. Racks were scrutinised quite brazenly to see if they were real or not. I remember a friend who wore nothing but a G-string invited the attentions of a perving male. She saw him later at a party and he blanked her, so she went up to him where he was standing next to his girlfriend and said loudly: "Don't you recognise me with my clothes on?"

- © Fairfax NZ News

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