Posted by: 4initalia | February 17, 2009

Thar She Blows

It’s spring, so we’ve fled our apartment in Italy for a few days in Tenerife, an island owned by Spain. We’re juggling multiple cultures: we’re staying in a Spanish resort that looks like Bali and serves fabulous Indian food, and where all the tourists are British.  Our seven-year-old daughter Annalise is our designated Spanish speaker, her only qualifications are that she took Spanish in first grade and has a “Fun With Spanish” computer game that she plays in “English” mode. She keeps saying “Ola” to people who speak English, but last night she scored huge points with our waitress when she said “me gusta” about her spaghetti.

Yesterday we hit the beach. We stopped at a souvenir hut to buy beach supplies: hats, sunglasses, sandals. My son Alex closely monitored my hat purchase, vetoing one model with a shriek: “No, it’s too geezer!!” and another with a groan: “No, it’s too teenager.”  I found one that was juuust right, and was allowed to buy it.

I’ve traded jeans and a black turtleneck for an Italian bathing suit and a coverup. You’re welcome, Europe, for my modesty. Europe is not returning the favor. We’re at a geezer beach strewn with bellies stretched by sun and sundaes.  And yet bikinis rule this land.

Most men seem to have gotten the memo: after the age of six, wear boxers. But alas, many males cling to Spandex long after Spandex should cling to them. For forty-somethings, crisp cotton suits suit.  Speedo bathing suits are the beach equivalent of a screaming infomercial: you can’t look away, and tight Spandex on a loose body makes you pity the sales guy, who is all pitch and no product.

Woefully, the women on this beach are no more discrete. Far too many bikinis have been sold to those who have no concern for the consequences. There are failures of software and hardware, a lot of sloshing and spillage, and body parts running amuck. Oh, the humanity. And then there are the grande dames who have forsaken tops completely: northern exposure in a southern climate.

I know that Europeans think Americans are prudes: Guilty. But while the trim young mother playing catch with her son (she’s got quite an arm, that one) is pleasantly disconcerting, I don’t need to see acres of flab interrupted by a nipple the size of a Frisbee.

Fluttering fabric in tropical shades celebrates the beauty of good years and long lives. But bikinis, like mopeds, should be sold only to those who will use them responsibly.

We left the beach for lunch. “Tapas!” I thought, but fell for a place with a balcony overlooking the water. The Breeze Inn had a tiny patio with umbrellas, and a set of steps leading up to apartments on the next floor.  From afar, the waitresses looked like Twiggy, but it was hard to get a good look at them because they wouldn’t come near our table. After they brought us drinks, further contact was prohibited. There were two waitresses, nine tables, and almost eight customers. No wonder they couldn’t take our order.

Lord knows I tried. I tried to catch their eye as they passed our table, but they were absorbed with pressing emergencies: clearing a cup. Straightening a teaspoon. Or gazing at the sea. My seat was in the sun, and the ice in my water melted, and started to boil. But still I couldn’t order.

A German couple sat down, ordered drinks, and received food.  Then a group of young women sat to our left. Although they looked like the waitresses, they suffered from our affliction: they were entitled to drinks, but nothing more.

Twenty minutes in, I made a bold move: I said “Excuse me.”  Although people on the beach far below turned in their deck chairs to see what was the matter, our server, who passed so close that I inhaled polyester fibers from her dress, did not hear me.

Of course not. She was intent on smoothing a napkin at a neighboring table and not convinced that we merited assistance. In desperation, I attempted to excuse myself with the other waitress. But I was inexcusable.

I glanced at a pair of young lovers at the next table. They had food, they had each other, all was well. The young woman methodically dissected a hamburger with a knife and fork and the grim determination of an anaconda devouring a steer. Her swain stroked her arm tenderly, but he was a brave man; I would have been afraid to interrupt her at her feed.

Another German couple sat down, waited expectantly, and was sadly disappointed; apparently being German was not enough to ensure service.

Alex swatted at a bug, and won. It lay on the floor between the tables. The German man said: “Mosquito?” I wanted to answer: “Honey, it’s fresh, and it’s dead. Better eat that while you have a chance, because nothing else is coming.”  But I couldn’t say that in German.

The abandoned young women developed hostile stares. The newly arrived Germans developed cricks in their necks from constantly turning to stare at the waitresses.

Bored, I watched people descend the stairs from the next level. A series of Adonises appeared. Trim, tan, muscled. They carried volleyballs. Or towels. Or volleyballs. They were mesmerizing, and the distraction carried me through the next stage of hunger: drooling. Or maybe the drooling was all about the Adonises.

The determined diner polished off her burger. The sight of her empty plate, or maybe her mordant knife, triggered in her lover an unexpected desire. He held her face in his hands. He cupped her chin in his fingers. He pulled her closer and then….

“OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!” Let’s just say what happened next was disgusting. If you’d like to hold onto your lunch, skip the next sentence. Well here you are, and it’s your own darn fault: He…no, I can’t say it. He…let’s say that he relieved her pores of certain facial impurities. At the table. OH MY GOOOODDDDDD!!!

We were finally served, although by that time I was no longer interested in eating.

And then I understood. Maybe that couple were regulars. Every day they sat there, she ate her hamburger, he moved in for the kill, and everyone in the restaurant lost their appetites. What was the point of serving people who had lost their desire for food? The Twiggies were trapped in a Sisyphean struggle and had literally dropped the ball.

Thar she blows, indeed. And you thought I meant the bikinis.

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