This Is How A Middle-Aged Couple With Anxiety Books A Holiday

There are certain undeniable factors when two people with anxiety get married. 1. There will be a lot of overthinking, and 2) We can talk ourselves out of pretty much anything.

Raising a cocktail toast in front of a beautiful beach.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Such has been the marital soap opera created by my decision that we go on a proper holiday this year – a decision that has at times felt like having teeth pulled without anaesthetic underneath the maskless face of a caffeine-addicted dentist.

Every possible destination was considered during our intense negotiations – including some of the great ones suggested by some of you – until eventually we managed to narrow the choice down to three – once terrorism, risk of gastro, length of flight and language had been taken into consideration.

New Zealand, Vietnam and Hawaii.

Uncharacteristically generously, I gave the old man the final choice, and after much shaking of his head and chewing on his lip, he opted for New Zealand. Too easy, I thought (misguidedly), as I launched myself into another week of unpaid work in the form of research – even procuring the services of a lovely local tour company who created the most perfect itinerary for us (that didn’t include Christchurch, due to its earthquake issues), and just about squeezed into the budget.

And somewhat foolishly, I truly believed that the holiday was done and dusted when I handed the itinerary over to my husband, chomping on the bit to get started on broadcasting the news to my fellow anxious travellers and friends on Facebook that I hate on a little bit more each time I see them downing Tequilas on another beach.

Then the old man decided that New Zealand is too cold in October.

‘Okay…’ I replied, through gritted teeth.

‘Let’s brave Vietnam,’ he said, three Whiskies into a Friday night.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked.

‘Absolutely. It’s time to push ourselves out of our comfort zone,’ he lied, in what I now recognise was a very clever delaying tactic.

And so another intense week of research followed during which I pulled together a fantastic holiday that encompassed several days in Hanoi, a brief sejour in Sapa, and a week in Halong Bay. Indeed, so confident was I that Vietnam was our final destination, I had already checked out cooking courses, markets and hotels. But then I dropped into the conversation that the trip included an overnight train journey to Sapa…

‘What overnight train?’ the old man asked, a worried look on his face.

‘Relax,’ I said. ‘You get your own cabin and it only takes seven hours,’ I started to bluster as I tried to convince myself at the same time. ‘AND it will save us the cost of a night in a hotel.’

‘And there’s an overnight stay on a boat in Halong Bay, as well?’ he asked.

‘Maybe…’

‘On a boat?’

Needless to say, Vietnam was also quietly put on hold until we have earned our travel stripes, which left us Hawaii. However, too exhausted by this stage to think about it or to cope with the inevitable disappointment when my husband changed his mind AGAIN, I threw the ball in his court.

‘You bloody organise it,’ I said, passing him the gauntlet.

I picked the gauntlet back up a few days later and gave him a deadline of last weekend to book – otherwise all sorts of shit was going to go down in our place, I promised him, that amongst other things involved a 60/40 split of our accumulated wealth once we reached the divorce courts.

And, dear friends, we have booked a holiday, with only three months in between now and then to worry about what can possibly go wrong – ie. being approved for our visas, being forced to sleep in the same bed, driving on the wrong side of the road, whether we’re allergic to the pollen in Leis and if the timing of happy hour will work with nap time. So very soon I will be pissing you all off with my very own Photoshopped holiday snaps on my social media accounts of us topping up our Valium sipping Pina Coladas around our pool.

Why Women Are Owed Celebrity Dick Pics

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It’s a penis, FFS!

In case you haven’t heard, the actor Orlando Bloom – the very same hunk of gorgeousness who sparred and smouldered his way through LOTR as Legolas, went on to marry Miranda Kerr, and is now dating Katy Perry – got papped with his kit off last week. 

 

As in FULL FRONTAL. PENIS.

 

You might also be aware that it’s huge news when a celebrity gets caught in the buff, but even more so when it’s a male celebrity, because there aren’t equal nudity clauses in movie contracts when it comes to men and women, so the penis has become somewhat hallowed in its appearance.

 

Whereas we’ve been exposed to the complete smorgasbord of tits and fannies through our lives – I used to have to look at them on page 3 of The Sun every morning at breakfast – which makes it a rare, and frankly fine day, when you get a cop of a non-sexual dick pic.

 

Somehow we ended up playing an improvised game of Charades at the dinner party we attended on Saturday night and I chose ‘Orlando Bloom’ for my opposing team to guess, (kinder, I believed, than someone else’s suggestion of ‘lasagne’), and was somewhat surprised to see that none of our middle-aged friends had heard about Orlando’s ‘paddle’ photos which had trended on Twitter and broken all records on social media.

 

Which is probably because my friends are not as a) desperate b) sad or c) bored enough to get titillated by penis photos of a celebrity – and TBH, even I’m not sure how I justify my frantic search for the uncensored photos, so I acknowledge that some might see it as rather louche for a fifty-year old mother to seek out unsolicited pictures of a young man’s dick. And definitely a case of double standards.

 

But my interest wasn’t about his dick exactly…because like the majority of women, I am appalled and affronted by the invasion of privacy when phones and computers are hacked and nude photos of female celebrities are leaked.

 

Although… in Orlando’s case, his public unveiling did take place on a beach, in broad daylight, with the blessing of Katy, in front of other bathers…and it was quite a beautiful sight.

 

And how many of us would do that if we really cared about the fall out?

 

Personally, I think that the phenomenal interest in these photos is about more than titillation. It’s because we’ve been starved of penis in the media as well as a statement of women’s desire for some catch up –  as in ‘tit for knob’ (as opposed to tit for tat). Sure, we know that it’s an invasion of privacy when we feast our eyes salaciously on Bloom and Bieber’s bits, but we also feel entitled to a bit of equality here. We’d like men to understand for once what the full glare of sexual exploitation means, and if Orlando, (like a handful of other actors who have whipped it out for their craft, apart from you, George) is prepared to play ball, I have all the more respect for him.

 

It’s a penis, FFS!, and in case you’re itching with curiosity, a nice one at that.

Nailing The Middle-Aged Beach Routine

Yes, we have become THAT middle-aged couple who go to the beach, fully prepared, military-style, for Hurricane Patricia or a tsunami at the very least. 

Nailing The Middle-Aged Beach Routine
Obviously this image bears absolutely no resemblance to us on the beach.

Because when you’re middle-aged, anxiety makes damned sure that you’re super-prepared for any eventuality. It’s not like when you were young, free and impulsive and just threw on any old bikini, grabbed any towel and spent the whole day oblivious to potential skin melanomas, what sand does when it gets in your vagina or under your foreskin and dehydration.

The old man and I have become professional middle-aged beach goers.

We know exactly where to get our sneaky parking spot, we only go to the north end of the beach where the rocks are so dangerous we know there won’t be any young families, and we arm ourselves with every conceivable means of sun protection.

Which, I know, kind of begs the question why we actually go to the beach at all?

He ALWAYS carries the beach bag and beach chairs; I ALWAYS carry the beach brolly and lunch. Obviously, I can’t trust him with our sandwiches until we get onto the beach.

We even take our own home-made sandwiches, fresh fruit and water these days – to save money. Because we’re THAT middle-aged and seriously classy all at the same time.

Those days when we took bottles of cold beer and chips seem like a lifetime ago now.

Once we arrive on the beach we have our routine of setting up our ‘spot’, which takes place with military precision, each knowing what the other’s responsibilities are. Out come the his n’hers beach chairs with matching towels, the brolly is erected and sun screen applied – which takes a bit longer these days due to our increased surface areas – then we sit on aforementioned beach chairs, (until they start hurting our backs), people-watch and wonder what the fuck to do with ourselves.

Nailing The Middle-Aged Beach Routine
Sandy sandwich

‘I bet you eat your sandwich within ten minutes of getting to the beach,’ I had joked with the old man on the way this morning. Because we have interesting conversations like that in the car.

‘What am I doing for the first ten minutes, then,’ he joshed back.

Hilarious

Today was an all-time record when he began to talk about his sandwich within one minute of our bums sinking indelicately into our beach chairs, and within five he had opened the foil like an over-excited school boy and promptly dispensed the contents that I had so lovingly chosen for him straight onto the sand.

Karma!

Shouldn’t have moaned about the pesto, I thought, as those always-hungry, scary white beach birds began to surround us to scavenge.

All oxygen in our two square metres of sand was extricated immediately from the atmosphere as I watched the old man fight internally his need to have a full-blown, middle-aged, man-trum, while even the annoying, scary white birds stood back with a ‘Whoa’ and watched on in embarrassment.

But luckily, it was just my fault again…apparently due to my poor ‘sandwich packing’ skills.

Ha ha!

Lunch over, and the disappointment of that very fact settling in, we searched the beach for something to entertain us now that the old man had eaten and my fair skin was beginning to turn a redder shade of burnt, in spite of the immense diameter of my wide-brimmed hat which shaded all the families within a 10m radius of our ‘spot.’ From the old man’s perspective, I imagine that all visible boobs had been duly noted and scored, and from mine, I had picked out all male torsos worth perving on behind dark glasses later in the day, while the old man took his afternoon nap.

But luckily we still had our walk to look forward to, with a warm up just getting our asses back out of our sunken beach chairs. We’ve become rather sucked into the 10,000 steps a day philosophy for fitness, recently – apparently it’s called ‘incidental’ fitness, but I can assure you there’s nothing fucking ‘incidental’ about walking ten kilometres.

But we were yet to experience another tinge of disappointment upon our return when the Apple fitness device informed us that by the end of our walk a mere 4000 steps had been used up, in spite of dragging our feet through thick, hot sand the full length of the beach and back like lost Bedouins.

Nothing that a nice few glasses of cold wine won’t put right this evening, though.

What it does mean, however, is that today’s loser will have to run up the four flights of stairs to the apartment (several times) rather than take the lift, just to equalise.

I ignored the unsubtle teasing of the old man in the car as he kept reminding me that ‘there can only be one winner, Lou.’

These little competitions keep us together and mentally astute.

The sport of beach napping is the reward for enduring the middle-aged beach visit. However, there are certain rules about letting it all hang out while unconscious in a public place: you must lie on your front so that the beach towel can perform its duty of soaking up nap dribble and muffin top sweat, which has a nasty habit of trickling the length of all tummy folds and forming puddles beneath you.

But once in the right position, (ie.a position that you can raise yourself up from afterwards without the need of a younger, helping hand, all the while remaining as attractive as you can, prostrate on the unevenness of sand mounds), beach napping is a task that us middle-aged couples find particularly exhilarating and are very adept at.

And it makes all the torture associated with sand and sun management just about bearable.

Sunning In Sydney, Bondi-Style

Sometimes us middle-aged folk like to remind ourselves what it was like to be young, hip, irresponsible and living close to poverty on the edge, like we did all those years ago when we were students.

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We’ve enjoyed a long, hot weekend here in Sydney, so the old man and I decided to do something a little different this morning and ignore our embarrassingly white, middle-aged, middle-class beach in suburbia and groove on down to Sydney’s iconic Bondi.

Not that Bondi is synonymous with poverty – far from it – but there’s distinctly a more earthy, soulful vibe to be had there than in the Lower North Shore.

The old man and I are so far up our own arses about fitness at the moment that we try to combine exercise with beach at every opportunity these days, and although a temperature of 34 degrees might have scared off the sensible most Sydneysiders, we foolishly saw this as a challenge.

Out came the fitness gear – or the old man’s interpretation of fitness gear, which is a subtle melange of Mexican and Hawaiian influences – we lathered ourselves with layers of factor 50 sun cream, topped up the water bottles and set off on our weekend adventure.

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For those who have never ventured to the shark-infested, turquoise waters and hot white sands of Australia’s beaches, Bondi is iconic in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for several reasons:

  • It is only a few kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, which means it is feasible to surf in your lunch hour.
  • The surf… is apparently really good.
  • Although only beautiful, young people are truly allowed onto the beach, occasionally they let old gits like us on it, to keep the local economy going.
  • The beach can be super-dangerous even by Australian standards. Possible threats to life include rips, massive breakers, jelly fish and rogue surfers who cut across to the swimming section and target innocent backpackers with their boards, which gives us a means to keep our quota of tourists down.
  • Once a working class area, Bondi has become a middle-class enclave with some of the most expensive real estate in the Eastern Suburbs to ogle.

Aesthetically, it’s certainly not the most beautiful beach in Sydney, but if you want a sense of what Australia is really about, it’s a great place to start.

And not just for the beach.

For us cougars, there are a satisfying number of near-perfectly gorgeous male specimens complete with Aussie-stereotypical, rippling brown surfer muscles and tight boardies to gawp at through the cameral lens of your Iphone, while you pretend to take photos of the landscape. IMG_9557

The local cafes and restaurants offer a smorgasbord of every style of cuisine imaginable, although the archetypal Aussie breakfasts are still a standout. Frankly, there ain’t nothing a good Aussie chef can’t do with an avocado. And if you’re well-to-do, there’s Bondi Iceburgs restaurant where lots of famous people who have lots of money hang out and feel superior to the proletariat sweltering below them on the beach.

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And did I mention the beautiful people?

Or the barely-there swimwear?

To truly nail the Bondi-style, all you need is an itsy-bitsy bikini with an itsy-bitsy body-type to match, voluminous hippy dress or super-short cut off denim shorts, and wide-brimmed hat. 
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My Jane Fonda work-out gear might have looked a little dated – the leg warmers possibly too much on such a hot day – but I don’t care anymore because I’m over fifty now and with that comes the perfect excuse for poor taste.

Why I Hate The Beach

The time has come to talk about sand.

English: Post in the sand, Brancaster This sin...
English: Post in the sand, Brancaster This single post is stuck at an odd angle in the sand, which is scurrying across the beach in a strong westerly breeze. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that sand is fully responsible for sabotaging my beach experience and I am seeking some sort of intervention. I’ve had a gutful of sand sandwiches, sandy water and retrieving sand particles from orifices I shouldn’t be exploring.

Call it yet another symptom of my middle-age intolerance but when an adverse facet of your life begins to haunt your joie-de-vivre, my therapist says that something has to give. So I’m giving up the beach.

And yes, we did move to Australia to be close to the beach.

I’ve realised that sand does not in fact maketh the beach. That a beach without sand could potentially still be a great beach. That if we turfed the sandy areas of the beach and called in climate change to stop reneging on its promises and really crank up the ocean temperature just that few precious degrees, the pool industry would be out of business.

I DO get the draw of the beach, don’t get me wrong. I’m as attracted to the soporific sound of gentle waves crashing on the shore as the next person. I’m quite receptive to the feel-good factor of hot sun on my skin and and the resulting vitamin D infusion through my body (well, before it TITFs into a melanoma of course). I’m even quite partial to the revitalising powers of a refreshing dip in the ocean.

But then there’s the sand issue. Ever wondered why you never see your friends with pools on the beach?

It’s the sand. They know.

Sand is fundamentally an irritant, in what should be a relaxing environment. Sand is highly invasive. It is the faux-ami of everything beach culture stands for and is certainly not conducive to being chilled out. Frankly, I’d prefer to be air-lifted into a toddlers indoor play centre covered in lollies than lie on a sandy beach covered in sticky sun lotion.

Most of my reasons for avoiding the beach are connected to sand. I say ‘most’. Before I move onto the most serious of the ‘sand issues’, let me digress slightly and let us not forget the plethora of other minor nuisances associated with beaching, that make pools the more obvious choice, such as:

  • betrayal of the muffin top in the hands of a cheap tankini in the face of a wave;
  • remodelling of the bikini-top by rogue surf forcing uncensored exposure of mortifyingly sagging breasts;
  • the strain of finding the right angle to read (a position where the sun isn’t burning through your eye sockets like a laser and your arm still has some circulation);
  • the strain of achieving the right angle to perv or even sunbathe;
  • the shearing of delicate muscle tissue during over-liberal application of suntan lotion to difficult-to-locate body parts.
  • Not forgetting the sharks, of course, or all those other evil critters that lurk in the ocean. Waiting.

But the true culprit of beach hell is sand, as innocuous and appealing as it might look.

Here’s a small sample of the ways in which sand can impact the beach experience of the average innocent holiday-maker. For after years of extensive personal research, I have identified the following adverse bodily symptoms to demonstrate fully the human body’s natural intolerance to sand, and the evidence for why our beaches should be turfed:

  • Blistering of the feet soles thought to be linked to walking on hot sand between the boardwalk and the ocean. This has commonly been described as the ‘ouch, ouch…..ouch’ dance.
  • Extensive muscle fatigue leading to distortion of the human physique as a result of lengthy periods of time simply trying to get into a comfortable position on sand.
  • Skin abrasions caused by inadvertently mixing sun lotion with sand, leading to a concoction with powers akin to exfoliating cream leading to ‘sanding’ of the derma during intense application.
  • Blisters and bites caused by evil ants, lava, spiders and small crab critters that camouflage themselves heinously well in the sand, until they spot a food source.
  • Eye irritations caused by sand spray. The causes of ‘Sand Spray’ have been linked to annoying, mobile toddlers, thongs in motion, teenagers who think that the beach is the ideal spot to play a game of soccer and stray beach balls.
  • Inflammation of the many human orifices caused by the advanced burrowing capabilities of the common sand grain which seems peculiarly attracted to warm, moist areas that they can adhere to easily.

There are reasons the Sandman, ‘Sandy’, quicksand and the man who builds his house on sand have received such bad press.

Be aware. Turf the beaches.

Beach-Babe or Pool-Princess? Which are you?