I just got back from our yearly vacation to Ogunquit, Maine. Despite the fact that I can’t leave the house without fully immersing myself in a vat of baby sunscreen — despite the fact that I do not own ONE SINGLE PAIR OF SHORTS (Have you seen the backs of my legs? Imagine dropping a ricotta pie onto a sidewalk from 10 stories up, and you’ll understand why shorts have not been a part of my sartorial vocabulary in decades.) — I enjoy a “beach holiday.” I enjoy the beach in the evening, when everyone has vacated it. Then I will happily walk it for miles and miles. I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in a beach town, so I am wildly nostalgic for the smells of spilled ice cream, hot sand, low tide, and Coppertone.
The problem with me and vacations is that I am just not very good at taking them. My garden variety anxiety disorders, coupled with some milder variants of autistic-like traits, make me….how do I put this?….not the type of person most resorts are targeting. Oh, and I also don’t drink. Nobody wants me at their resort, trust. I’m not going to buy drinks, I won’t go in the pool unless it’s really late at night, and I also like to read weird things like mortuary supply catalogs.
A vacation, for me, means waking up maybe an hour later than I usually do, getting dressed, and then hopping up and down in front of Coombsie because I have to get out of the room, like, immediately. I HAVE TO BE DOING SOMETHING BECAUSE I AM ON VACATION. Then I get huffy because all of the other people on vacation ARE WALKING TOO SLOW. I go to a museum, and I whip around every exhibit at least three times, and I run into Coombsie, who’s lingering thoughtfully over a painting I saw at least 25 minutes ago, and I’m saying, “OKAY CAN I GO TO THE GIFT SHOP NOW?!” Sometimes I force myself to sit still and enjoy a nice view, and to make sure that everyone around me is convinced that I’m enjoying it, I say over and over again, “Isn’t this nice? I’M ON VACATION!”
Maybe that’s an exaggeration. And when I say “maybe,” I mean that it’s totally not.
I did have a good time. Like I said, I’m a sucker for beach towns. I love weathered little cottages and driftwood and all the stores that sell the exact same cack. And Ogunquit has excellent fireworks on the 4th of July. Really. Ogunquit’s fireworks rival Boston’s. I daresay they’re BETTER, because they’re on the beach, and you can head WAY OUT, away from all the people and their glowing Frisbees and bugspray, and still have an awesome view. But as we headed back to our hotel last night, we walked by The Front Porch, which is this terrific piano bar, and everyone was singing this piano bar version of “We Are Young” at the top of their lungs:
We are young
so let’s set the world on fire
we can burn brighter than the sun
Now, of course, the irony of that wasn’t lost on me. “I’m getting drunk! Someone’s gonna have to carry my drunk ass home! Toniiiiiiight we are DRUNK!” It’s really a thoroughly depressing song if you think about it. And since lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my early-to-mid-twenties, it made me a little sad. Set the world on fire, just as soon I finish this drink.
So we wound our way through the throngs of cranky kids, crankier parents, gay men, and Québécois, and as we headed out of the village, I began noticing packs of teenagers in their giant sweatshirts and impossibly tiny shorts. And I said out loud, “Summer nights belong to fifteen year olds.” They don’t belong to the drunk people in the bar singing about setting the world on fire. They don’t belong to the Québécois. They certainly don’t belong to people like ME, with my eight layers of congealing sunscreen and my sand-filled Danskos. They belong to the kids who are completely in the moment of each and every one of those nights. Every night is a world of possibility. Laughing too loudly to get someone’s attention. Dying of embarrassment when you do.
I can enjoy a summer night on my porch, or at some beach town, but I don’t really embody that energy the way a fifteen year old does. And that’s okay. My possibilities are within my sights.