A real-life hook-up on a Spanish beach has sparked controversy, and not just because it featured people who seemed eager to make a go of it but also because it happened where there are often a few uncomfortable gaps — like the sand between the sunbathers or the cypress trees. The girls admitted to dreaming about the two men (one of whom was clearly disinterested) and frolicking around in the open as a reaction to something, such as the sunny weather.
We’ve seen such approaches to an everyday problem elsewhere, such as when a couple pointedlessly jumped in the water to have some fun in front of the cameras in “The Hangover.” And there’s a way to pull the curtain back on the cameras again, in real life, by grabbing some clothes and exiting the beach as quickly as possible. It’s called sunbathing. You don’t even have to use any dildos or pull any sudden moves — the cliffhanger effect will still apply. (C’mon, you know you’ve secretly been waiting for a chance to set that beach on fire and see what happens.)
I don’t know what we’d learn from airing our darkest fantasies, but the fact is, the public depicts for many people a fantasy of nirvana. We are sometimes marked as voyeurs, and that is a behavior most vexing of all.
The bikini-clad woman in that hilarious imagined scene in “America’s Sweethearts” sits astride the man she likes and accepts an offer from him to take him to the beach. The beach is behind her, the sun is in his eyes and the rainbow colors of the leaves near his toes. He notices that she’s wearing a bikini and says, “You’re just putting on.” She replies, “How can I not? I need to know what I’m doing before I do it.” The viewer can only wonder why women such as these are so tantalized by the idea of taking off their clothes in public, and what they’re thinking about the show everyone’s watching. I bet they think they’re looking for love.
Even high-strung academics like Susan Krauss Whitbourne, an expert on relationship dynamics, would probably consider sunbathing a lark. Why is it deemed risky behavior when, in the way that one description of the fictional beach seems to suggest, sunbathing usually involves two guys who don’t even know each other but are both attracted to the same woman?
I’m not saying we should be allowed to hang out at the beach all day. Or that they shouldn’t be able to unwind after work by hopping in the water. Or that there shouldn’t be cameras on them. But the presence of these things tells us that our perception of what is fun, sexy and romantic is based on ideals that are basically unconscious. Often, those who are unaware of these ideas, and thus bring them to reality, can only figure them out later, after they’ve been through the storm.
As we all know, you can’t guess the future. But if there’s one thing we know from reading the cosmos, it’s that these ideals don’t seem to be going away any time soon.