How I pack for the beach (really)

I just un-packed my suitcase from having spent a week at the beach. I’m surprised how much it resembles un-packing from a week at camp when I was a little kid. I wore almost none of the things I had packed. Does this happen to you?

I take out one–two–three–four cute outfits, unworn, with jewelry to go with them. What was I thinking? Jewelry?

Every year when I come home from the beach, I resolve to pack smarter the next year, but every year, I do the same thing. (Truthfully, if I wear anything cute at all, it’s the new outfit that I bought specifically to wear at the beach, so I’ll be hog-tied if I don’t wear it before I come home.)

But other than that one new outfit, I wear the same three to four things all week: bathing suits, exercise clothes, and one–maybe two–normal outfits. A sweatshirt one time. That’s it.

But that’s not how I pack.

Oh, no. I pack long pants, jeans, capris, shorts, leggings, tee shirts, cute tops, long-sleeved tops, casual dress, exercise clothes, tennis clothes, sweater, sweatshirt, jacket, 3 bathing suits, 2 cover-ups, a variety of flip-flops, tennis shoes, and cute sandals. For what purpose?

Well, it’s all very logical when I’m packing in my bedroom. Even though I’ve faithfully monitored the Weather Channel for the past 2 weeks, you never know what the weather at the beach will turn out to be or what exactly you will be in the mood to do (other than sit and admire the water). If the forecast is sunny and hot, you will have at least 1-2 days of rain and wind, and vice versa. It’s always colder at night that you think, windier than you think, or hotter than you think. You will most definitely feel like playing tennis if you leave your tennis skirt at home.

It’s called preparation, people.

Hence, the need for a big suitcase.

Yet, when I’m actually at the beach, I hesitate to dirty more clothes–what am I doing, really, but sitting around getting sand on myself? And the best thing is–nobody knows me at the beach! So who cares? Only my family, and they’ve seen me every day of my life, when I’m frying bacon at 7 am and when I’m blubbering over Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time. My family doesn’t require my wearing make-up and clean clothes to love me.

But I only remember this truth once I’m at the beach. Maybe that in itself is a good reason for going.

I was reminded of this revelation over an incredible seafood dinner (crab cakes and shrimp gumbo!) for our final night of a beach vacation. I was wearing a fairly cute outfit, which I wore again the next day. (Hey, it’s comfy, and it wasn’t really dirty.)

I went to use the restroom at the restaurant and happened to look in the mirror while I washed my hands. Holy Smokes! I scared myself. The combination of ocean air, South Carolina humidity, and my aversion to actually doing my hair on vacation made an alarming picture–a giant ball of frizz. I had no make-up on.

Just plain old beach me. Hmm. I pulled a lipstick out of my purse and swished it over my lips. Better. (After all, I am out to dinner!) Then I smoothed over my hair, which was the best I could do, under the circumstances.

I returned to the table. “Why didn’t you guys tell me how wild I look? My hair is ridiculous.”

They looked at me like I had two heads.

“You have lipstick on.” (Hmm, maybe they do notice.)

“What’s wrong with your hair?” (Okay, clearly, they don’t.)

See? At the beach, life is simple. It’s always clear what’s important and what’s not. I guess that’s why we go.

Maybe taking all those extra clothes is just part of my shedding process. I’m figuring out once again how baggage works, literally and figuratively. I can carry it around with me, but I really don’t need to wear it.

The things that matter most you can’t even put in a suitcase.

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