I bought a lemlem before I left on my trip thinking I would wear it as a beach coverup, but one of my friends pointed out that I probably wouldn’t want to wear it to walk through town and down to the beach because it’s completely see-through. I packed it anyway hoping that maybe I could wear it around Estelle’s apartment. Then I got here and showed it to Estelle, who shook her head and said, “Bah, oui! Mais bien sûr que tu peux le porter! This is France!” (By the way, this is how we speak to each other: half French, half English.) So I put on my chic little beach coverup and proceeded to walk by at least a half dozen topless women on the beach, and it became clear that I was sporting the most conservative look on the French Riviera.
I used to envy the girls who seemed to tan just by thinking about it. I would watch them frolic on the beach, sporting what I considered to be the perfect body, and I would use my feelings of inadequacy to fuel the fight against my pale, sensitive skin and my curvy, muscular silhouette. I spent a lot of energy trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
So much of our self-worth is tied up in our perception of an ideal. We believe that if we achieve the ideal, it will deliver us from our pain, our awkwardness, and our feelings of emptiness. Ironically, though, our attachment to the ideal is the root of the pain we’re trying to avoid. Embracing myself without conditions has been some of the hardest yoga I’ve practiced. In letting go of my perception of the ideal, I’ve found my ideal. As the panel of judges exist only up in my own head, it’s up to me, then, to inform them of the parameters of my truth.
There are public beaches in the South of France, but many people go to private beach clubs where you can reserve beach chairs and enjoy both waiter service and lunch. My favorite part of spending the day at Estelle’s beach club is lunch. I always order la salade bouquet which is a shrimp and avocado salad with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise on top. I initially cringed at the sight of the mayonnaise, but Estelle rolled her eyes and made that disapproving little French sound where she flutters her lips like a horse, and so I ate the mayonnaise. Obviously it was the best part of the salad.
After lunch (which is of course at least two hours long) you drift off into a rosé-induced nap. Then you swim.
We came home and got ready for dinner. Estelle took me to her favorite restaurant in Golfe-Juan called Le Bistro de Port. She’s been going there since she was a child; the staff knows her by name. The owners are two brothers, one of whom is the chef and the other is the main waiter. They are seriously the nicest people on earth. We ordered their specialty, which is simply the catch of the day. They brought a dorado to our table so that we could inspect it, and then they cook it, filet it, and serve it with a tomato tapenade, des tomates à la provençal (stewed tomatoes with provencal spices), and des pommes rôties (roasted potatoes). It was divine.
Who knows what we’ll do tomorrow, but if I had to guess I’d say that we’ll probably find our way back to the beach. Ahhh, les vacances!