How a libertarian goes swimsuit shopping

May 1, 2010

It’s already blazing hot here at the beach, which is one of the reasons I moved here. (And, parenthetically, why I don’t move to New Hampshire: I just can’t take winters that cold and snowy any more.) I bought a cute swimsuit last week, a two-piece tankini in tropical bright blues and greens, and I can’t wait to wear it.

At my age, my biggest fear is not how I’ll look in a swimsuit. Frankly, I’m not out there as eye candy for anyone else, and I don’t really give a shit if you think I’m not tan enough, too fat, or too hairy to be on the beach. My biggest fear is that total strangers, eager to share their disagreement with the above, will approach a random stranger (moi) to let me know exactly how I look, as if I didn’t know:

“You really need to shave down there.”

“You shouldn’t be wearing a two-piecer; you don’t have the figure.”

“You really need to visit the tanning booth.”

“You really need to lose some weight.” My personal favorite: like fat people don’t know they’re fat.

The current political climate of “if the government’s involved, that makes it my business because I pay taxes” is more of a symptom than a cause of a bizarre shift in personal behavior in this country I can only describe as the abandonment of privacy. The glut of gossip magazines discussing celebrities’ and wannabes’ every private move; the glut of trashy television programs discussing the same topics; the vast amount of information available on the public Internet, including the terminal narcissism known as Facebook and Twitter—all exposing every second of people’s lives to worldwide scrutiny. Some people think this is a good thing. It is certainly legal, but that doesn’t make it good, proper, or right. I’m still scratching my head over how this happened.

Specifically, if you, a total stranger, tell me any of the above, certainly that is your right. However, it’s none of your business. To paraphrase Thoreau, just because you have a right to say something does not mean that saying it is right. Here’s a tip: Saying nothing—shutting your everloving piehole—is always an option.

So if you’re on the East Coast beaches this summer and you see a middle-aged lady in a blue and green Gottex two-piece tankini, reading The New Yorker, smile, wave hello…and move on.

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