We took a jaunt up Route 128 this afternoon to visit Wingaersheek Beach, followed by dinner at a tiny restaurant on the water in Annisquam, a quirky oceanfront village just around the coast from Gloucester. Being on a vacation, John had it in his head that the beach would have emptied out by five o’clock, but of course, on a beautiful summer Sunday in July, there were still hundreds of people enjoying the afternoon when we arrived.
We walked the length of the beach (which is not far), awed by a flotilla of “party boats” lashed together and anchored on the shore across the inlet from Annisquam, power vessels with solid Boston names like “Mahtini,” “Weekendah,” and “The Codfather.” The boats must have arrived at high tide and moored near shore; a few had misjudged the waterline and were now beached, waiting for the tide to come in again. 80’s and 90’s rock tunes blared from boat speakers, kids paddled in the water, and sunburnt parents draped themselves on deck, enjoying another beer. My friend Cathy and I brought our kids up to Wingaersheek often when they were young; they loved to climb on the mountainous rocks and collect treasures in the tidal pools. I had never before seen this side of the beach’s culture: weekend party central, a parade of summer bodies, tanned, or blotched with uneven burns where the sunblock hadn’t reached, bald, or hairy-backed, the women’s hair wiry from salt, their skin freckled, white lines in the creases of their bronze bellies.
As we walked back to our blanket, I couldn’t help but notice the vast range of shapes and sizes adopted by the human body. We are daily bombarded with images suggesting there is really one acceptable body type: lean, balanced proportions, white or light-skinned. But such “paragons” are in the minority, although we did spy one young couple over in party-boat-land who must have been personal trainers, their abs rippling, arms and legs muscular and perfectly chiseled. John went for a swim, but I didn’t want to eat dinner in a wet suit, so I sat on our towel and admired the cavalcade of physiques: a stout toddler splashed in a nearby tidal pool, while his leggy older sister, about eight or nine years old, chased seagulls. A hunched Asian gentleman in socks and Birkenstocks paced back and forth in front of me, his head extended forward and up like a turtle’s; nubile teenage girls strutted by self-consciously. Many of the dads today sported big bellies and tattoos, with strong legs and thick necks. A brown-and-black family paused in front of me, speaking Spanish. The mom was short, heavyset in a shapely way, and toffee brown; her husband was tall and bald, with bony legs, a tight, round tummy, and beautiful black skin. Their scrawny, long-limbed son resembled his dad, angular and dark. A full-figured teenage daughter was lush and heavy-bottomed in a Kardashian-y way, with thick, wavy hair pulled back in a pony-tail, her skin a warm tone of creamed coffee. Elderly people amazed me particularly, years of wear reshaping their bodies into angles, folds, wrinkles and lumps, so many hours in motion across the span of a life creating shapes and whorls like the patterns on seashells.
It was quite a magnificent display of human anatomy.