I am twenty years old, and I am lying on the beach in Italy. I’m here on scholarship for a five-week-long chamber music festival, and it is weekend number five.
My last chance.
My last chance to see if I have the balls to go topless on the beach, right out in the open, and not drunk this time like at Mardi Gras freshman year.
The sun is shining, the seagulls are squawing, and I smell like coconuts. It is a perfect day. I’m a little sweaty, but it’s the hot and sexy kind of sweaty, more of a glisten really, because hello, I’m twenty. I look around all sneaky-like to do a head count of the other topless ladies. About a third of the women on the beach are topless, and the ones who are wearing tops appear to be doing so only because their bikinis are just that cute. This ratio feels like a reasonable assurance that I can discard my top and not feel totally out of place.
Also, I am pleased to note that we’re not dealing with a bunch of Pamela Anderson types. Just regular everyday sets of tatas ranging from mangoes to mosquito bites. My own set is rather insignificant, and thus unlikely to draw any more attention than the others I am now brazenly ogling. One woman catches me staring and I quickly turn away, feeling like a huge pervert. Do men feel such remorse?
Next head count: How many men are staring at the topless women?
Zero. Nobody seems to give a crap. So, it’s really possible for dudes to be within a quarter mile radius of boobs and not lose their minds? Huh. This is new information for me. I am fascinated.
My heart performs an impressive drum roll. I lift up off my towel and prepare to untie my straps. I’m with a friend and, oddly, I do not want her to see my boobs. I’d rather strangers see. Seems less embarrassing. I turn my back to my friend and she averts her eyes in an effort to respect my insane logic. I am appreciative.
There. It’s done. My boobs are out. In view of the sky and clouds and whatever body of water that is over there and ohmigod, all these people. I haven’t felt this exposed since my last pap smear. No, wait – I have never felt this exposed. A breeze, if you can imagine, a real, made-by-Mother Nature breeze is blowing right on my boobs. On my nipples! Gah! How strange.
I get up from my towel thinking, I’ll just go for a dip in the sea like an ordinary woman who is accustomed to going topless on the beach because there is totally nothing at all extraordinary about being topless. I am so cool. I am the coolest. Yes, I will take a dip and then I can sink into the water up to my shoulders and hide my boobies, and this horrible exercise in audaciousness and self-acceptance will finally be over.
So even though my heart is slamming against my ribcage, I try to be cool, try to act like I do this every day. But… something gives me away.
“One of these topless sunbathers is not like the others.”
Maybe it’s because of my shifty eyes, darting from one person to the next to see if anyone is watching my boobs and me as we waddle awkwardly towards the water. Maybe it’s because I’m standing just a little too straight in my effort to look chill and unaffected. Or maybe it’s because my boobs are blinding white against the surrounding tan skin of the rest of my body, a pair of triangle-shaped islands floating on a coffee sea, a screaming beacon advertising: FIRST TIME TOPLESS!!! YOUNG VIRGIN BOOBIES!!!!
I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something certainly makes me stand apart. I know this because my frantic eyes soon land on a thick pudge of a man, middle-aged, hairy as a sasquatch, and…leering.
He is open-mouth grinning with his tongue lolling out and his head nodding enthusiastically. He raises his hands with his palms facing each other and I think Holy shit, is he going to CLAP? Oh hellllll no. I turn around and—whoops, my friend totally just saw my boobs—head for my beach towel and the two triangular scraps that will restore my dignity. I fight the urge to put my hands over my adorable little nipples and sprint to my top, as I know doing this will only draw more attention and, possibly, laughter.
Yep, I am done with my bare boob experiment. I want out. I cry uncle.
I sit on my towel and put my top back on as nonchalantly as possible, as if it had always been in the plan to take my top off, walk halfway to the water, do a one-eighty and come back and put my top on again. Yeah, that’s right, beachgoers of Italy, I totally planned to do it that way. I sit on my beach towel and listen to my heartbeat roar in my ears while I gulp down that horrible lump that appears in your throat when you’re mortified. I vow never to show my boobs in public again.
One day many years later, bucket lists will become a thing. I will make one for myself. I will write on it:
Go topless on the beach.
And then I will cross that fucker out.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like my books, Red Water, an Amazon Best Seller, and Beyond the Break! To stay updated on new releases, sign up for my newsletter and join my book group on Facebook!