Consider the Beach – The New York Times

A friend and I like to send each other photos of the corniest beach house signs we encounter, those punny plaques that declare a Margaritaville state of mind rules in this house. The signs are made of painted driftwood and say stuff like “Sand by Me” and “It’s Always 5 O’Clock Here” and “If You’re Not Barefoot, You’re Overdressed.” These are all variations on the overarching theme, the through line of summer vacation: Life is a beach. You are hereby commanded to put on a brightly colored swimsuit, sip a frosty cocktail garnished with a slice of pineapple and relax.

This is one of the problems I think non-beach people have with the beach. That mandate to hang loose, to be easy and fun and not care that invisible bugs are biting you all the time. Non-beach people lament that the beach is one of the few places where you can’t get everything you want at any time (this is precisely what recommends the beach to others). So you need to pack with provisions for any contingency, like you’re deploying for six months to a remote location of unpredictable climate and topography, perhaps the moon.

As a child, the beach was uncomplicated. I loved nothing more than to sit in the sand all day in a damp bathing suit making drip castles and letting a soft-serve ice cream cone melt down my arm. But as a teenager, some combination of body shame and a desire to appear as vampiric and vitamin D-deprived as the goth musicians I idolized made me into a person who wanted nothing to do with the sun and therefore nothing to do with the brand of plastic fun that the beach was peddling.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood there are many different ways to be at the beach and many different ways to be a beach person. The beach can be a full-day family affair, with inflatable sea horses and economy-size bottles of SPF 75 and a cooler of soft drinks. It can also be a solo sojourn on a Tuesday afternoon with just a towel, a hat and a book. The beach is a site freighted with so much preparation and expectation that we forget it’s just a location. We project all kinds of meaning onto the place but really, it has no meaning that we don’t give to it. It doesn’t insist that a particular kind of good time be had there. It’s land and water, evidence of the earth’s functions, erosion and deposition, tides and currents.

The beach for me these days is participatory performance art. I love to see people unfurl their beach selves under the sun’s spotlight. To see how they’re adorning themselves, the music they’re blasting, the way they stake their territory, their peculiar rituals and accessories.

I like the community aspect of it all: Your music is, for better or worse, my music, for you are my neighbor for one brief day and this is our pop-up neighborhood. I like to eavesdrop on people’s conversations and observe how they discipline their children and, if they seem interesting, offer them some of my chips. I even like that moment of danger when a big breeze comes and someone’s giant, improperly anchored beach umbrella unmoors and comes soaring down the sand.

We’re all in this together, I think, in my dopey sun-drunk stupor. Today, we live here, not in our houses or apartments with their climate control and Wi-Fi and roofs, but here, outside, exposed to the elements and the gulls and the gaze of others. Today, we agree, life really and truly is a beach, or at least this beach, and here we are, living that life as extravagantly as we can manage.

📺 “The Bear” (Thursday): In the previous season of this Hulu show, Carmy Berzatto and his team had just a handful of weeks to open a high-end restaurant. It encapsulated the show’s raison d’être: depicting “the curse and blessing of having a calling,” as The Times’s James Poniewozik wrote in his review.

“Fishes,” a flashback episode set at a stressful holiday dinner, was the show at its best. It features thrilling guest appearances from Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, John Mulaney and Sarah Paulson, as well as heart-wrenching interpersonal dynamics, complex characters and a simmer, simmer, boil of a plot. It’s well worth rewatching before the new season arrives — or, at least, reading this recap from Vulture.

This five-star recipe from Lidey Heuck knows you want to make some ingredient swaps and additions — and, judging by its reader reviews, it’s here for them. Throw in whatever soft herbs you have, add grilled chicken or canned tuna, serve it cold or at room temperature. Requiring just some assembly, it’s a breezy dish for these hot summer days.

The Hunt: They moved to Rome in search of a two-bedroom with a terrace in a central neighborhood. What would their $950,000 budget afford? Play our game.

What you get for $1.5 million: In Prague, that buys you a three-bedroom loft in an revamped factory, a two-bedroom apartment in a 16th-century house or a detached villa in a leafy residential area.

Fragrance: Photosynthesis was the inspiration behind a new scent developed by Pharrell Williams for Louis Vuitton.

Dental health: These five habits can cause a surprising amount of damage to your teeth, experts say.

Travel: Spend 36 hours in Portland, Maine.

Back pain: Walking can be a powerful remedy.

I think of a “mom bun” as a haphazard loop of hair secured up and off the neck, to be worn on days when there are more important things than hair. It’s fast and functional, and doesn’t look good or bad; it just is. But six years deep in parenting, sometimes I do want my hair to look like … something. Plastic claw clips and scrunchies are back in fashion, but I find them both clunky and overly casual. My solution is this affordable and sleek little hair pin. I just twist my hair into a low cluster with one hand. With the other hand, I jab the pin tines downward into the mass, nudging back and forth to get some hold. That’s it. Its steel core means it has absolutely no wiggle or give, so my updo is just as secure as a mom bun — but far more refined. — Hannah Morrill

U.S. Olympic swim trials: For the past week, the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis has hosted the best swimmers in the U.S. as they race for spots on the Olympics squad. The U.S. regularly has the world’s best swim team, and it seems to be assembling another strong one this year:

  • Seven-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky is back, as is Caeleb Dressel, who won five gold medals at the Tokyo Games.

  • Two world records have been broken at the trials: Gretchen Walsh in the 100-meter butterfly, and Regan Smith in the 100-meter backstroke.

  • Thomas Heilman, 17, won the 200-meter butterfly; he’s the youngest male swimmer to make the team since 15-year-old Michael Phelps in 2000.

The highlight tonight may be the women’s 200-meter individual medley, featuring Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh, each of whom has won a world championship in the event. Tonight and Sunday, 8 p.m. on NBC

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