Just Another Day At The Beach
When Clothing is Optional and you have a Disability not much is Typical
I had to sit in a wheelchair for three hours. Or, I got to sit in a wheelchair for three hours. Perspective is everything.
I was excited to go to the beach for the first time in about 18 years. It is extra challenging with a disability. I am fortunate to have a boyfriend who has the patience of a saint and wanted to take me to New Jersey’s only legal clothing optional beach no matter how hard it would be.
He has been going to this beach for many years. Since we’ve been involved, he has been there a few times by himself. He loves it there. He wanted to give me a day at the beach with him. I really miss going to the beach:
Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook is managed by the National Park Service. As such, they are ADA compliant. They have beach wheelchairs you can borrow at no charge for the day.
We planned a visit on a Saturday when the extreme heat was set to break. I made a reservation to get a wheelchair. We decided not to worry about the crowds and the traffic on a beautiful Saturday going to the beach at the end of summer.
We brought some clothes in case it got cool out, some snacks, and water. I brought a book, and Rex brought a guitar. Of course, we had hats and sunscreen.
The ride in the wheelchair from the parking lot to the beach was long. Part of it was smoothed over by a type of mat on the sand, but the rest was a stretched out expanse of sand in blazing sun. There were hundreds of people on the beach when we got there at around noon making it harder to steer the chair which wasn’t all that nimble.
At the first stretch of wide open beach, there was a volleyball net where a bunch of naked guys were playing. I thought it would be fun to play with them, but knew that I couldn’t.
Rex powered through the sand and tried to get near the water. The sun shone on the waves.
There was very little open space. When we tried to park next to the lifeguard stand, we were told we couldn’t park that close because they needed a clear space to run with the boards should they need to get in the water quickly. We watched numerous parties try to park there after we backed up and set up camp behind the lifeguards.
As soon as we parked the wheelchair, Rex set about taking off my dress. I sat in my underwear because standing up to take them off would pose too much of a challenge to my balance. He put sunscreen all over my exposed body.
I knew the water was warm this late in the season. I also knew there was no way to get me near the water safely because of issues with balance and weakness. Rex sat on a blanket in the sand next to me.
He didn’t want to leave me sitting alone for long periods, but did take several quick dips in the ocean. I watched him and hundreds of other naked bathers with envy as they effortlessly walked through the sand and into the water.
As I sat and read my book, I was often distracted by the sights of unselfconscious people walking around in various states of undress. Perhaps the most interesting feature was the tattoos. You see all of them that are normally covered by clothing. I saw a lot of piercings I have never seen, too. There was jewelry in places where it shouldn’t be in my opinion. No one seemed concerned about their stretch marks, scars or sagging skin.
There was no pretense about fashion. Everyone was wearing their skin. We were free and perfectly natural.
We ate our sandwiches and some blueberries. Rex played the guitar and we sang together.
I had to do a lot of mental work over the course of three hours sitting in a wheelchair on the beach in order to remain grateful for what I was doing and not stay too focused on what I couldn’t do.
It absolutely sucked to be that close to the ocean and not be able to go in it. Not being able to get up and walk around at all was no fun, either.
But, the sun was shining and it was warm but not hot. There was a breeze. The beach was gorgeous and my eyesight is good. I saw more naked men by an order of magnitude than I have seen thus far in my life.
I am very much alive and aware of what is going on with the ability to appreciate it all.
I know a man who loves me and wanted to take me to the beach without regard for the difficulties and limitations my condition imposes on us. None of that was about him in any way. I’d been married to someone for whom my having a stroke became all about how it affected him. This was such a refreshing change.
By three o’clock in the afternoon it was time to go to the bathroom that was near the parking lot. We decided to pack it in and call it a day to avoid two trips over the sand.
Several people asked about the wheelchair during the long hike back to the parking lot. Many commented that they need one, too. Someone asked where we got it and if we had it made as it was built from PVC pipes. Another man wanted to know if we wished it was motorized. People asked if Rex wanted help pushing.
At the end of the day, we declared it a successful trial run to the beach as we learned a few things. Rex was trying to think of how we could get me in the water next time perhaps with the help of a few guys.
It is an ongoing effort to be able to turn a limiting situation like having to sit in a wheelchair at the beach for three hours into a positive experience. I got to sit in a wheelchair at the beach for three hours.
Thank you for reading :)