Not long ago our family had our first day at the beach of the 2011 season. I'm glad it's already here.
We went to the public beach, which is what it sounds like--a public strip of coastline. It's not the cleanest, not the nicest beach in Lebanon, and it lacks facilities like showers and toilets. But its proximity can't be beat, it's free, and it's open. We still have a month to go before our favorite private beach opens for the season.
Beaches are great for people watching, great for quietly noticing what everyone else is up to. And, for me, noticing what everyone is doing and wearing.
Children can wear whatever they want. Little boys and little girls were wearing bathing suits, and some were in street clothes. Even the ones in street clothes got into the water, and in the past I've seen kids swim in their underwear without incurring any social censure.
Men also wear a wide range of clothes. They'll sunbathe, play ball games, etc. in anything from tiny Speedos to full street attire.
Women are another matter. Lots of women spend their time at the beach covered from head to toe and some even swim that way. On our most recent visit to the public beach there were dozens of women there, but I saw only two women in sleeveless shirts and shorts--not totally covered up, but also not a bathing suit, not by a long shot.
I'm not sure why this is. It's not that Lebanese women don't wear swimming suits. Many of them do. You see them crowding the many, many private beaches where women's swimwear is, if anything, MORE risque than in the US or Germany (my two points of reference). So why aren't they wearing them at the public beach?
Maybe you, my dear reader, can help me figure this out. Women of Lebanon, or women who are familiar with Beirut's public beach--Have you ever worn a bathing suit there? Would you ever do it? What would it take for you to do it? Leave a comment because I'm dying to know.