The beach is a romantic idea in my head and on my phone.

As 6pm hits, I see Instagram stories of women casually popping to the beach after work, swapping out their blazers for tie-up bikinis.

Kia ora, I’m Janhavi – one of the Re: News journalists – and I have never “popped” to the beach.

My beach visits involve a lot of mental and physical preparation, followed by me stressing out over why I’m not more relaxed about it all.

Saying “I hate the beach” feels too simplistic so I guess what I really mean is…

I hate shaving just so I can wear tiny clothes

I despise how Eurocentric beauty ideals have convinced us that grown women should be hairless.

As a hairy person, trying to conform to those ideals means shaving a lot of my body if I want to wear swimwear.

Shaving is backbending work and involves exfoliating beforehand, thoroughly moisturising afterwards and taking care of razor bumps and cuts along the way.

Doing all of this just so I can squeeze into a bikini that makes me incredibly insecure feels like a scam.

I’m petrified of the ocean

I’m named after a body of water – the Ganges – and I’m also a water sign – a Cancer – but open water terrifies me.

If the legendary Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, I’m not sure what match I would be against the powers that lurk in the sea.

It doesn’t help that I’m a bad swimmer and have watched the movie Titanic multiple times.

I hate sun exposure

Despite being a melanated person, I’m allergic to the sun.

My photosensitivity makes me prone to sunburn and means my lips swell and my face breaks out in hives when I’m in the sun for too long.

The hives stick around for several days and make my skin sensitive – I never feel like showing my face in public after I get a reaction.

To keep allergic reactions at bay, I have to take antihistamines before and during sun exposure.

Wearing sunscreen is also a must.

Before leaving the house during summer, I use a SPF lip balm and an expensive sunscreen that is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t leave a white cast on my face.

Even after I’ve slipped, slopped, slapped and wrapped, I still wonder if the time I spend in the sun will be worth my face potentially exploding the next day.

I hate tanning

The more melanin your skin has, the easier you tan.

Which is a stitch up because colourism is deeply entrenched within South Asian culture.

To be ‘beautiful’ is to be light skinned – one of India’s most famous beauty products is a whitening cream called ‘Fair & Lovely’.

While some Pākehā spend money on tanning products, I tan very easily against my own will.

Whenever I came home from a day of playing in the sun as a child, my parents would inform me I had become darker.

Unintentional tanning combined with allergies mean I associate the sun with feeling crap about my appearance, something I’m trying to unlearn.

Mostly though, I hate being perceived at the beach

The summer after my first year of university, I visited my best friend at her family home in Matakana, Auckland.

Being the kind of person who would “pop” to the beach, she drove the two of us to Ōmaha bay.

The sun was beating down, I was wearing a bikini and after an hour I’d developed a noticeable tan.

I should’ve hated it, but I didn’t because there wasn’t another soul who knew me on that beach.

I could deal with all of my insecurities and fears as long as no one was there to watch me do it.

When I say I hate the beach, I mean I hate being perceived at the beach.

Doja Cat’s Hot Pink album played quietly through my phone speakers while my friend read her novel and I scribbled haiku into a notebook.

It’s been three years but I still think about the hours I spent at Ōmaha

I still make a point of forcing myself to go to the beach once every summer.

A part of me feels obligated to, the same way you might keep trying a food you find gross to check whether you still hate it.

Another part of me knows the only way I’ll ever befriend the beach is by rising above my anxieties.

The beach won’t change on account of my hatred.

I can either keep watching people have fun on my phone, or I can change my mind and “pop” in.

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