Mrs. Young’s prescription

I have a complicated relationship with Cookie magazine. Part of me hates it, the $379 toddler boots and the cover stories saying Liv Tyler is JUST LIKE YOU. Well, of course she’s not, she’s like, 11, and any moment I spend comparing myself to a celebrity is usually deleterious to my self-esteem. But it also has its strong points, and so Cookie is the one of the two parenting magazines in my ever-mounting inbox that I actually read. (The other is Wondertime, which is part of the Disney family, but really, don’t hold that against it.)

Cookie has an irreverent streak to it, amidst its ridiculous and conspicuous commercialism. It seems to wink at me, saying, well, of course you’re not going to buy Maddie the suede jacket, but c’mon, you’d look pretty good in it, wouldn’t you? And are you not still a woman? Cookie gets that I don’t want to read about squash recipes and scrapbooking. I want to read about how to get my groove back.

And so it was with great interest that I read this column in Cookie a month or two ago. Mrs. Young, the romance advice columnist, gave a homework assignment to all of her readers in “long-term coupledom.” Well, that is certainly me. With three small children at home, David and I have a relationship that can often be best described as running a day care with someone I used to date. (No, I didn’t make up that line, wish I did, and really wish I could tell you who did, because, WORD.)

Well, Mrs. Young offers a way out of that rut. I can’t bring myself to get into too much detail, since my mother reads this, but read the article and see for yourself: she prescribes a week of daily activity, as a transformative act for your marriage. (Mrs. Young asked her readers to get it done by October 22nd, and then take a poll and be entered in a raffle to win a trip to Jamaica. Sorry. Despite my best of intentions, I’ve got a few things going on, and now we’ve all missed that boat.) I knew this undertaking would be extremely important, and so I wanted to give it the best chance possible to be successful, and so David and I agreed to give it a shot this past week, when we took a kids-free FIVE DAYS in Mexico.

There was nothing better to do! Well, sleep, of course that would come first, but even after eight hours, plus say a ninety-minute afternoon nap, we’d still have a lot of time on our hands, and heck, there was NO TELEVISION in our room. No distractions whatsoever!

Well. I was almost right about that. There were indeed very few distractions. But there was one very large distraction:

Our hotel was on a topless beach.

Not a mandatory topless beach, oh God no thank you. Just a once-in-a-while, someone taking a stroll down the beach right by your chair topless. And let me just say, for the record, I feel there is not a less sexy sight IN THE WORLD than a topless beach.

You may not believe me. So I just tried to download a photo of a topless beach to give you all the idea, but Google SafeSearch isn’t letting me. And really, you’re all better off.

I didn’t see anyone with her top off this week who would not have looked definitively better with one on. Who wouldn’t, really? Anyone who walked by with her boobs out just looked WEIRD, but in that can’t-look away-weird. At least David and I were able to bond over our weirded-out feeling. “Here she comes again,” he’d stage-whisper. “That same lady from yesterday.” And then he’d try to go back to his Sudoku, and me to the same novel I’ve been reading since June, but who the heck were we kidding? We’d basically just hold our breath until the topless bather passed, and then giggle for five minutes.

Some topless bathers walked around, some laid on their chairs. We saw one particularly confounding case lying on her back sunbathing under an umbrella, IN TOTAL SHADE. Does that not nullify the point of being topless? If you’re not actively sunbathing the white parts, why are you doing it?

We saw Shady Topless’ friend the next day, also top-free, with this total wedgie bottom, and what had to be an entire bolt of fabric wound around her head in a sort of Erykah Badu circa 1997 way.

And I just wanted to ask her, is that all you packed in your suitcase? Your thong panties and thirteen bedspreads? And if you have all that fabric with you, actually ON YOUR PERSON, why aren’t you WEARING any of it?

This woman wasn’t an African-American, mind you. She was a white woman, whose hair maybe didn’t look so great under her Marge Simpson head wrap, but whose skin was so remarkably pale that I longed for her to rethink her batik distribution. “I’m still thinking about that pale lady with the thing on her head,” I told David that night. “I hope she wasn’t too sunburned.”

“Do boobs hurt more than other skin if they’re sunburned?” he wanted to know.

I had to admit, I had no idea.

All these bare boobs, paradoxically, were a complete turnoff. The OPPOSITE of titillating. We had to work very hard to overcome the sights of the topless senior citizens that overwhelmed us every time we closed our eyes. We may have been on one of the most romantic beaches in the world, for some people, but it made me feel more pre-pubescent, “sex is GROSS!” than I’ve felt since being, well, a pre-pubescent.

And then we came home, and Maddie was up for the day at 4:30 am, and, well, our experiment went out the window. So we didn’t get there. I hope to try again one of these days, perhaps when Maddie leaves for college.

Still, I do want to encourage all of YOU to try it. Just, whatever you do, don’t go to a topless beach. Unless you and your husband dig head wraps.