YOU ARE GOING ON HOLIDAY. Course you are. You may even be on holiday RIGHT NOW. But to get to this point you will have suffered. We know this. We see you: you will be pale with exhaustion due to all the work you’ve had to do covering all the people who’ve been away before you, as well as your own so that your department/ desk is in good shape. You will be bruised from all the exfoliation: of pores, of hair, of roots. You may be lying on the sunlounger by the pool, knees bent, thighs hanging down, hoping that the position is peak tan-optimising. You see, people are unique but summer holidays are not unique. So we might as well face up to the clichés. Because we’re all grown-ups – and if we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all.
What kind of holiday do you NEED? Because you NEED a holiday. And time is precious. Will it be:
1. An exfoli-cation: a total cleanse inside and out. Stripped of all the bad juju. Starved and pummelled and lectured. Wall-to-wall enemas.
2. A no-cation: if you see or hear, let alone speak, to a child, it’s a no-cation.
3. Make or break-cation: it’s been so long since you had sex that you can’t remember your pet name for his penis. Perhaps the pet name is the problem. You wax, he trims. You floss, he shaves. This is all going to be a bit embarrassing. Best get and stay drunk.
4. Yolo-cation: see you at the Grand Canyon/Angkor Wat/the Inca Trail. You will not be a tourist. Oh no, you will be a traveller. You will broaden your horizons and flirt – very, very, lightly – with death. You camp in villages, you eat strange local stews, you take coloured pencils for the children.
5. The Edu-cation: involving comfortable shoes and even a journal. Possibly a backpack. You’ll be lighting a lot of church candles and praying to the mummified foreskin of St Moritz.
6. The Wa-hey-cation: you are bohemian and drunk. Going to Ibiza makes you bohemian, right? And Majorca is very close so it still counts. So bohemian. So drunk. In one of those floaty dresses that followed you round Instagram until you finally gave in and bought and kept it, even though you now suspect it’s made of actual clingfilm.
Is there anything worse than trying on a swimsuit? *pauses for a moment to think* No. When you try on a swimsuit the laws dictate that you will be your palest, veiniest, hairiest. The lighting will be at its most smear-test brutal. You will be shedding scaly dry skin ‘body dust’ as you tug the swimsuit on and you’ve got your knickers on and probably your shoes. Most likely you’ll be so desperately trying not to cry that you can’t even see if it looks nice or not. You think about cancelling the holiday. If you do this online, you order five different sizes. One sort of *fits*. You must remember to cultivate a ‘swimsuit wardrobe’ like a fully functional human woman.
First there is the bottomless need for options; to scope out the crowd and work out whether it’s a long/short/sequinned/flats/heels/tits/conservative situation; to establish whether you should be at the shabbier, more understated end of the spectrum or if you should be giving it everything you’ve got. Then there are bottles and tube and pots, all of which are HEAVY; night cream, morning cream, afternoon cream, primer, scent, toothpaste, body lotion, SPF, and all the make-up you’ve ever owned plus the ‘directional’ eye shadow you buy at duty free. They aren’t going to fit themselves into that minute clear plastic bag now are they? So now you’re the lump with the enormous case. Or you’re the nimble hand-luggage woman with no nice frocks and no skincare and a bad attitude. Packing is rubbish. And unpacking is worse.
Presumably you’re too tense to do anything at the airport. You just have to sit still and stare – unblinking – at the departures board. God forbid you should miss the boarding announcement by even a nanosecond. And once the gate is announced then it’s go, go, go. No time for Boots or Prada or Sunglass Hut. Are you insane?
You are on holiday. You are game. It suddenly seems like a good idea to have sex in the pool. Turns out it’s harder than it looks. Let’s face it, this was a box-ticking exercise. Ditto hammock. Ditto beach (ow). Ditto rocks. Oh and then there’s the posh hotel bath. You know the drill: there are rose petals. There may be towel origami. You start to smoulder alluringly. Halfway through you deeply regret the decision: the angles, your hair, the splashing, the bath oil, the stupid tap. Then there’s really, really, really quiet sex in the villa with extremely thin walls and lots of other people you don’t know very well. Could be that it’s with...
1. The watersports guy: suddenly you’re all about paddle boarding. Except you can’t turn. Hopefully you’ll need rescuing. Does this make you a bad feminist?
2. The waiter: when he brings you the watermelon martini and whispers that it’s on the house, you feel like he sees the real you.
3. The manny: such a brilliant sense of humour, for a law student. And he brought his guitar with him. You start to wonder if he can be strict... when necessary.
4. The gardener: this may just be a holiday job but, wow, does he know his way around a lawnmower. You become fixated with his hands. Rough. And yet gentle. Oh God.
You know it’s never OK to post your breakfast, and yet... what has come over you? Then there are all the clear blue sky shots, the #exhaustingday, and then possibly a beach action woman story: cartwheeling/waterskiing/diving into the waves, hoping to channel the spirit of Kendall on a jet ski. Don’t forget to do pedicured feet propped up against the side of a boat and many, many sunsets. Filter the life out of them. And if you want to be almost incomprehensibly intolerable, add a cocktail and #justdidanamazingmeditation.
By the time you’ve lugged your suitcase up the stairs you’re exhausted. Did it even happen? Better get booking the next one…
‘I’m Absolutely Fine! A Manual For Imperfect Women’ by The Midults is out now (£8.99, Cassell); themidult.com