The Thai people, as far as I can tell, tend to be conservative dressers at the beach. Despite, (or perhaps because of,) the influence of Western tourists and ex-pats, most of the locals I have seen at the beach don’t seem to follow the gag-inspiringly liberal beach attire of their European guests. In fact, they seem, so far as I can tell, not even to have any idea of specific “bathing attire” at all. They just go down to the beach and have fun, at least the particular beach that I happened to be living on at the moment.
Today I went down and sat on the rocks and read T. S. Elliot’s “Four Quartets” and watched the waves and the wind and the people. There was a small Thai family who stopped by for about half an hour or so, a little further down the beach, a man, woman and their son, and a little dog. The humans all went into the water and tried to get the dog to go in with them, but that poor little quadruped was having none of it. The dad finally chased after the dog and caught him, and they took him out until the water was waste deep to the humans, but even at that depth the waves can swell up to head height or even higher. He was just a little dog, and as soon as they let go of him he headed for shore with a much put upon attitude.
They were all wearing ordinary, everyday street clothes, (except for the dog, who had no clothes). The man and boy were wearing shorts and polo shirts, and the woman was wearing a dress, and there they all were, splashing around up to their necks at times in the warm salt water. There was something achingly beautiful about the woman especially, quite apart from the beauty of wind, water and billowing hair (which is a magic combination in its own right). It was somehow enhanced by her unapologetically feminine attire, and even more so by her obvious enjoyment of time spent with her family. She seemed valuable, infinitely so, possessed of a playful dignity, not only evident in her but also in her husband and her son. The way the little boy ran splashing through the waves to bury his face in her stomach with a flying leap/hug and the way she returned it struck a powerful chord of recognition in me. When she stumbled through the surf and put her hand on her husband’s shoulder to catch her balance, he caught her around the waist with a laugh and spun her round in front of him as if he had half a mind to send her tumbling into the water and dive after her himself. He probably thought about it for a second. I know I would have. But she took it with good humor (I could see her laughing from where I was) and was not the least bit nonplussed. You just don’t dunk someone with that much dignity.
Why did the dress make so much difference? I am not sure. Certainly nothing would have changed within that family’s inner dynamic if she had been wearing shorts and a t-shirt or a bathing suit. But there it is. Somehow it enabled her to recapture a little bit of the unconscious queenliness that Eve had before clothes were ever invented. The fact that she was wearing a dress to the beach was amazing, and the fact that she wore it to go tumbling in the water with the two most important men in her life was even more so.
Blessings upon that family.
Including the dog.