With the influx of warmer temperatures comes the increased likelihood that the invite to your next social outing will include the following:
"Hey, guys! End of the year already! We'd love to have you all down to our place for a Chrissie celebration. Looks like it'll be warm so…(here it comes)...bring your swimmers along in case it gets hot enough!"
Taking it to the team
Taking to my mates Whatsapp thread, we discussed the impending beach day.
"Are you guys gonna bring boardies?"
"Dno if I can be bothered swimming."
"Yeah I'm fifty-fifty, maybe, we'll see."
"The water will be freezing still."
As is often the case with men, it was what was not being said that was most interesting. Despite the fact we'd all love a dip, it was obvious to me that our collective beach hang-ups were leaving us high and (literally) dry.
But first, hard truths
Now before we dive into this column, an important disclaimer.
The culture around male beach behaviour doesn't come close to what women go through. The pressure for women to fit a particular body type is a problem that refuses to go away, but thankfully the tone is shifting. A scroll through the #HotGirlSummer hashtag is enough to convince you that we're headed in the right direction. Women of all shapes, sizes and styles are being celebrated and long may it continue.
But the body positivity push hasn't quite extended to men. The closest we have is Budgy Smuggler's annual 'Search For The Most Ordinary Rig' contest, where winning is really losing.
Male beach anxieties are a very real thing but most are determined to bury their heads in the sand (an idiom that is both topical and topographical), when it comes to admitting it.
And so I wanted to shine a light on our fears because when you give something a name you reduce its power. Except of course when it comes to Voldemort, where the opposite is true.
Long story short
What to wear: Long board shorts are strictly the terrain of Dads Over 50 and Kids Under 15, so for men, it's really more a question of how short is too short. Last summer my friend Jason bravely decided to roll the dice, returning from Europe rocking a pair of Daniel Craig-style tribute trunks. We remained silent for thirty seconds until I broke. "OK, we need to have a chat about those shorts immediately." Jason tried to argue that "they're big in Europe."
Yes, but they're small everywhere else.
How to look
I consider myself pretty savvy and yet every summer I still fall for any number of "Build The Ultimate Summer Body" stories online. I spend months searching for a six-pack only to find it was never there in the first place. And I'm not alone, a quick look around the gym sees loads of men overhauling their routine, frantically downloading Hemsworth's Centr app and praying to Thor it works.
But when Aquaman is getting dad-bod-shamed what hope do non-superheroes have?
On a serious note, while many men can banter about their appearance, others will crumble. Rising rates of body dysmorphia and steroid use amongst Australian men point to a larger problem: the battle with body image is breaking us all.
How to hair
Male body hair is a modern minefield (click here for more), but especially when summer hits. A hairy chest makes every exit from the water look like the Return of Bigfoot. But too smooth renders you achingly vulnerable and with no hair to hide behind, all the design defects in your Ultimate Summer Body Build are on display.
Meanwhile, hair elsewhere is to be lasered, Veeted, waxed, removed! I never think about my back hair until I am sitting on the beach, unable to stop thinking about my back hair. I blame the lads of Love Island, who don't seem to have a remaining follicle between them. They are smooth otherworldly wonders who seem to exist in a heavily filtered future where everyone is hot and no one eats bread.
A more innocent time
Ultimately, this is a sad state of affairs, for men and women alike. Once upon a time trips to the beach were sundrenched happy days, the only worry being "will I chafe on the walk back to the car?"
Now we're all trapped in a vicious cycle of self-defeat. We lie on the sand scrolling through Instagram, drooling over the perfect people at the beach, instead of being the perfect people at the beach.
But it's time to put an end to our collective beach anxieties. This summer I'm starting with the man in the mirror – Is it still OK to use Michael Jackson as a segue? – I'm asking him to change his ways. Jason put your tiny shorts on, I'll leave my back hair alone, let's have a summer to remember.
After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.
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Illustration by Tia Alisha courtesy of Another Colour.