Thursday, September 23, 2010

Top It Off

I HATE fall. Sorry to all of you who love the smell, the colors, the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet.

Those leaves that you're trodding upon are in a state of rigor mortis, the color is that of leaves and plants that can no longer get the proper temperatures, nutrition or sunlight,  and the smell is DEATH! Oh, goody. A cheerful post!

I can't help it. Autumn always gets me in a funk. I'm not in a funk yet, but I can smell it coming and am glad I've got school starting next week to keep me preoccupied. So, in my state of denial I'm going to keep talking about summer. And beaches. Sun, the color blue, and life giving water.

And so, you ask, what’s the deal with topless sunbathing in the south of France? Okay, maybe you didn’t ask. But I write about life in France. And spent 3 days at the beach the last week in August in order to fend off the impending, unwelcome days of autumn. So even if you didn’t ask, you’re going to hear about it anyway!

Yep, southern France is the land of topless sunbathing. It exists in other countries in Europe as well, but apparently France, southern France in particular, began the trend in the late 1960’s. On any given day at the beach, you will see women of all ages sunbathing sans top. All ages, all body types, all stages of beauty. They might just sunbath topless, but many walk topless, swim topless, eat ice cream topless, or chat with friends topless.

This is what I observed around me the last day I spent at the beach at Carry de Rouet.

Behind me, under a tree sat a 30- something, thin, attractive woman reading her book…topless. Next to me, tanning and talking sat two women, both in their 60’s, not so thin, not so attractive and clad only in their monokinis. A family strolled in front of me searching for sea creatures…husband, wife (topless) and child…. bucket and net in hand. Off to my left a group of men and women, a club of snorklerers I believe, stood chatting about the things they had seen on their earlier excursion. Two of the women involved in the conversation were bottom-clad only…the rest were in full bikinis. Several couples nearby lounged and picnicked, some old …some young. Several of the women in these duos were topless. And of course, scattered among all of them, were women wearing their entire ensemble.  I might add, that all the men on the beach were topless!

And so you say, (or maybe you didn’t) the beaches must be ripe with 14 to whatever-age gawkers, combing the beach, not for seashells but for sneak peaks. Well I’m here to tell you (whether you asked or not) that this just isn’t the case.  I’ve had plenty of time to observe beach behavior.

As people walk by…. children, adults, grandparents and great-grandparents…not a second look is taken. In the group of snorklers, nobody’s eyes were involuntarily wandering away from a face and taking in the titty topography. The husbands of the women baring their chests were not glancing around in embarrassment, or attempting to shield their uppity, half-naked women from view. Groups of young boys were not perched on the rocks, passing a pair of binoculars among them. Nope, just another day on the beach.

And then you might ask, why do they do it? Good question. I believe it began in the 60’s as part of the women’s movement. You know “free the breast and you’ll be free” sort of thing. Perhaps that was the case then but it is no longer. Some say they don’t like tan lines. But most say it just feels great. The beach is a place to relax and be free of the confines of daily life, which includes bras. And I’ve got to say, they’re completely right. It just feels good. Remember the first time you went skinny dipping? Absolutely glorious!

The French aren’t nearly so puritan as the Americans when it comes to this partial state of undress. Their advertisements and billboards can include a bare breast without a second glance…. except by maybe and 18-year-old American student who’s just arrived in France to study language, history and…. women. You will see this on TV as well and nobody thinks it’s unusual. The French would never dream of spending $8000 of taxpayers money to cover the bare breasts of a Lady Justice statue as has happened in the United States. When I ask them about this attitude, which is so different from that in my country, they reply simply…it’s just natural. What’s the big deal? I have to agree with them. What’s the big deal?

The trend is changing however, and more and more younger women are choosing to sunbath bi rather than mono. This has caused a bit of a stir in the media in recent years. I mean, my goodness, what is HAPPENING in France? And the reports say that younger women consider the practice passé…out of style…. only for the old folks. Some site health concerns, some say it’s a growing trend toward prudishness, and others claim it’s the younger generations reaction to today’s insistence on perfection. Whatever the reason, it’s true. Most of the women on the beach who have chosen to soak up the sun on more square inches of their personal real estate are over 40 or 50. And like most of us at this age, we’ve stopped giving a rip about the latest fashion. Which is just as freeing as going topless!

So, for me the question is not whether or not topless is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, liberating or just sexual, passé or fashionable. The Real Question…the one I still can’t figure out…is….

What’s the deal with all these Speedos on the beach in southern France?

By the way...I'm not including any topless photos (ok, you might be able to find one!).  I don't need any more problems with spammers.



  1. Delana,
    I'll never forget that while on honeymoon near Nice Paul and I, esp Paul, were shocked to see a grandmother, daughter and son-in-law on the beach, grandmother topless, daughter not, son-in-law not noticing.
    My kids and I agree with you on the freeing thing. They were always naked in the pool.
    I also hate the end of summer and am feeling very sad. Is there somewhere we should go? say, australia?

  2. Aidan-I just saw Eat Pray Love I didn't understand a word...but I'm thinking...Bali!

  3. Whoops.. make that "had" not "hate".. I really need to finish at least 2 cups of coffee before I do anything this time of year!!

  4. So I woke at 6 am and first thought was "it's still dark outside, bummer". Second was, "the days are going to get shorter quickly now, bummer". And third was "It's fall, saaaad". I hate to fight the overwhelming urge to pull the covers over my head and stay there until spring!!!
    Yes, Bali, NOW!!!

  5. Vickels-it's apparent you haven't had your coffee. Go drink it, and then come back and explain that comment to me!

  6. So I forgot to push "send" on that first comment, thus it became the second, which means I could have corrected my typo before I sent it! Clear as mud?

    Delana, just additional proof that I need to follow the sun, and quickly!

  7. Dear Delana,

    I really don't like Fall either. It just means we are really that much closer to freezing cold, snow and ice. Yuk!

  8. I just found your blog and read it, even though -- I love fall! I can understand the mourning for the falling leaves, but how can you resist that sky so bright and clear without the humidity. What about the beautiful angle the sun shines from? I've never been brave enough to sunbathe without a top and I do wonder if it would damage the skin on my very pale breasts

  9. Another soul mate! I live in the Hudson Valley: home of some of the most gorgeous fall scenes (so they say), and no, I've never liked it either! When you were young it meant the beginning of school (ugh) and now it means the beginning of shorter days, cold weather and treacherous driving. Thanks Delana!
    As to the Speedos: yes, please let us in on what is happening there.....

  10. As to the Speedos...someone has just published a book on codpieces and flies and suchlike. The review didn't mention Speedos, but given the tenor of the book they have to be in there somewhere.

  11. I sunbathed topless in Nice. Worst sunburn I ever had.

  12. I can handle the topless sunbathing better than the speedos!
    It's amazing how once the, 'forbidden fruit' stops being so 'forbidden', the 14 year old boys don't take any notice!
    (And I'm with you, not a Fall fan. And just calling it Autumn, doesn't make it any better!)

  13. I would hate l'automne, too, if I had a summer like yours!

    Please take pity on us poor folk who live in the Midwest, USA. Summers are like living in a sauna bath in the rain forest set into a desert...or something.

    The only thing that gets me through each summer in St. Louis is dreaming of the first light breeze, the first leaf to fall, and the first cool evening.'s here and I'm relieved!

    Great post, Delana...thanks again for the vicarious vacation!

  14. I so enjoyed your post, Delana. I laughed many times at your word choices, and delightful perspective. I think it might be fun to sunbathe sans top- "monokinied" of course I'm just over 50 and part of that "free the breast-free the people" it was ..."free the breast and you'll be free".
    I think the younger generation is influenced by the Victoria Secret enhanced look and that's why they don't choose to go topless. I guess I was living in Puerto Rico when Lady Justice became more ladylike- I didn't know that her exposed breast was covered up. It's funny too, that more and more women are nursing in public (again) but it still causes a stir. Brookstone store in Plaza Las Americas was picketed because they kicked out a woman breastfeeding in the store. Later, the management was reported to say that they thought the breast milk might damage the chair. It took me a while to find a reference to this event: Brookstone now supports breast cancer research! Isn't it funny how much of a reaction you might get from something as natural as feeding a baby?

    This is the incident @

    [Mothers Breast-feed Babies At Puerto Rico Store In Protest
    July 14, 2003
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Dozens of protesting mothers breast-fed their babies Sunday in front of a Brookstone store they claimed threw out a lactating mother last month. About 150 people, including fathers and supporters, blocked the store in the Caribbean's largest shopping center, as mothers sat cross-legged while their babies suckled. "Every mother should have the right to breast-feed her child wherever she wants to," said Marylina Rodriguez, 27, breast-feeding her 3-year-old son. ]

  15. Oh, and it's still "summer" here in Puerto Rico, but it rains quite a lot. People absolutely wear tops on the beach, and that still draws unwelcome attention in this Latin/Caribbean island!


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