when i was a teenager i had a fantasy summer job. i was an ocean lifeguard in the village where i grew up, called atlantic beach. this was the best place for a girl like me (read: athletically limited) to be a lifeguard, you see. the beaches are resident-only which means that the majority of the people in the water have surfed since they’re 4 years old; like me, they practically learned to swim before they learned to walk. for 6 glorious summers i sat, perched atop various chipped-white painted wooden thrones overlooking the atlantic, lazily gazing out at the waves, plunging into the cool, salty abyss whenever i felt too warm. this was a world where the biggest decision of the day was which freckled, hungover teenager was going to pedal his or her bike, barefoot, to the nearest deli to pick up the bag of hot, gooey, bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches to eat with our salty, prune-y fingers after our morning swim. and every night the party was somewhere different. a dress too short and a swipe of mascara; these are what style dreams are made of. even after i graduated college and started a job at lucky magazine, i still managed to keep my lifeguarding gig on the weekends that sixth summer. a double life if there ever was one:conde nast weekdays and beach town weekends. proof that you can dip your toes in the real world while your heart is anchored in fantasy. the beach – and all it stands for – will always, always be my happiest place.
[photo of atlantic beach lifeguard by james pezella/panoramio & photo of atlantic beach sunset by ariel kaiser]