Walking across the sand at Wreck Beach carrying a tray of sliced fruit, Watermelon is all soft curves and muscles. The beach’s most infamous young activist could be a pinup from the ’40s, except that she’s nude, rather than seductively clothed. Her image has been used to represent the beach—which claims to be all about body acceptance—by dozens of publications. Yet back when she was 19, she chose to streamline her lumpy, teenage self rather than accept it for what it was, as it was.
“Before I started going to Wreck Beach, I never looked at my body,” she told the Straight. “I lived from my neck up.”¦But then, I was forced to look at my body.”¦And I was a fat kid. So I think I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t what it was. And I had to stop eating the proverbial Twinkies.”
In other words, Watermelon embodies Vancouver’s conflicting attitudes toward bodies. On the one hand, love yourself as you are; on the other hand, shape up!
Want to work on your own relationship with your body? Two upcoming local events are practically designed to help.
On August 23, the Wreck Beach Preservation Society celebrates the first annual Canadian Body Acceptance Day. Expect picnicking, body painting, and general nude recreation: letting it all hang out, whatever it is, as a courageous stand for body acceptance. You’ll find lumpy, scrawny, wrinkled and leathery, soft and downy, veined, milky, and toned bodies. Wreck, in other words, truly has it all.
However, in her book Wreck Beach (New Star Books, 2007), author Carellin Brooks strays beyond total acceptance. “You have no more sinister purpose in coming here than the usual: looking at naked people,” Brooks writes. “Attractive ones, given the choice. It’s important, of course, to figure out just who you’d have sex with.”¦You might want to check out the competition, or perhaps you want to set the whole penis-size question to rest.”
And what about on the floats of the Pride parade, taking place this Sunday (August 3)?
“The majority of the participants who come to celebrate Pride—you have all shapes and sizes, colours—dress according to what they feel will express them the most,” John Boychuk, president of the Vancouver Pride Society, told the Straight. Hard and hairless bodies, however, are the most visible on the floats, he acknowledged. “When you look at the people who participate in the parade itself, do you have an overabundance of body beautiful? Yes. And body beautiful loves to be able to share what its achievements are.”
On the other hand, Boychuk notes that a strength of body acceptance in the LGBT community is its self-identified subgroups. Like big, hairy guys? There’s bears. Like tough chicks? Look for women in leather. Bodies are self-expression, he pointed out, and pride is about valuing the true self.
“Tall, short, fat, slim, hairy, sagging, uptight—regardless of what it is, there is a place within this community for every single one of those,” he said, even if they’re not necessarily front and centre on many of the Pride parade’s floats.
Even if the reality is that, in terms of popular appetites, not all bodies are created equal—even at Pride and Wreck—Boychuk and Watermelon are clearly looking to a more egalitarian future.
“You know, the natural beauty [of Wreck] just does wonders for you when you live in a cement city,” Watermelon said. “It’s the escape. You can go and not be judged. I think it’s just the most wonderful place in the world. Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Wreck Beach.”
And with as many as 500,000 attending, every kind of body, it seems, whoops it up for the hard and hairless—and the fabulous subgroups—at the Pride parade.