Eremikophobics have a fear of sand while naturists have such a love of it they wouldn’t want anything to get in the way.
The Sand Haters
Dogs, cats, fish, wheat, pollen, nuts, lactose...it seems we’re more predisposed to allergies than ever before. An unnamed premiership footballer claimed to have an intolerance to grass. Yes, grass. With comments as absurd as these, it’s hard not to laugh off certain cries as hypersensitive over-reactions, but with others it’s just plain cruel luck as to what their bodies can take and what they can’t. Take sand. Surely every child adores the beach. They roll in it, build with it and tunnel through it. Some even eat their ice cream clad in it – is this where we got the idea for hundreds and thousands? Yet some people can’t bear to touch the stuff. The mildest sufferers might get away with wellies or knee-high socks, but for others it’s like walking on hot coals. Ouch and triple ouch.
We’ve all sat on the beach within earshot of a baby in tears, throwing the mother of all hissy fits over nothing but their heartless sibling who’s just demolished their prize castle. But imagine for a second he/she isn’t a brat. Imagine that sand puts the fear of fears into his/her petrified body. Imagine the pent up anger of the poor mite seeing other kids have such uninhibited fun with sand. Imagine being the parent that’s trying to placate the rest of the family with a hysterical toddler who is yet to be diagnosed with eremikophobia (official name for fear of sand).
Like most phobias, the consensus seems to be that eremikophobia is a mental condition. Shrinks, hypnotists and various other forms of quack can cure us or at least teach us to cope with these problems. You can hear their advice now...avoid the beach, and golf courses, and deserts. Well thanks, but no thanks. Bunkers and the Sahara we can do without, but the beach is a joy. The seaside was first considered a magic health pill as far back as the 18th Century and still is today, as long as we slap on some sunscreen.
So, what can conquer this disorder? We’ve trawled the net and found little other than personal stories of people struggling to come to terms with life being anything but a beach. The one ray of sunshine we did unearth was a Californian dad who held his sand-phobic son shoulder-high down to the water’s edge. Little by little, he found the sensation of the sea a happy experience and eventually got to grips with the wet sand to the point that he cried when it was time to leave. Thanks to the brilliant bloody-mindedness of his father and not some quango doc, that boy has learnt to love sand.
Diary of a Beach Gymnast
At a glance: I look like a miniature jousting armadillo
Belomgs To: Amphipoda clan (ie I’m no insect)
Vital statistics: Up to an inch long, ladies outgrow gents
Appetite: I eat decaying seaweed served up by the tide
Habitat: We love sheltered coves but shunt up the shore in rougher seas
Day job: I kip buried under the sand until a kid’s shovel scoops me up
Love life: Like you humans, we tend to get jiggy with it at night
Special trick: I hop by flexing my abdomen (sandhopper = bodypopper)
The Sand Lovers
As Brits, we tend to snigger or blush at the word naturist. We might even mistake it for naturalist, but the sight of a nude Bill Oddie might not be one we want to dwell on. So, let’s start by looking at alternative phrases: Social Nudity, Clothes-free, Topless and Bottomless...not sure if we’re getting anywhere here.
Let’s get back to sand. Some people love sand so much, they’d hate for anything to get in the way. This sense of freedom and pleasure has led to at least 24 official naturist beaches in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, not to mention untold other spots where skinny dipping and tan-line-free sunbathing carry on without the carry on.
But ignoring the more obvious delights of the sun and the sea for a minute, what is it that makes sand in particular feel so good on the naked skin? For one, it exfoliates. This means that our gnarly old epidermal layers disappear and the fresh one comes through making us look and feel a week or two younger. Secondly, it massages the parts masseurs and masseuses cannot reach. By this we don’t mean the rude parts, but the tiniest creases and crevices that make up our marvellously unique bodies. Our third reason is heat. Sand absorbs sun. It’s a storage heater of a kind so it very gently repairs those fragmented capillaries and muscular aches, although we have no scientific evidence to hand.
Of course, there are downsides. You’ll spend more on sunscreen. And we don’t recommend bodysurfing a shore break without some kind of cossie or you’ll still be finding the beach in your bed a fortnight later. Not that this has ever stopped mermaids. They love wet sand more than dry. Should you come across one around dusk, tumbling like a seal in a 4ft wig, resist the temptation to join her as a) she was born to be there, and b) you may have had one too many.
If reading all this makes you want to break free of your wardrobe and relax on a remote beach without fear of being hauled up before the local constabulary for indecent exposure, the following locations are tolerated naturist spots but not official, so use your discretion. For more on being out in the buff, visit Nuff at www.nuff.org.uk.