The vacation I’m jealous of is not the one you’re having


I’m having a hard time with all your vacation photos.

They’re everywhere.

It’s not that I’m particularly jealous of the places you’re going or the vacation you’re having—I’m more envious of the one I’m not having.

Some (family reunion in Missouri) you have no reason to post other than to make me suffer along with you. That’s fine, I get it. You’re there out of obligation tallying up the number of days you won’t be able to ski this winter because you’re watching them burn away like flames from the grill lapping at your turkey burger. Your arm draped around a fatter, older, more pale version of your same DNA that was left behind when your smarter, swarthier, luckier shared ancestor crawled from the sludge, packed up the wedding trunk and headed West. Your smile manufactured like it is for your work badge or a groomsman photo. I feel your pain. Thanks for posting.

Some (three weeks in Turks and Caicos) you should be posting and I should be hating on you like a day TV talk show audience. You’re giving me a taste of the “good life”. A few snaps inspired by those Corona ads or every woman’s Facebook cover post-college all camera pointed-toward-the-toes, toward the sand, toward the insanely endless blue (#nofilter) sea. And there’s me, somewhere off the far horizon like a ship you can’t see. Me looking on back at you. All mad. All insanely wanting to be staring over your shoulder, through your viewfinder, at your toes and on over the ocean—not at my screen.

And yet, I’m not mad at you. I don’t even want to remotely be you. Even as you step foot like a flip-flop-wearing Captain Cook on the most luxurious of sands; the drinks with five layers of different shades of orange topped with a slice of passionless fruit in your hands; and your smile, whitened by the dentist’s laser just for this occasion—this Vacation!, I can’t get jealous.

In the same way that fat guy in the car cover-sized board shorts behind you, absent-mindedly picking at something on his forearm, is ruining your look-at-me-moment with his photobomb, you are debasing my rage at your whole vacation by being there without really being there.

Your very post is the admission that what you’re really thinking is: What day is it? Should I call my credit card company and report it stolen? Was dinner really worth it last night? Did I email the accounting guys before I left? How much is roaming? Why do the kids need to eat again? Should we just go find a store and buy some bread for the room? If our flight leaves at 11 then we should probably be there at 9, maybe 8. The rates for an over-sized bag are ridiculous, how can I get out of paying those on the way back? Should we just leave the bag here? Should we just leave the kids here? Should we just stay here?

In other words, you’re simply showing me the ugly underbelly of a vacation in progress that is—as of the five-minutes-ago time stamp on your photo—already over.

There you are, picture after picture. Ocean after ocean. Drink after drink. Smile after smile. Pale skin to tan to burn. Children hanging on you. This is your time. This week. This week! This is the week memories are made and leftovers aren’t a factor and homework and being late—every day—and all the stuff that collects on the counter, just disappears.

And you will love your spouse like you never can on dry land and you will wear sunglasses you bought ten years ago for such an occasion and feel brand-new about it. And you will put on the snorkel and build the sand castle and watch them sit on grandma’s lap by the pool. And you, yeah you, go stand in front of that palm tree with your hands behind you looking up at the coconut. Now look over at that man lurking nearby. No, not the one who looks like our insurance guy in jean shorts, the one with the single tooth dangling like a sugar cube to a piece of gum. The one holding a machete. He’s going to cut into the coconut or maybe cut your head off or maybe cut the camera phone right off your hand. I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s vacation!

And I’m posting this …now.

I’m not sure we really do know how vacation(!) anymore. We weren’t so good at it in the first place. Before Facebook there were slideshows at the neighbors. Everything you ever didn’t want to see of someone else’s life, and if you were lucky, sometimes upside down.

Nobody in the history of our neighborhoods, community and country has ever wanted to see where you’ve gone. You on a rope bridge. You “tired” at the airport from a day of travel. You in a lei. You with a howler monkey. You on a ropes course. You on a zip line. You, you, you.

We want me, me, me.

We go on vacation to show that we went on vacation.

On display just how witheringly adept we are at being bad at relaxing. Other countries get it. Other countries get six weeks. They go somewhere. They go to a 250-year-old cottage with sagging gables and an overgrown hedge and lilies carrying on over the stone path. They nap. They nap and they garden. They nap and they garden and they walk to town. They nap and they garden and they walk to town and they have a drink under the portico. They nap and they garden and they walk to town and they have a drink under the portico and remove their hats, fan themselves and watch the world walk by.

And once in awhile, someone stops and says hello.

And they start a conversation.

And then they have a drink. And then they share a meal. And then they walk back together as the sun sets over the house with the sagging gables and overgrown hedge and the lilies carrying on and they look at the last light peeking through to the reading room off the kitchen and they think now there’s where I’ll nap tomorrow.

Other countries can vacation because they’ve spent generations learning a concept we haven’t: You can’t show off what you’re doing when you’re truly relaxed, because when you’re truly relaxed you’re asleep. Real vacation is life’s little sleepwalk.

That’s not the vacation I’m having. But it’s OK, I’m not jealous. Because from what can see, it’s not the one you’re having either.