Covens of teenage girls sashay around the stone patio surrounding the pool, their belly-piercings moving in obedient counterpoint to their hips. The impeccably attired Latin wives stand apart from their bulkier American counterparts in line at the endless buffets; they eat different food, and far more sparingly. Their legs shine, their clothing is stunning, and they look far more unhappy.
For the teenagers, the prize bestowed by their indulgent parents is the coveted yellow wrist band, indicating that they've attained the age of majority and are allowed to drink alcohol (fully 30 per cent of said yellow bands seem to have been attained fraudulently; including our daughters'). Once the bands are attained, the parents are rendered completely, blessedly obsolete, as this is an all-inclusive resort, and it comes with constant food, drink, and compatible and similarly reckless teens of whatever sex your adolescent children might desire.
Last night, at Zippers on the Beach, a restaurant in the town of Cabo San Lucas, the surf snored as we sat, all 20 of us, under the obligatory thatched roof and partook of all that Mexican hospitality could bestow on (and tolerate from) us: ceviche, guacamole, chiles rellenos, pitchers of maragaritas, chicken spiced and barbecued, steak, hamburger, red snapper. It also bestowed on a lucky few, as it turned out, a visit from the unhappy ghost of Montezuma. In a few of our rooms today, Coke is being sipped quietly behind drawn shades, with CNN or Spongebob entertaining dutifully in the background.
A few snippets of conversation from last night's dinner:
"Actually, I've gotten kind of bored of skiing."
"What was that song they played last night when they asked Mom and Dad up to dance last night?" "Unchained Melody." "No, it wasn't." "Yes it was! Five dollars says it was."
"They can't ever get anything quite right down here. That's why we call it Shmexico."
"I'm just ordering a rum drink to piss Mom off."
"Maybe someday you'll actually be motivated by something grown up -- something other than pissing your mother off."
"Yeah, maybe. But today's not your day, and tomorrow's not looking good, either."
"This resort we were at last year had a better beach, but the service was so bad, we'll never go back there."
"OK, smile everybody. SMILE!"
There's a languid entitlement about the guests at an all-inclusive resort. They graze at the bars and the buffets; they brush off the locals who trudge along the beaches with cases full of bracelets or dangling racks of "Fiesta a la Playa" t-shirts and hats. They are not focused on each other, these guests, nor on the stunning scenery, the gem-like light of the Pacific, nor even on themselves. There's a placid fury, a turgid determination to get exactly what they want at any given moment. And that means focusing on that thing, exclusively, ruthlessly. It's a kind of tropical tourist meditation.
It positively makes one pine for the regulated insanity of home. That's why I'm here, saying hello to you.