What with all the good feelings that surround a trip to Mykonos, the weather, the water, the socializing and flirting, you would think a trip to the main gay beach, “Elia” would be paradise unblemished. And you would be wrong. While it is a mostly wonderful experience once one is settled in with a spot and beds, there is a disturbing social darwinism that prevails in determining how people get their spot, what type of spot they get, what type of service they can expect and what reception they will get from the pecking order of gays around them. Elia beach roughly divides into left and right to either side of the restaurant (when facing the water), with the gays being on the right and straights on the left (although fortunately not enforced as there are some stragglers who make it to either end by mistake or outreach project, who knows). Within the gay section, the nicest chairs and spots are in the front rows and center right on the beach, followed by center left, the sides and then further back in distance from the water (and the parade of bodies making their way from one end of the beach to the other in an endless mating dance). And people use all manner of influence peddling to get their desired spot: sweet talk, high tipping, bribery, A-gay bullying, and the most egregious to me, “reserving” spots a day or days in advance. Even when one gets to the beach early and all the chairs are seemingly empty, most of the best ones are mysteriously unavailable (until a bribe is offered anyway). People who have “reserved” may not even arrive until very late in the afternoon, making those empty spaces all the more frustrating to look at while others search in vain for a spot. All of these ugly tendencies come to a head in August, when the beach is busy like at no other time of the year (due to coinciding with European holiday schedules). At this time, beds are packed in so tightly that it makes it somewhat difficult to re-adjust to the moving shade of the sun, and some feathers get ruffled as people pack in wherever they can. Some groups forgo spending on beds altogether and just lay down their towels in the thin alleyways between rows, which can make a bad situation worse (especially with the more snotty A gays). And then there are the “extras”, such as pillows that are only on some of the beds. While it is a no-no to take a reserved spot (well, without a bribe anyway), it is apparently completely socially acceptable to play musical chairs with the limited pillows, and people can be seen pilfering them from other spots unrelentingly early in the day.
Although all of this can be rather like a snotty restaurant or club, and it can bring out the worst in people, once one is settled in the experience can be rather pleasant, believe it or not. You lounge, swim, rest, read, eat, drink and socialize in an endless circle, and come away quite relaxed at the end of the day.