“Why would one say “Ibitha?” I don’t get it. Do you say, “Hey, I’m going to España?”
This was just me, being the usual nag I am as my boyfriend and I were discussing our imminent departure to Ibiza. That’s when our WhatsApp group erupted with yet another one of these bloody voice memos: “Wooohhhoo!!! We’re on our way to Aiiibeeeethaaaa!!!”
I gave up.
I had never been to Ibiza, and I wouldn’t say the destination was top of mind, but when a group of friends offered to share with us a house on the island, my boyfriend immediately loved the idea and booked us another house.
Yes, I know. A bit antisocial, but I understood the need for privacy.
He also said a few days later: “It will be our romantic holiday!”
I remembered a friend telling me about the magic of the North of the Island, where all the cool people go, and it’s stunning and magical and spiritual, and I got myself excited at the idea of connecting with my higher self for a second—since it’s been a while. I’d been mostly connected to my middle and lower self recently.
I did become more favourable to the idea of not sharing houses when the aforementioned friends started WhatsApping things like “Caaarlll Cooooox!” “Partayyyyy” “Amnesiaaaaaa”. I am only starting to understand that inside any reasonable-looking British forty-something resides a wild party animal who still hasn’t really recovered from a night at Manchester’s Hacienda in the 90s.
So yes, one could say there were a bit of mismatched expectations about this Ibiza vacation. It’s bound to happen when you can’t even agree on the destination’s pronunciation.
I had an idea of getting in touch with my spirituality in a fresh breath of nature and sound baths. My friends were in the process of planning a week-long rave. And my boyfriend was looking forward to romance and candlelit dinners. Also, his idea of a spiritual awakening is to have a perfectly buttery glass of wine in front of a nice view.
Be as it may, a few days later, we were on our way.
IBIZA, A LOOK
You know the Ibiza style. This woman with the linen dress, her long hair washed out by the sun, slightly overtanned skin, and a lot of stuff around her ankles and wrists. A pair of Birkenstock Gizeh that hasn’t left her feet since the summer of 2003 and a big straw something, a hat or a bag or a beach mat. It’s the style that symbolised summer for many years and that traveled from Ibiza to LA to Mykonos and on the back of which many brands have made absolute fortunes.
Well, there’s been an update. That lady above, she still exists, but she has aged. She’s still here, but she’s fading in the background, probably frolicking in the North of the Island, the exact place where I’d like to be. While in the main town, well… Where do I start?
Okay, I’ll start with brands. And I am sorry, but I have to write them in capitals because that is the only way today. BALENCIAGA. GUCCI. PRADA. I think that’s it. Wait, no, CHANEL. But mostly, BALENCIAGA.
Oh, fashion, how you have changed. Since the advent of social media, when along with all of us designers completely let go of their dignity and started pursuing personal fame (Marc Jacobs did display his dong on Instagram after all), it’s like fashion has taken a whole different turn.
You know the new Ibiza style; you’ve seen it on Instagram. It is a sports bra, cycling shorts (they probably have a cooler name now?), a huge BALENCIAGA sneaker, a small GUCCI bag tucked tightly under one’s arm, and a hat (pick one of the brands and put the logo on it).
The style for a man is the same thing except that instead of a bra it’s a BALENCIAGA tee-shirt (if you’re lucky), nothing at all (if you’re very, very, very lucky)(kidding)(yes, the world is starting to feel more and more like Dave Eggers’ latest novel)(not much left to the imagination)(ew).
A part of me likes that better than the old Ibiza style, because hey, how much linen and straw can one withstand? But then what’s a bit more worrying are the faces that go with that whole uniform.
Now, that is a disturbing view. And you know I am all for a little help from one’s “dermatologist” (ahahah, “dermatologist”). But…
IBIZA, A FACE
So. Should we talk about the mouths?
Okay. Have you ever been to London? I don’t know what took a sizeable portion of the London women—and I hate to single them out because they’re absolutely awesome—but it seems like the concept of the space that a mouth is supposed to occupy on one’s face has shifted over the last few years. Only in London have I seen such pumped up, unrealistic, full on sanity-has-left-the-building lips.
And Ibiza is full of British ladies.
Then there are the eyebrows. And I can’t throw the first stone, as I myself had my brows tattooed once and felt like an absolute goddess—I can see the appeal. But why so dark, why so big, why so high, why so obvious? Add to that the pumped-up cheekbones and the fake eyelashes and the eye area looks like, I don’t know. A hairy cheeseburger.
Then there is the latest, absolutely freaky trend which is the glass skin. It does look good in a photo, these absolutely flawless, poreless, lifeless skins. But in real life I can assure you that, paired with a good old Botox street clinic face freeze, it feels more like you’re in Close Encounter Of The Third Kind than in the beauty pages of Vogue. And that a hairy hamburger eyes cyborg is about to laser you into oblivion with the GUCCI weapon she has tucked under her arm.
I think Demna’s next stroke of genius should absolutely be to send a plane to Ibiza and have his actual customers attend the fashion show instead of all the editors and influencers who seriously have no idea of who’s really owning the BALENCIAGA vibe.
…this is the place where I come clean. I have to, because you can’t be that judgmental and not own your own biases. So, there.
I used to adore the Ibizan style. I would literally faint over images of fincas and fulfilled-looking models of my generation, barefoot in their kitchen talking about how they finally had “inner peace” in this “island of bliss” which is where they had truly “found themselves”. Okay, and a rich husband as well.
I had a file, a physical file with paper, and would sigh with pleasure at all the white walls, the straw bags, the square pools, the olive trees, the beat up cars, the blonde children (“he can speak Spanish now!”), and I thought that I had missed my life calling.
Then Pinterest happened and the style became the International Sign of a Common Dream of the Rich Fake Hippie Intelligentsia across the world. West Elm started going straw and reproducing the design, then years later it was Walmart, and now you can’t go anywhere that doesn’t have mismatched tiles and a fucking straw lampshade dangling in the candle-scented breeze.
Damn, I probably contributed to the trend. Sorry, Ibiza.
IBIZA, A VIBE
Look, I used to go to rave parties in the 90s. My bible was The Face, I was stumbling in my hiking boots because I was a fan of Bjork, and I had Spiral Tribe mixtapes in my car. I couldn’t go to Ibiza without honouring that past of mine, and so I decided that, in the name of the Holy Father of House Music, and also in the name of the fact that I like giving my opinion about things and if I don’t go to those things then how do I get to judge them—I should absolutely go.
Of course, I set aside the fact that, for a REAL RAVER™ like me, David Guetta was the absolute antithesis of everything I stand for (not as a human being, but in terms of his music). I also think that good music is good music, even if it’s
shit commercial, and that I could very well withstand “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night” (sorry I just stuck it in your head), once, in the name of the Gods of Techno. Also, everyone will agree: shit or not, David Guetta is a LEGEND.
So I put on my sneakers (because any weathered raver knows better than to wear high heels at a party). I slicked my hair back and put on some red lipstick, knowing that, anyway, being an honorary “North Of The Island Lady,” the crowd would probably be thirty years younger than me and thirty layers of clothing nakeder than me, so I’d have as much game as an amoeba.
Also, I’m about to get married, and all that.
I was right about the crowd. Not so much about the age part. The layers of clothing, yes.
Everyone was wearing sneakers, but that is the only thing we had in common. For the rest, nakedness was the game, as it’s in season to wear a simple bra to go out. Apart from lots of boobs and bottoms, there were a lot of fairies with multicolour make-up and pink hair, a few death cult people with black mouths and casket clutches, but mostly the general look was “Only Fans inspo,” if you know what I mean.
So it was me, my friends, and seven thousand other people under the starry skies of this island that’s probably wondering what the hell happened to its quiet nights, waiting eagerly for the LEGEND to come out.
Spoiler alert, he did.
He did exactly at 9pm, like a well-oiled machine who’s been doing that for twenty years and is ready to get back to bed already, and told us that tonight was a special night, which is when I raised an eyebrow. It seemed to work on the crowd, who were not weathered Women From The North like me and still believe it when they’re told they’re special.
He jumped a bit for good measure and then started playing his usual good vibe and trashy tunes whom everyone, yours truly included, knew by heart.
I really wanted to have fun, so I had three margaritas and pretended to dance my ass off, but, unfortunately, it was like bad sex—just because you fake with conviction doesn’t mean you get wet. The more he played, the more I felt like, no, the fun wasn’t coming. It’s not gonna come. Maybe now if… Ah, ah!!? No.
Thankfully by this time, I was carrying my friend Zoe’s boots (she didn’t listen about the sneakers) which were VERY sparkly (Zoe and I have antithetic styles, and I suspect I often look like I’m her ecclesiastic chaperone), so I carried them and used them as disco balls, gyrating them over my head like an ambulance, which people adored. It helped me become kind of a mascot which was entertaining for five minutes—but again, people would have adored anyone doing anything silly as they were all oh so happy and oh so high.
When Ed Sheeran came on stage, it was as if the guy who’s already giving you bad sex invited his less sexy friend to a threesome. I knew I was supposed to be excited, but I couldn’t, and thankfully Zoe is like me, a snarky kid of the nineties. She turned around and rolled her eyes—and in one second allowed me to own that all of this wasn’t really for me. We went for a fourth margarita, maybe a fifth.
Verdict. With all due respect for other people’s enjoyment, here is my report: the whole lot of it felt slightly Eurotrash, but it was a feast for my curious eyes. In the end, I did have fun, and I am very happy that I went.
But I was also pretty happy to jump in a taxi.
Taxi rides were my favourite because they had become the only moment when I had real time to connect with the Ibizan people (cf “The Problem with Ibiza” below). My taxi driver asked me where I had gone, and I said, “David Guetta at Ushuaia!”
“Ah, it’s commercial shit, isn’t it?”
“Mmm, okay, but he is a LEGEND!”
“Eeeh. It’s tourist bullshit.”
I kinda wanted to hug him. There you had it. Summed up right there for you by my Ibizan taxi driver, the simple truth. But here is the catch: good tourist bullshit can make you happy.
THE PROBLEM WITH IBIZA
Of course it is stunning. The problem with Ibiza is that it’s too bloody comfortable.
Everyone speaks English.
Cell phones work everywhere.
There is oat milk. Oat milk!!!! I can assure you, they don’t have that stuff in Corsica.
There are avocado toasts.
There is a Zara.
All that to say, you’re smack dab in the middle of this new international uberised mash up of cultures that’s popping up all over the world. If you want to really encounter Spanish culture, you have to dig.
When I was young and cool and unhealthy and spent my time in Spain, I’d be having my breakfast at a local cafeteria where I would order a cafe con leche and a croissant con chocolate—and, obviously, smoke on top of it—just like the locals, who would wink at me in approval.
But now that I am from the North and healthy, nono, noooo. Mornings were for “Passion Café,” which is an Ibizan spin on Café Gratitude in LA (same light-coloured tiles, same “inspiring” quotes on the walls, much better menu) where you can get a keto breakfast and a matcha latte, like anywhere in the rest of the wankster world.
Sure, the main thing to blame for not encountering the real Spanish culture is my utter laziness and my never ending “quest for wellness.” But Ibiza is more international than any other Mediterranean island I have ever been to, so don’t expect much cultural challenge being there.
THE OTHER PROBLEM WITH IBIZA
But actually, my main problem with Ibiza is my fear of music. As much as I love music in a dedicated space, a club, a concert, or my own car, I generally hate music in restaurants, at the beach, at the pool, and any other incongruous places.
And in Ibiza you are never far from someone who’s decided IT’S TIME FOR MUSIC.
Whether your neighbour has just come back from Pacha and thinks it’s necessary to play techno at seven in the morning, whether you’re at the beach and a boat is having a rager and pumps loud bass when you’re just trying to enjoy the sound of the waves, whether you get to a lovely restaurant and there is a bloody resident DJ, you’re never safe from a mega blast of boom boom in your face—don’t go complain about it.
It’s Ibiza, baby! There is MUSIC.
So if you, like me, have a fear of music, maybe try the North, or just don’t go to Ibiza.
BUT THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH IBIZA
“Oh, I totally want to do the spiritual stuff,” my friend Charlotte had said, and if I caught the irony of calling “spiritual” the “stuff,” I understood that it was just her endearing way of framing our rather ridiculous metaphysical quest.
She told me about a sun-down celebration at the beach which I thought could be right up my alley, except that it conflicted with one severely chic restaurant I had booked for my buttery future husband and I.
I was very distraught—all while enjoying one of the most fabulous meals I had ever had. Oh, poor me. Life is so hard. Oh, to be in two places at the same time. Three places actually, as a part of the group was already on the way to having yet another major blast at Amnesia.
That’s the problem. There is too much fun to be had in Ibiza.
Well, alright—then she sent me videos of the celebration and it was a whole lot of djembe and didgeridoo. I could literally smell the pot floating around, and I understood that this was the type of “spiritual stuff” I’d rather be chained to a pole and forced to listen to David Guetta and Ed Sheeran for the rest of my life rather than endure.
However you put it, there was too much conflict inside of me in Aaaaiibbiiitha. Too many things calling at me, too many things pushing me away, too many people to watch, too much music to listen to, and too many “secret Ibizas” to discover.
And of course, waaaay too many things to judge.
Too much of a good thing—I hadn’t found my Ibiza. And my few excursions to the promised land of the North were too short to really get the full picture. I will have to go back to Ibiza.
IBIZA, THE MAGIC
But then, of course, there is the magic.
I jumped in my mother sea, the Mediterranean, and let her hold me long and warm.
I hiked very high hills, felt my body breathe in nature, and plunged my eyes into the infinite.
I had a meal so stellar it felt like the food of the gods.
I said a prayer at the little church next to our house.
I sat in front of a magical, stormy sunset. And the soft bass of the music blaring from a nearby boombox didn’t bother me, for once. They entered inside of me and carried me into another world.
Overwhelming was the journey. Imperfect was the experience. But flawless were these moments.