Do you remember going to the beach with just a Tab, a towel and some baby oil? When you turned head, not stomachs, when you removed your cover-up? Back then you wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near the Fudgy Wudgy guy, but now you’re forced to chase after him, drawing unwanted attention to your flopping body parts, just to make your child happy. At least that’s what you want onlookers to think, but we know the truth – go ahead and pretend it’s all about the kids. We know it’s really about scoring yourself a Chipwich.
Regardless of the reason, if your carefree beach days have succumbed to a series of “America’s Funniest Home Video” moments, this survival guide is for you.
In preparation for your jaunt to the shore, it’s important to choose beachwear that’s flattering, practical and least likely to result in criminal charges. This isn’t usually too hard for men as their fashion rules are loosely defined – any suit that simultaneously covers their farmer’s thigh tan and intergluteal cleft (I believe the medical term for this is “butt crack”) is suitable.
There is one fashion rule that’s not negotiable, however, and it’s the one pertaining to the almighty Speedo. Male beachgoers should note that the New Jersey Office of Counter Terrorism has recently banned flagrant display of Speedos from public beaches, since nothing causes more widespread terror like a tight little package of Spandex known in the food industry as sausage casing. Well, unless you’re Michael Phelps. For all I know, maybe there was a shark involved – who’s to say? That’s not exactly where my focus was.For many women, trying on bathing suits is as enjoyable as being struck by a meteor, of which there is a greater chance of that happening than there is finding a suit that flatters. Because, really – if flattering is what we’re going for, we should probably go right back to the twenties. Twenties the Age or Twenties the Era, it’s your choice. Either your body will be the tightest and most fit it will ever be, or your woolen bathing costume will cover you from chin to shin. Again, it’s your choice.
Next you’ll want to find the right beach bag to accommodate everything you’ll need – one the size of a Ford Expedition should do. In addition to beach chairs, beach umbrella, beach toys, beach snacks, beach blankets, beach towels, beach bag and any other beach thingamajig you can’t do without, you should definitely include reading material to ensure that a family crisis arises every time you start to read. What can’t be jammed into your minivan can be strapped to the roof, including any teenagers traveling with you.
The best way to pack for baby is not to. Since she can’t tell the difference between Rice Cereal and sand, it’ll be more enjoyable for everyone if you avoid taking your infant to the beach until she reaches certain milestones. Like graduating from college.
At the height of the summer season, most hotels like to require a minimum night stay – I think it’s is up to 40 nights now – so that the cost of a weekend away is equivalent to a year’s tuition at Penn. If you are going for a day trip, be prepared to spend most of your day searching for a parking space. On busy weekends, many drivers are forced to drop their families off at the beach entrance and drive around town until they’re ready to head home on Sunday night. On holiday weekends such as the Fourth of July, forget it – your best bet is simply to walk to the beach from your home because you’re basically not finding anything closer. I mean your real home, like in PeeAye.
Once you arrive, cue the Seuss parade. Dad will lug the wagon-gone-Grinch-sleigh while Mom In The Hat will balance all remaining accoutrements. Thing One and Thing Two, banished from their wagon to accommodate “all this dumb stuff”, will get to walk “fourteen thousand miles” through “boiling hot sand” when they’re “sooooo tired” all they want to do is “just fall over and die”. Once they see water, however, this fatigue will immediately give way to boundless energy that will end precisely when the last boardwalk ride closes and they’re forced to walk fourteen thousand miles back to the car.
No birth control is as effective for beach-going singles than the visual of you waddling through the crowd with Thing One hanging off your upper thigh, Thing Two bouncing a ball off of your backside and your husband trailing behind with his Grinch-mobile in tow, yelling for you to “pick a spot, already!” This visual, alone, has been cited as the prevailing reason why many people are putting off marriage and child-rearing until they’re well into their sixties.
You will want to select a spot with proximity to the water so you can keep your eye on your children, but not so close that your husband can the ogle bikini-clad twenty-somethings who swarm to the lifeguard stand like green flies to ankles on a hot August day. For this reason, binoculars should never be packed, and any pair that is should be tossed onto the Atlantic City Expressway or, hell, just the Atlantic.
If you’re like me you’ll want your ocean view to be unobstructed, so you will carefully monitor the tide chart and select a spot closest to the water yet not so close that you and your entire family will be swept away at high tide. And because we love those unobstructed views so much, be prepared that no matter how close you get to the water, at some point an enormous family will set up camp DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU – tent, canopy, 4 beach umbrellas, overloaded beach cart, loud-talking cousin from Philly, 145 kids, a couple smokers and 26 chairs. And they’ll do it mere feet from you, so that you can barely raise your arm to drink from your Solo cup without hitting the back of their chairs. And then they’ll blare their country music, because clearly none of us want to just hear the gulls, the waves, the sounds of children’s laughter, other pleasant beach sounds, our own music, the hallowed cries of Fudgy Wudgy, or god forbid our own conversations. No, don’t mind us – we’ll just sit here listening to YOUR selection of YOUR favorite music and, instead of just enjoying the beach, let us all pretend we’re hunkered down on the back of your pickup truck listening to whiny, down-home, slap your knee and gaffaw, stick a piece of grass in your mouth and pretend you’re in the mountains country music. Because the one thing I LOVE to do at the beach is hear music that makes me feel like I’m not at the beach. I like to call these view-hogging, space-mongering people “assholes”. And I’ve found, as I’ve grown older, that the world is full of them.
Seriously though – I’ve had people wade up to their knees in water just so they can sit directly in front of me. I’m pretty sure that “Don’t Set Up Directly In Front of Someone” is clearly delineated at the top of the Beach Rules sign, right after to “Don’t Block the Beach Entrance With Your Baseball Game” and “If Your Kid Doesn’t Stop Taunting Seagulls With Doritos I’ll Come Feed Him To the Gulls Myself”. Read the Beach Rules for yourself and see.
Eating on the beach is not advised as seagulls can detect the opening of a potato chip bag from as far away as Northeast Philly. If you do decide to eat, tie down any loose children and huddle under the umbrella. This works best if the umbrella is open. Proper assembly is important to your self-preservation, as nothing causes you to look more ridiculous than chasing an umbrella down the beach. Dig a deep hole using a sturdy instrument like the nearest off-shore oil driller. If your umbrella blows away, pretend it isn’t yours.
A recent study found a direct correlation between settling down into your beach chair to read and suddenly having to chase things like loose toddlers, wayward umbrellas and Fudgy Wudgy guys. To assure that you can get out of your chair within the same hour a crisis arises, practice these simple exercises at home.
First, raise both legs high in the air and take a deep breath. As you exhale, lunge forward and, lowering your legs, shift quickly to your right. This momentum should cause the chair to tip to the side, depositing you face down on the sand. Place both palms under your shoulders, hike your knees up under your hips and lift your torso. Any husband who finds it amusing to slap your backside shall be drawn and quartered by all nearby mothers who themselves aren’t currently attempting to get out of a beach chair. Grab onto something solid like a cute lifeguard to hoist yourself up to your knees. Pause, and busy yourself by remembering how to breathe until your heart rate returns to normal or the crisis is over. Slowly rise to a standing position, avoiding unnecessary sound effects, and begin pursuit of whatever it was that got you out of your chair in the first place. If you can remember what it was.
Following this practical guide will enhance your beach-going pleasure and allow you to spend more quality time with your family doing things like getting everything back in your car and sitting on the AC Expressway traffic for hours.
Copyright 2017 Down The Shore Blog