Alt Parenting: Beach Etiquette 101

gullMy mother is a certifiable beach Nazi. If a child throws so much as a grain of sand her way, she will shoot him a look so deadly he will run cowering to his parents. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, really, and quite effective as kids often steer clear of our blanket. As a result, however, I’m a bit paranoid about my own children’s beach behavior and have become certifiable in my own right. After witnessing weeks of bad beach etiquette, I feel the need to share this list of beach dos and don’ts that would make my mom proud:

1. Don’t throw sand – ever. Don’t walk to the shore and shake out your towel. Don’t let your kids run amongst the blankets, kicking up sand in their wake. Do teach them to deposit their shovel full of sand low to the ground, rather than vigorously throw it over their shoulder. Do take your flip-flops off before walking by my blanket. Sand has its place and it’s not between my teeth.

2. Mind your balls. Everyone loves throwing a football or playing paddle ball, but engaging in these activities at the shore of a crowded beach is just plain rude. Everyone must scrupulously avoid you and your balls. You keep hitting people, running into them and splashing them. Your balls land on people’s lunches. Take your balls and go to a field or park, or come back in October. Speaking of balls, gentlemen, please do not wear your sport shorts to the beach, sans underwear. That’s why they put that little mesh thing inside your bathing suit. It’s a ball catcher. Wear it, or, at the very least, keep those legs closed.

3. Personal space, people. I know there are those days when the temperature climbs to 100 degrees and everyone flocks to South County, so much so that you feel the entire state will tip right into the Atlantic. On those days, I accept that our blankets will be touching. Most days, however, there’s ample sand for all of us. Why, then, must people plop themselves so obtrusively close to my beach camp? If you’re planning a beach day with 18 of your closest friends and relatives, don’t show up at noon on a Sunday in July and expect to get prime real estate by squeezing yourself in between two families. Get there early, like the rest of us did. If you’re not sure about the boundaries, ask yourself these questions:

Are you sitting so close that no one can discern where your party ends and mine begins?
Are people unable to walk between my camp and yours without stepping on my blanket?
If a strong breeze blows, will I catch of whiff of your body odor and/or salami and cheese sandwich?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have your answer:  You’re too close.

4. Go home with your toys, and only your toys. The beach is a veritable key party for toys, as most of us come with one set and leave with another. You can almost hear the toys plotting their exit: “Hey you, in the Hello Kitty bikini. I came with her, but I’m going home with YOU.” While I like the idea of a fair swap, I don’t like that my kids’ toys are so vulnerable. I know it’s just a shovel, but it’s my shovel, damn it, and I’d like to go home with the one with which I arrived. Please tell your kids to leave my toys alone, even if they beg to be taken home. I’ll do the same.

5. Finally, and most importantly, stop feeding the seagulls. It’s hard to believe this rule needs to be said, but every summer some morons decide that last clamcake would make a great seagull snack. There they stand, large grin on their faces, as the seagulls surround them like a scene from “The Birds.” The rest of us, however, are getting pummeled with bird shit and must rush to cover our bags of chips as these rats with wings descend upon our blankets. If you want to feed birds, do it in your own backyard where they’ll crap all over YOU and YOUR stuff. As for that last clamcake, eat it or throw it in the garbage.  Seagulls don’t need grease and carbs.

I apologize if I come off as a curmudgeon. I just want to enjoy my day at the beach without being covered in seagull poop and getting hit by stray balls. If you disagree with my rules, or have a rule or two you’d like to share, please comment. I’d love to hear from you. That said, Number 5 is not up for debate.