Our bodies are mostly salt water, yet half of our race avoids the sand. Jeremy McKeen dissects a day at–and a refutation of–the beach.
Or maybe, all men hate sunbathing. Or maybe it’s that all dads hate the beach. Ask any man (and we’re talking men here, not teens or college-age boys or men who, fully clothed, like to walk their dogs at the beach after hours). I’m sure it’s a mixture of all varieties of men, although I’ve seen men sunbathing here and there, and I just assume that they fell asleep.
Why men beach it in the first place
Men go to the beach for two reasons: women and kids. Or to launch a kayak. And don’t forget scuba classes. But almost no group of men will say to each other hey guys, want to sit, lay, and run around in the direct sun all day? The answer is always that I already work in the hot, direct sun all day. I don’t want to do it surrounded by sand. And old men in sunny beach-side cultures who fished for a living and spend their retirement days at the beach don’t count. That’s like hanging out near where you worked, which a lot of men do. In fact, legend has it that the first boat was invented when men were bored at the beach with their families and had to devise a way to break up the monotony of heating up and then taking a dip, heating up and then taking a dip, heating up and then taking a dip. You’ve all been there.
There’s just something about being in the hot sun for hours without getting paid that makes men restless, resistant, and adverse to the lazy day at the beach. Don’t get me wrong – I love doing nothing while my skin isn’t burning and I’m showing signs of dehydration. Well, now that the kids are able to play on their own, I can do more nothing at the beach, in the shade, guarding my stuff from the wiles of the desert sands.
Women LOVE the beach
On the other hand, women love the beach. Like, insanely love the beach. My working theory is that because our species’ better half have monthly cycles like the moon, and the moon controls the waves, and women can control men best at the beach–women, therefore, love the beach. Maybe not all women, but at least 98% of them. Young women in bikinis can control men’s actions, and older women in bikinis with offspring of those men can control men’s actions. It’s a vicious and beautiful cycle within a cycle within a cycle, all dependent on getting us men to the beach.
And for women there is some magical moment that happens when the sun hits the skin, something beyond a vitamin D boost. Sunbathing or tanning is vital to a woman’s happiness. Learn this, men. Learn it and respect and never question it. Any chance women can get to sunbathe, they will. This, dear men, allows you to be free to do other things but only if the kids are being watched. And when you bring men to the beach, they can play with the kids and you women are free to sunbathe. See? It’s pure genius.
Before having kids, a beach trip might have been you and some friends, the wife, and a cooler of sody pop and sandwiches. Maybe you rode boogie boards ironically in your 20s or played frisbee. Maybe you showed up at the beach in jeans and a sweatshirt after hours for a BBQ or something youthful and curfew-free. But you weren’t sitting or walking all day long in the hot sun unless that included said sody pop and cigarettes and a boombox and bikinis. If you were lucky to get time alone with the missus at the beach, you frolicked in the water, bodies favorably close, and possibly took a walk or napped or did anything, without kids bothering you, in quick peace. Then after the beach you ended up somewhere with immediate access to margaritas or cold beer and chicken wings.
Your dad beach duty starts now
A beach day with the kids means at least two hours prep at home dressing the kids and packing. Then there’s the drive. Then there’s filling up the Beach Buddy Buggy with cooler, chairs, blankets, towels, shovels, pails, and the like, and then dragging it a quarter of a mile to a spot of Earth that the sun will bear down on all day (oh you thought wheels on your Beach Buddy Buggy were helpful? Fool!). You then have to dig holes for the umbrellas and/or build a tent while setting up camp. Oh, yes. The beach is like camping except that when you are camping (or having a picnic), you don’t always have to worry about something falling in the grass because we all know the five second rule, and grass always seems kind of clean. But not sand. Not that cursed, desert material that rules the beach.
But while at the beach, dear readers, you’re in the blazing hot sun, half naked, setting up a complicated array of chairs and blankets while the kids bug you to just go in the water already daddy, guarding your food and perspiring water bottle away from the Earth because sand gets in and on everything. I don’t mind sandy feet or a little sand at home from the kids’ bathing suits, but this invasive alien craws into every space, wrinkle, and available niche it can. And please oh please let the kids already have sunscreen on, because lathering up children on the hot sand is the very last thing anyone wants to do, especially when they’re already sandy from the 4.2 minutes you’ve actually been at the beach.
In the real world we seek shade, proper covering, and air conditioning – but not on a beach day. In the real world we never dig up the backyard to make dirt castles – but not on a beach day. In the real world we hope for peace after death in a nice, cool, cloudy heaven- but not on a beach day. In the real world, we dress professionally or at least we cover up most of our skin – but not on a beach day. The beach allows us to be lazy savages in the hot, deadly sun.
There are only so many things to do at the beach, so you have to be inventive because you’ll be there longer than you want but just long enough so that the missus feels like it was a “long beach day.” So just get used to not checking the time. Don’t be like that, dad.
Okay we climbed the rocks, check. We swam around, check. Caught hermit crabs, regular crabs, and tadpoles, check. Took a walk, check. Tried to nap, check. Ate kids’ leftover lunch when they were not looking, check. Bought overpriced ice cream and goods from the beach restaurant or truck, check. Tried checking your smartphone for a distraction, check. Tried reading a book, check. Built a sandcastle or something like it, check. Tried to people watch, check. Checked checkered skin for sunburn check-marks, check. Time gone by: forty-three minutes.
Cold beer, warm skin
So, dear men, if you can hold out long enough, however, then driving home with your ocean-kissed skin adjusting in the shade of the car will make it all worthwhile. You don’t even care that you’re wearing slightly dried, slightly wet shorts. The trunk is sufficiently filled with sand – ain’t no thang. You’ll be dead tired and dehydrated at work tomorrow–who cares. Your pasty white skin is red but the wife looks great (that sunbathing makes her all the more delicious).
So it’s all good because the wife is happy and the kids are exhausted, and you get to drink cold beer at home and watch some t.v. You’ll do anything to get to this place because you are a man, and a dad, and alive in the summer.
This essay first appeared on Nerdy Dad Shirt.