Beach Rules

Being a lifelong resident of Maine, you probably assume I am an avid beachgoer. You might think saltwater courses through my veins or I spend my days clomping around in L.L. Bean boots, cursing the weather and yelling things like, “Ayuh! Afta I pahk the cah in the yahd, I’m fixin’ to steam us up some of them lobstahs. Wicked good, ayuh!”

Surprisingly, none of these things are accurate (Stephen King books and Murder She Wrote, be damned). The truth is, my thick-as-a-clam-chowdah accent only slips out when I’m damn good and angry (and then I’m a real pissah), I think lobsters are nothing more than big red cockroaches that taste like butter-soaked clumps of rubber and I only go to the beach maybe once or twice a year. Why go spend my time relaxing and inhaling those fresh cool saltwater breezes when I can stay home in the stifling heat and complain like a good born-n-raised Mainer should?

Last week over breakfast, my husband rubbed his eyes, slurped his coffee and said, “Hey. We should go to the beach today.”

“Yeah. We should,” I yawned.

“No, seriously. Let’s go. Fourth of July has already passed and at this rate we’ll be chopping down our Christmas tree tomorrow. Let’s go.”


“We’ll get ice cream after….” he sang.

“Huh? What? Ice cream?” I was fully awake now. Our kids began running in circles around the table chanting, “We want ice cream!” So off to the beach we went.

After an hour of packing and repacking, we back the car out of the garage, excitement building and the big cooler chilling. We drive the 50 minutes of winding seaside roads past The Lobster Shack and Dairy Maid with the windows rolled down and the saltwater smell filling the car. Ah, so peaceful.

Once there, I load my husband down with 10 bags, the umbrella, the cooler and towels and off we flip-flop our way to the perfect spot at Popham beach. The kids grab their buckets and shovels and run off. We play in the freezing heart-stopping surf. We build an entire fortress of sandcastles. We throw a frisbee around. Exhausted and feeling fried, I glance down at my watch.  Forty-five minutes have passed.

I heave myself onto a sandy towel, cross my legs and shield my eyes as I peer out at the water. My son is flinging mud in my daughter’s face. She jabs him hard on the arm. Now that I know that they are settled, I turn my attention to the ominous line of seagulls that have gathered in a crooked line behind us. Hmm, I wonder. That’s odd. What are they waiting for? A few minutes pass and I turn to look at them again. And now they seem to be even closer. And there are more of them. All standing and glaring and waiting.

“Can I have some chips, Mom?” my daughter asks, her grinning face covered in sand. I hand her the bag and put on some more sunscreen. I open the cooler full of sandwiches and fish around for a water bottle. “Mommy! Let’s go swimming!” She grabs my hand and we run off.

Which brings me to the first Beach Bummer to Avoid:

Don't let them fool you. They watch, they wait, they dive-bomb when you least expect it.

* Keep every scrap and morsel of food packed tightly away at all times. Use your cooler. And keep the cooler lid locked. Turns out Maine seagulls are mutant crafty creatures who will wait patiently for Dumb Beachgoer to walk away, leaving a treasure trove of food behind. Within seconds they sound the secret seagull alarm and every single gull up and down the entire coast will swarm and swoop and scatter those  BBQ chips over every inch of the beach, shredding the plastic bag into a million pieces in the process and ticking off everyone else within a 2 mile radius of your leftover bologna sandwich.

* Stay away from dead crabs. Do not point them out to your children. If your child runs up to you holding out his cupped hands and wants to know if you want to “kiss Mr. Krabs”, say no.

* Don’t believe your husband when he says he, “just put sunscreen” on the kids. Apply and reapply and reapply some more or be prepared to stock up on aloe vera later. Granted, putting sunscreen on little kids at the beach is like trying to grab a slippery muddy piglet in a farm contest, but think of all the exercise you’ll get.

* Always wear a swimsuit. Maybe you’re deathly afraid of being seen in one in public. Maybe this summer your thighs have expanded faster than the national debt. I understand. But still, wear one. You may think you won’t get wet. “I’ll just wade,” you say to yourself. Next thing you know a giant wave has knocked you over and you’re forced to spend the rest of the 90 degree day wearing heavy wet sticky underwear and shorts. Not cool, comfy or attractive.

* Always be sure to yell out, “Undertow! Undertow! Be careful of the undertow!” You can never scream this out enough or have enough advil on hand for the headaches you’ll get watching your daredevil son try and swim out to sea.

* Never pick a spot on the beach anywhere near a group of teens in bikinis. With every clump of sand your kids kick onto your pasty white, dimpled and bloated body, your sense of despair, regret and jealousy will only multiply as you wistfully gaze at them in all their carefree suntanned and toned youthfulness.

* Always wear sandals. Even if only for a short walk to the bathrooms. I’ve seen people walking around barefoot and I’ve come to the conclusion that the soles of their feet must be made of shoe leather. I discovered this a few minutes into my barefoot walk when my weak ankles began twisting in the white hot sand and within seconds third degree blisters started to form. I thought maybe if I walked faster, but then I hit that 185 degree blacktop in the parking lot and I broke out into a panicked run, arms and legs flailing, my lower half completely engulfed in flames now, my throat croaking, “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” over and over like somehow that would help with the searing pain (but only added to the fact that I looked like a complete moron).

* Don’t even bother cleaning the sand out of your car. Accept the fact that you will have sand in your car until it’s replaced by the salt from your winter boots.

* Always promise ice cream. That will be the one thing that will motivate your kids to leave the beach. It sure as hell motivates me.

Gate fee for Popham Beach: 2 adults, 2 kids = $10.00

Two bottles of Waterbabies sunscreen = $18.00

Four soft-serve cones at Dairy Maid = $6.50

One mega bottle of ibuprofen = $13.46

Returning home from the beach and plunking your tired butt down in front of the A/C = priceless

33 thoughts on “Beach Rules

  1. Ah, Popham Beach. One of the few sandy beaches I’ve been to in Maine. Also, been there, regarding the wearing of sandals/ flip flops. Ooch, aach, eech! Can relate on so many levels. Our special icecream place is the DQ just north of the bridge in Bath.

    I, too, hate lobster. My former customers didn’t understand that although I would happily fillet their catch, I hate to eat fish. I would just tell them that I don’t like lima beans either. Great piece. Took me right to the beach!

    1. Ooh, I love that DQ near Bath. We’ll have to stop by there next week if Jim can convince me to go to the beach again. I hate lobster but I love crabmeat. I made a bunch of crabmeat melts for my family last week and they were delicious! I will eat any seafood, except clams (slimy bags of dirt) and lobster.

  2. I’d think that saying no to a request to “Kiss Mr. Krabs” is a good general policy to have, regardless of context.

    Can’t go with you there on the lobster, though. Maybe it’s because I’m in Oregon, so it’s fairly uncommon.

    1. You’d think it would be a no-brainer, but if they had asked my husband, he would have shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

      My brother was here last week from Portland, Oregon and he made sure to have some of the creepy crawly lobster before he left.

  3. Agree wholeheartedly on the lobster assessment. (And so much else, as well.)

    I grew up in MA and I can totally understand – in a way that the landlocked may not – the ways in which the beach are not the biggest draw. In addition to all the pain points you have relayed, there’s the fact that although the SAND is roughly 500 degrees (the parking lot is 1000), the WATER is still really cold. I mean, um, refreshing. Yeah, that’s what I meant. 🙂

    1. Ha! Yes. They claim on the weather channel that the ocean is currently something like 65 degrees but I think a tub of ice water would have been warmer. I can’t believe my kids convinced me to go in, but I only did it once. I was “refreshed” enough for the rest of the day, believe me.

  4. Although a (relatively) recent, 14 year, transplant to Maine — I too don’t like the beach (or mudflats) except when it’s cold enough or empty enough for just a walk. But I love the ocean breeze and I love Popham! Lobster, eh, not worth the work & way to pricey! Funny post!

    1. Thanks, Julia. I love walking along the ocean. I visit the rocky shore off of Freeport quite a bit. It is great when the tourists are gone and I’m fully clothed in warm fleece. I love the water from a distance. And I think Popham is one of the nicest beaches around.

  5. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    This is wicked awesome. Now, as a fellow New Englander, you cannot tell me that you have eliminated wicked completely from your vocabulary. I haven’t yet, and I haven’t lived there for years. My accent, like yours, only comes out with deep agitation or heavy inebriation. 🙂 Where in Maine do you live by the way?

    1. Why, no, Lisa. I can honestly tell you that I have never slipped and said that word unless I am good and pissed or drunk as a skunk. I live near Lewiston and it’s wicked far from the shore (dammit!) Makes going to the beach a wickad pissah (grrr!) Okay, I give up, I do talk like I’m a lobsterboat captain. Guess once a Mainah always a Mainah… 😉

  6. Thank you, Darla. I was just thinking about going to the beach tomorrow, and you’ve brought me back to my senses. On top of everything else you mentioned, our beaches lately seem to be inhabited by millions of tiny insects. Sand fleas, maybe? Is there such a thing? Whatever they are, they love me — almost as much as I used to love the beach.

    Great post, as always.

    1. I’m glad I could help you with that decision, Charles.

      And yes, the beach is infested with something, sand fleas sounds about right. I forgot to add to my rant about being bitten by what my husband claims was a horse fly. It happened as soon as I arrived on the beach and felt like someone had stabbed my leg with a burning hot knitting needle. I just googled “horse fly” and found out they can carry “anthrax and tularemia (rabbit fever)” So there’s something else for me to look forward to now (and I need to find out what rabbit fever means) Guess it’s good I am not a horse.

  7. I read the part about 45 minutes having passed out loud to Rob – that was laugh out loud funny for the two of us.

    This is fantastic, Darla. We just returned from Jacksonville Beach, FL, where we spent three days at the beach. Happily, we had a great time, too.

    Gosh, this was funny. Loved it!

    1. Strange how time doesn’t exist at the beach, huh. We ended up spending a grand total of two and a half hours there that day. But it seemed like an eternity. I do love the beach I guess, just in small doses. Glad you all had a good time in Florida!

  8. Hi,
    I have never heard of a “gate fee” at a beach before, I hope that sort of thing doesn’t catch on here in OZ. 😆

    It has always amazed me, that no matter how hard you try, it is inevitable that there will be sand in the car. We have showers on a lot of our beaches here, and even after washing off the sand, it still seems to make it to the car. 🙂

    1. Mags, so true about the sand. We even had sand in our washer and dryer this time around. This was one of our state parks so it’s very clean and popular but there is a fee during the summer. We at least got the discounted Maine resident fee so it wasn’t so much.

  9. I think it’s a lot different to go to the beach with children. You do have to schlep tons of stuff. I always lathered the kids up before we even got to the beach so the suntan lotion had time to soak in before they jumped in, but you’re right. You do have to reapply again and again. Maybe because I grew up two blocks from the beach in Connecticut and could walk there with my brother, it wasn’t such a chore. And now it’s just a five-minute drive. Of course, our Virginia water is so much warmer than your Maine water! Big difference! Even though I do love the beach and lobstah, I loved your post. It cracked me up!

    1. You’re right. I think with young kids (in this case, I also had my young nephews and niece along) it is very tiring. I absolutely love the ocean. My dream is to have a house near the water, maybe a lake someday. But sometimes it can be a little stressful to say the least. I still enjoy it though, just love to write humorous posts and I’m glad you laughed!

  10. Thanks for transporting me to the beach 🙂 Not sure why we haven’t made it yet since we live so close to one, but guess there are two more months of summer left!

    FYI- your rule about avoiding teens in bikinis at the beach also applies to the just-legal/underage bar scene. You’ll feel older than dirt in addition to bloated and pasty next to those young’uns.

    1. Yes, with two months of summer left, maybe you’ll make it there. I think we might manage one more trip to the beach this week as it will hit 96 degrees with high humidity. We rarely go more than twice but this heat is killing us. And yes, I always feel older than dirt next to anyone younger than 35 now. So sad.

  11. Funny that I went to the beach more often when I lived in MA (and always followed by a trip to Captain Dusty’s for Ice Cream) than I do now that I’ve moved back to Jersey -even though I still live wicked close to the shore. You’d think the warmer water would be an enticement! Thanks for making me not feel bad that it’s 7/20 and I’ve yet to go to the beach this year (unless you count the hour watching fireworks)!

    1. You’re very welcome, Melissa. I don’t blame you at all for not going. Sometimes it’s more of a hassle than anything. Plus, the water up here is COLD. Don’t know what it is in Jersey but I prefer swimming in our backyard kiddie pool thank you very much. 😉

  12. Priya

    Darla, may I comment here even if I proudly proclaim I love beaches and could pitch a tent there and live? It might be because I don’t stay close to any single beach. Distance makes heart grow fonder, they say..

    That aside, I must mention again that I like visiting your blog because it gives me a sense of freshness, a feeling of unadulterated sincerity. So, thank you, Maineiac.

    1. Priya, it’s what us Mainers do best: complain (and slap a hearty dose of reality on top of it for extra measure) I really do appreciate being so close to the water. I think maybe it would be more enjoyable if it was a little cooler and I was completely alone on the beach without any tourists, just me and my camera.

  13. Somehow, I came across this blog — I don’t remember how — but I felt I wanted to write something. I’m originally from Sweden, but I live in Saint John, NB. Maine is my favourite state — possibly because it’s the only one I’ve been to *LOL*. Well, that’s not entirely true — I was in Florida, but that was 1979.

    I’ve seen oodles of cute places in Maine … Mars Hill on a rainy September day, for example. Caribou … Presque Isle. I have a whole slough of photos of Nubble, of course.

    We have many beaches here too, but only one with a gate fee.

    Just wanted to say that I loved reading your post, and I love Maine with its varied coast line … from rugged to sandy.

    1. Welcome, Rebekah. Glad you stumbled upon my blog.

      I agree, Maine is gorgeous. I’ve lived in the Northwest near Seattle and in Orlando Florida briefly as a child, but Maine is where I’ll probably stay. I am starting to get into photography and you can’t beat the ocean views here. Granted, the snowy winters and sub-zero temps tend to drag on too much, but I’ll take it.

  14. This is too, too funny – and spot on. The last time we went to Popham was last summer. I love that beach, especially at low tide, but the surf was riddled with seaweed and COLD AS ICE. After the hr-plus ride from Portland, not what we wanted. We now stick exclusively to the southern beaches which are thankfully a *bit* warmer (yes I am pretending) though the seaweed factor is anyone’s guess. Some days nada, others I have it wrapped round my ankles.

    Love your blog! I’ll have to come back and read through when my kids aren’t yanking my off the computer.

    1. Hello, dailydish! I was pretty shocked with the coldness of the water. Maybe it’s because I normally just stick my toe in, but this time my son pushed me in and a wave knocked me over and I was frozen instantly. I guess I much prefer viewing the ocean from a safe distance!

      So you’re from Portland? I live near Lewiston but grew up in Freeport. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I hope the kids stopped yanking you off the computer. Mine like to do the same, which is why it took me this long just to respond to your comment!

      1. Yeah and the craziest thing is how fast the water temp can change. A couple weeks ago, I took the kids to the beach – the water was so freaking cold my NOSE STARTED TO BLEED. Weirdest thing ever. The next day we went back w/ my husband and the water felt 10 degrees warmer. Overnight!

        We live in Portland and are loving it. In march it’ll be 3 years since we moved from Philly. Never going back, baby!

  15. Pingback: Mr. Man will not deter me today | Lenore Diane's Thoughts Exactly

Tell me about it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s