children playing on the beach

Southern Sass: Beach Etiquettte

Check your SPF and MYM (mind your manners) for a perfect beach retreat. 

Summer in the South. It’s hot and wet so we … go to the beach — where it’s so hot and wet that folks put bags of ice into their pools to cool them down. If it doesn’t make sense now, you’ll understand at around 4 p.m. on your first beach day. The best feeling in the world is that afternoon cocktail and pre-dinner shower on slightly sunburned skin.  

The best sandwich in the world is that mid-day ham and cheese with Doritos on white bread. We may never know if it's the cold bread or the Duke's mayo or the magic of the beach. We just know it's the best. Folks come from all over the world to experience our beaches, and we are happy to share. Here are a few ground rules to ensure we are all on our best Southern beach behavior.  

  1. Beach Baggage: We get it. We do. Buying beach gear is fun, and we know a Southerner loves anything that can be monogrammed. Ask yourself if it takes more than one wagon for your family to get the gear down to the beach. If you require a cup holder to ensure your cup doesn’t touch the sand, a blanket to ensure your hiney doesn’t touch the sand, chairs, and tables to ensure your food doesn’t touch the sand, towel clips, portable fans, floats, a tent … you are actually a pool person. If all these apply, plus you hate crowds and hate the heat, you are actually a mountains person. Give yourself a moment to adjust and remember God loves you just the way you are. 
  2. Beach Cup: This is a personal decision for a Southerner. You might have a Frost Flex that lets the ice in that jalapeno margarita melt juuust You might have a YETI that holds a gallon of sweet tea and the nugget ice that you drove 30 minutes to get. From solo to Stanley to Styrofoam with a lipstick stain, your beach cup is your extremely personal choice. No judgment.  
  3. You are not the view: Please do not set yourself up directly in front of another group — no matter how cute you are. Those tired-looking mamas set their alarms and made their kids eat Lunchables for breakfast so they could get to the beach at 7 a.m. and set up. Do not saunter down to the beach at 11 a.m. and park yourselves in front of them. 
  4. Coverup Rules: Southern moms are known for requiring a coverup anytime you’re walking more than 30 steps. In other words, if you are headed somewhere other than the water, put on that coverup. Whether it’s a fabulous designer caftan if you’re at Sea Island’s The Cloister or a tasseled T-shirt (you know who you are), this is just a good idea. The beach is like the grocery store — you are going to see someone you know. You’ll be more comfortable chatting with your youth pastor or your boss' wife if you’ve got a little something over your suit. Mom was right. 
  5. Music and Sunscreen Spray: Your music and your sunscreen spray must stay within your towel area. Don’t blame the wind for what you did. It only takes one mouthful of glittery peach-coconut-spray-SPF 100 or one child sharing Cardi B lyrics with Nana at dinner to understand the importance of this rule. The same rule applies to aggressive towel-shaking. 
  6. Community Property: Tailgate rules apply to beers, cooler drinks, and sand toys. Once you bring these items to the beach, they belong to the beach. If your beach-neighbor’s child is melting down at 3 p.m., pass over that capri sun and a green plastic shovel. Same rules apply if the mama a few towels away needs a can of wine. I have seen a group of moms hand over an entire picnic lunch when a group of redheaded toddlers a few towels down revolted and stripped off their turtleneck swim shirts. You know you’re doing it right when that cooler is close to empty on the walk back to the condo. 
  7. It is all good: A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at home. Your mama already told you that if you can’t say something nice, hush. This is especially true at the beach. No fussing. You might be sitting next to someone who has saved all year to be here for the week, or who is making their first trip without a loved one. In the South, the beach — as with most things — is really about the people and the community we create. 


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