Ocean State of Mind, Volume 3: Beach Snobbery

Barrington Town Beach
Barrington Town Beach

It was one of those 95 degree, humid days. I walked down the street with my dog, feet flip-flopping against the hot pavement. In ten minutes, I would be on the beach, but until then, I stopped to chat with a neighbor under a leafy tree.

“You have a beach pass?” she asked.

“You don’t?” I said back.

“Uch, I guess I could go get one down at town hall….” she said.

“No, no!” I told her how easy it was to get a pass right at the beach. No town hall needed! But, why I was explaining this to her? I’m the Rhode Island newbie here. She’s been a resident for years.

She shook her head no. Even so, she refused to get a pass. “I feel like, for all the taxes we pay, they should just give it to us for free,” she said. “It’s my way of taking a stand.”

I believe that having a town beach is a perk and not a civil right. I shared this point of view and then we waved goodbye.

Although I live only a mile or two from the Barrington town beach, and just steps away from a private access point, I am always surprised by how different the weather is on the water. It’s windier, usually, and cooler, but it’s not just that. There is a shift of mood, a briny breeziness. Nature is more alive on the bay, and because of that, I feel more alive when I’m on the bay, too.

Wow, my neighbor is really showing them, isn’t she? I thought a few minutes later, closing my eyes and listening to the gulls squawk, the waves roll.

“I’m more of a pool person,” Another friend shrugged when I recently asked her why she has never purchased a beach pass. “Also, my kids and I prefer Second Beach, and the Newport beaches in general, to our town beach. The sand is nicer there.”

Well. I prefer the sand on St Barth’s, truth be told, but beggars can’t be choosers. And, when I have an hour to spare on a beautiful, summer day, I’m not going to bemoan the fact that Barrington Town Beach just isn’t Cap d’Antibes. I’m not going to jet off to Nantucket, either, though Surfside beach calls my name. Instead, I’m going to slather on the SPF, grab my beach read, get in my car, and, before my favorite new top 40 song has finished its last verse, I will slide into a parking spot and scout where to plant myself based on the angle of the afternoon sun.

“Yuck, our beach is gross,” I heard someone say at a gathering last week.

“Isn’t the water contaminated?” Another asked. “I heard it’s, like, totally contaminated.”

“There’s lots of seaweed there, I hear.” Not that they would know, because, when pressed, both women admitted to me that, no, they had never actually been there to check.

What absolute beach snobs!

Have these entitled, picky people always and only ever lived by the water? Do they not know what it’s like to live a beach-access-less existence? Let me bring you back to New York City with me and my husband, Brett, circe 1998. It’s the Fourth of July, and the air conditioning has died in our fifth floor walk up apartment in Brooklyn Heights. The air on Atlantic Avenue is cloyingly oppressive and the wavy black street tar gives off cancerous, petroleum-scented fumes. There are fireworks over Manhattan that night, but we don’t care. All we want to do is sit in a dark and icy movie theater until, maybe, late September.

(True, there is a beach in Brooklyn. But who wants to take three different subways for over an hour each way to Coney Island with beach chairs strapped to your back? Not I.)

Oh, no, my friends, there shall be no complaining about Barrington beach in my presence! I moved here for that crescent of sand, and you are not going to ruin it for me with your thoughtless complaining.

“I’d go with you to the town beach, I guess,” my pool-preferring friend conceded. It was a nice thing to say, because it implied that my presence on the beach somehow improved its overall quality. (Maybe the sand is less coarse with a friend by your side? The water less toxic?)

I nodded and said sure, let’s plan on doing that soon. In the very near future.

But guess what? I never call her on days when I go to the beach.

Why? Because, now that I have my beach, I don’t actually want to share it with anyone. In my own way, I’ve become what you might call a beach snob.

Even though I spend most of my time encouraging others to come to our lovely little town beach, I don’t want these others to sit too close to me. I like to be alone on the beach, in perfectly blissful peace and quiet. I do not like screaming children on my beach, or yakkety-yakking girlfriends, or music of any kind. I do not understand these pairs of women who sit side-by-side, knees touching, and speak one decibel below a shout. (Why, dear Lord, why?!) On more than one occasion, I have scooted my position upwind to avoid their travelling conversation, carried like cigarette smoke on the breeze. Speaking of which, who the hell lit that cigar? Jeez. And I absolutely abhor when people talk on their cell phones on the beach, sharing secrets and working through their problematic marriages with their BFF as if they are all by themselves. I mean, c’mon, people. This isn’t Starbucks.

I’ve seen people cry on the beach, laugh on the beach, drink on the beach, and take walks on the beach. I’ve watched parasailers fly across the surf and paddleboarders skim the mirror-like surface and kayakers fight the current. And I’ve seen it all from my red folding chair, under my white baseball hat, with my purple reading sunglasses on, from behind my pink encased Kindle, with a yellow and green Del’s cup by my side.

Ah.

So, please, come enjoy our town beach. But, if you see me there, ignore me. After all, no one likes talking to a beach snob.

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