Beach Days In The '80s Vs. Beach Days Of Today

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I remember going to the beach as a young girl in the ’80s and enjoying long summer days with my mom and sisters. They were simple times. I look around today at all of us mommies trying to recreate the magical memories of our childhood beach days, and I can’t help but notice things have changed a little since I used to lather up with baby oil and sizzle on my beach towel, things like:

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1. The Food

In the ’80s, my mother would grab a bucket of fried chicken, a bag of Doritos, and a thermos of Kool-Aid, and we’d be off. If we were lucky, there would also be a bag of cookies—something deliciously wonderful, like Pecan Sandies or Double Stuf Oreos. When the food was gone, it was gone.

Now we cut up organic fruits and veggies, make gluten-free energy bars, and stock up on organic squeezable food that the kids suck out of BPA-free plastic. We pack enough filtered water and juice (with no artificial dyes or colors) to last the entire day. There is no fried chicken.

I miss fried chicken.

2. The Sunscreen

During my entire childhood, I remember putting on sunscreen twice. Mostly I just slathered myself with baby oil, then tanning magnifier, and soaked my locks with Sun-In. I am sure some foil was involved too.

These days, we arm ourselves with sun hats, SPF 554 sunscreen (reapply every hour!), and swim shirts with built-in sun protection.

3. The Equipment

In the ’80s, each of us kids would grab a towel, and my mother would carry the bag of food and a blanket. That was it.

These days the beaches are littered with umbrellas, tents, coolers, an array of plastic toys, lounge chairs for everyone including the toddler, and I can’t be sure, but the other day while at the beach, I’m pretty sure I saw an inflatable sofa.

4. The Toys

We did not own beach toys when I was young. I think we once had a beach ball, but as soon as we started playing with it, it blew away. We played with the sand, shells, and sticks. We worked on sand castles for hours, until our knees were rubbed raw and our backs were lobster-red. We built some pretty epic sand castles.

Now everybody brings sand molds, shovels, watering cans, and dump trucks. I have literally carried two bags of toys for my kids so they would stay occupied. And guess what? They preferred the shells and sticks.

5. The Music

In the ’80s, most of us brought along a boom box with our favorite mixtape when we headed to the beach. A little Prince, a little Madonna, a little Michael, oh, that was the stuff. We had to hit the rewind button and wait a bit if we wanted to replay a favorite song.

Now everyone carries around their own iPod or iPhone with earbuds.

This summer, I want my kids to get a little taste of what the ’80s beach days were like, so if you see a woman with a drumstick hanging out of her mouth carrying a boom box on her shoulders as she makes her way down to the sand, that will probably be me. I’m sure it will embarrass the hell out of my children, but at least I will be having fun. And so will they, even if they refuse to admit it.

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