Going To The Beach In The '80s And Now

by Amy Rodriguez
Originally Published: 
Two girls in the 80s at a crowded beach

trunk filled with things for the beach The Beach in the ’80s

“Wanna go to the beach?”


“I’ll be right over.”

I’d pick up a friend in my parents’ Toyota Corolla. Between us, we’d have a couple of Diet Pepsis, a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic oil, a few Seventeen magazines, Sun-In (who cares that I was a brunette?), towels and a boom box. Total plan and prep time? Ten minutes.

The Beach Now

Planning involves a thread of 10 or more texts:

Wanna do a beach day?



How bout week from Wed?

Can’t. Thurs?

Can’t do Thurs. Fri?

Fri morning?

Can only do Fri afternoon.

Can do Fri. afternoon but will be no parking left.

What mornings can u do?


Ok. Week from Monday. 9:00?

It’s a plan!

The day of said Monday, I wake up early to begin preparations. I fill a cooler with ice packs, lemonades, juice boxes, slices of watermelon and grapes. The fruit is an attempt to counteract the snacks because the beach is always all about the snacks. God forbid the snacks run low for tweens or growing boys. I pack a beach bag full of snacks: salty snacks, sweet snacks, sweet and salty snacks.

I wrap sandwiches in plastic wrap and extra sandwiches for the sandwiches that will get “too sandy” when dropped in the sand.

I assign the tween water-bottle duty, meaning she is in charge of filling water bottles for all family members. She rolls her eyes and spends 10 minutes wandering around, muttering that she can’t find any water bottles. I hand her the water bottles that were on the table in front of her. She shrugs sheepishly.

© Courtesy Amy Rodriguez

I fill a gallon container with ice water in case we run out of our water bottle water because now, in 2015, we know that we are supposed to hydrate, rather than languish in the sun chugging warm Diet Pepsi.

Next, I rummage for sunscreen. I dig through closets, beach bags, backpacks and purses to come up with sunscreen: sunscreen for face, sunscreen for lips, spray sunscreen and lotion sunscreen. No more Hawaiian Tropic oil. Instead of attracting the sun with oil and tinfoil, we now know we need to protect ourselves from the sun.

I tell the kids to find their rash guards, which leads to the kids saying: 1) They don’t want to wear rash guards, and 2) they can’t find their rash guards.

I grab my cover-up and my beach pants. Yes, beach pants are a thing. And scarily, I love them.

While I stuff things into bags, the kids take things out of the bags while asking, “When are we gonna leave?”

After much searching, I find hats for everybody. The kids will toss theirs in the sand as soon as we get there, but I know hats are good for us, so I pack them anyway.

I drag the umbrella out of the garage and dust off the spider webs and the spiders. We must have an umbrella because, as mentioned, the sun is bad, and now that I am “middle-aged” I get too hot in the sun.

I put the boy in charge of gathering towels. He, too, roams around, saying he can’t find any towels. Twenty minutes later, he holds a bag of wadded up towels.

The biggest undertaking is the chairs. Now that I’m an adult, I bring chairs to the beach. I can no longer lie on my towel in the sand. I get too hot. I can’t see who I’m talking to, things hurt…

So I pack chairs, which seems like a very adult thing to do.

Then, we start to gather the beach toys: boogie boards, skim boards, football, shovels, pails, nets, lacrosse sticks…because the kids “get bored” at the beach, which is utter blasphemy.

Last, but not least, we cannot forget the goggles because, you know why, kids in 2015 cannot swim without goggles. True. At least my kids and the kids they hang with. (When I was a kid, nobody had goggles, and we all got salt water and chlorine in our eyes, and it burned, and we loved it!)

On the way out the door, I grab Band-Aids (somebody is always bleeding at the beach) and bug spray (somebody is always getting bit by a greenhead, gnat or mosquito).

Time from first planning text to leaving for beach? Ten days, three hours.

And then, I throw a magazine on top of the pile because I still have dreams that beach days will once again feel like they did in the ’80s.

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