Monday, May 25, 2015

"Beach Week" creep

There's a long-established tradition in my neck of the woods of high school seniors taking off just after graduation for "beach week."  It causes a good deal of (understandable) debate, angst, worry, etc., etc. as parents and other responsible adults consider how best to avoid death, dismemberment, destruction of property, DUIs, et al., while still allowing the graduates to have some fun and experiment a bit with the greater freedom they'll soon experience in college.  But all in all it seems like a reasonable-enough practice. 

Given this tradition, when someone at church first mentioned a college-aged offspring's "beach week" plans a few Sundays ago, I assumed the college student was going to join friends a year or two younger for the high-school-grad beach week.  But apparently there's another "beach week" tradition (how long-established, I'm not sure, but I don't think it was around in my college days): students from our flagship state U (and perhaps some other local schools, perhaps especially those who belong to fraternities/sororities) take a "beach week" every year after their exams are over.

On the one hand, I'm sympathetic.  If someone offered me the chance to go to the beach right now (and magically created a corresponding open week in my schedule), I'd take it (that goes double if I could take it on a beach not populated by recent high school grads and/or college students, or perhaps a month ago or sometime in September, when the beach is quiet, but just as nice).  Vacations are important, and I'm all for the taking of them.  Most of these students have worked hard all year, and have productive plans for the summer, so why not a beach week in between?  It's probably not even all that expensive, since we're talking about a week or two ago, when off-season rates were still in effect. 

On the other hand, I can't help noticing that what was once was a way to celebrate a milestone has now become a yearly event (twice- or thrice-yearly, if you count spring break, which has been beach time for college students for many years, and family vacations).  I also find myself reflecting on the class divide between the college students who attend my church (in a fairly wealthy inner suburb) and the students at my own regional state U (who hail mostly from the next few rings of suburbs out, or from the hinterlands-fast-becoming-suburbs -- in other words, the cheaper places to live).  "Beach week" just isn't an option for students who're working nearly full-time (often at more than one job), and still having to take out loans to pay for school and living expenses.  Even if they could afford a bit of fun, they probably couldn't get the time off (though they'd probably be better off, and better students, for a week of fun and/or rest).

So I guess I'm ambivalent.  Beach week for all, every year, in the name of all work and no play being bad for all of us?  Beach week for nobody, if we can't all have it?  Beach week only in milestone years? 

Any thoughts?  Or is the CM readership also at the beach this Memorial Day weekend? 


  1. Is this really any different than college students going to the beach during spring break? I guess I don't really care what they do with their time, especially if it's outside of the regular school calendar.

    Regarding this being a regular event rather than a special celebration, that's modern life. Everything from airline travel, eating out, and performing calculations on a computer used to be activities for the rich and powerful. Now, airplanes are too crowded, we eat too much, and spend too much time at the computer. Nothing is special because everything is within our reach.

    Only time away from all these things is considered special. Having said that, I'm now going to attend a small town parade, like people did before planes, supersized lunches, and, yes, even before College Misery. have a good weekend everybody!

  2. CC: I think it's part of the "luxury creep" I've noticed since I graduated from High School back some 35-40 years ago. Even the initial High School "Beach Week" you mention would have been a luxury then. I went to work at my summer job the day after graduation, as did many of my friends. (And we were not poor, although my High School was a tad more factory-worker middle class than professional middle class. Most of us went to college rather than follow our parents to the factory floor.) We didn't get our own cars when we turned 16, and if we did, it was a junker purchased and repaired. We had luxuries, they were just on smaller scale than now. The additional yearly beach week you mention just strikes me as a bit of this same growth in expectations about what kids can expect to enjoy.

    I don't want to sound like a cranky old cuss here.I would have liked to have had a car, even a used one, before I turned 21. Moreover, we had things we could enjoy that kids today can't, like graduating with little or no student loan debt. Of course, it was also possible at the time to go straight from High School to the factory floor, and to earn a decent wage. I think, given the choice, I'd rather have those advantages than a yearly "beach week"

    1. It's pretty cool that we were all crafting these responses around the same time. I find myself in good agreement with you and Ben.

  3. Everybody gets a trophy -- that's what I thought when I read of how an erstwhile celebration of significant achievement is becoming the expectation for even smaller steps.

    I get the idea that all work and no play makes one a dull person, but I don't think they'd suffer greatly from missing out on this form of play. The part that worries me is that they may come to think that if they don't get this "reward", they will be ruined for the year, and the perception will drive the reality. I once had a student complain that his academic struggles were brought on by his having had so little vacation due to his having gone on a humanitarian aid trip abroad. I thought (but did not say): hey, some travel, change of scenery, change of pace, sounds like a vacation. On the other hand, being outside of cell phone and WiFi range may have kept him in withdrawal the whole time.

    I worked summers through college, full time at a fairly serious job from the day after my last exam. Nevertheless I considered it a vacation of sorts: a mere forty or so hours a week of structured time in which the expectations were clear enough that I could meet or exceed them, but evenings and weekends entirely mine to live as I could not during the school year. I hung with friends, read good books, whatever. Maybe the idle rich kids were doing even more of the latter, but they were off in the Hamptons or somesuch and I let them slip out of mind. Maybe Daddy would buy them a job when they got out of college, but so it has been, is, and evermore shall be. I was trying to grow up and put away childish things myself. But my way is not the only way.

    I think a bit of decompression after the adrenaline-fueled final push could be a good thing. A day or two or three of hiking, picnicing, camping, what have you, to reconnect with the planet and humanity. A week of debauchery seems unnecessary. And if this becomes widespread enough, the on-season rates will creep to accomodate, which will widen the class divide.

  4. The end of term was a grey time for me while I was an undergrad. I might spend a day or so sleeping late or going out boozing with my mates, but then came time to move back in with my parents for the summer. Even then, I might have taken a week off to get everything sorted out.

    I spent my undergrad summers at a nearby oil refinery, so I might have stopped by for a few hours to figure out who I should report to and where.

    At most, I probably took 2 weeks off and then it was back to work but at the job I had in the plant. I'd be there for most of the following 4 months until it was time to return to university for the new term.

  5. OK, so it finally occurred to me that "beach week creep" was that middle-aged guy who hung around and bummed beers when me and the homies were trying to explore alternative harmonies to e.g. Paul Simon's "Kodachrome".