The Winter Quandary about Summer Succulence

“I’m getting too old for this,” is the common answer I’ve been receiving to my share house queries lately.

“It’s time to grow up,” is another…

If the classified section for vacation houses is an indication, it’s that time of the year again: The moment to decide whether to join a beach house as a summer share–complete with bunk beds, two showers for twenty people, and plenty of absurd drama–or to stay up north on hot summer Saturday and Sundays because maturity has become a priority. 

Even Joe Concha, who doesn’t look a day over 31 ½ and hasn’t missed a weekend at the beach since 2001, still finds the “should” and “shouldn’t” thoughts going through his mind every January as well:

Should I be doing another house again?

Shouldn’t I be doing something more cultured, more productive, more diverse with my summer?

Should I subject my liver to this kind of abuse again?

Shouldn’t I be at a more responsible place in my life?

Many members of my Empire of 2006 are predictably on the fence when asked if they are coming back to a world of Sundress Fests and the Parker House. They too are experiencing the same kind of self-reflection that occurs every New Year’s, as in: “What can I improve about myself?”

On a cold day in colorless January, they all think about their ages (28-35) and see themselves being past the point of living another episode of Wild Off! The Garden State Parkway. It is an existence that is no different than what they experienced in their college dorms up to and over a decade ago.

Logic says they should move on to something else that makes them feel more stable, more like a true adult.

And then that kind of thinking abruptly hits a blind alley…

As in, if I don’t go to Spring Lake or LBI, what or where exactly is the alternative?

For some, the reason to just say no comes easily: Since or during last summer, most of the current “no” crowd met and fell in love, or deep like, with a significant other. To them, suddenly, the whole beach scene seems so sophomoric. The irony is that the same couples that declare themselves above the shore scene are the very people who originally went to the beach looking for someone to be a couple with. But like a trip to the mall, they found what they needed…and vowed never to return unless the warranty expired or whatever they bought broke. 

In other words, the moment an “I” becomes a “we” when considering a shore house, the answer is invariably a condescending “no” when asked if a share should be left open for them this May.   After all, once an “I” becomes a “we”, it is understandable why a “we” doesn’t want to be sharing a room with two other “I’s” or not having the option to stay in and rent The Notebook on a Saturday night at the beach.

For those still in the “I” column, the decision to go back down the Parkway is more complicated.

The head screams no, but the heart, and hips, cry proceed.

A scenario of an altered summer life prompts my thoughts to drift back to one long, hot concrete jungle summer in Hoboken of yesteryear. As I mentioned, I haven’t spent a summer weekend anywhere north of Exit 98 in five years, but from what I recall it ranks up there with Queens as one of the more depressing places to be, particularly on a perfect evening when tumbleweeds drift down Washington Street and bar bouncers are falling asleep standing up because the world is kicking it in the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore.

Another summer alternative is to get out of Hoboken or the city, but not go to the shore.

Saratoga is a nice option, but things don’t get rolling up there until racing season begins in the last week of July. A trip to Europe is always a more sophisticated option, but even if you’re a “we”, a weeklong trip across the pond still leaves 15 other weekends on the summer calendar to fill.

Museums are nice, but maybe for an afternoon.

Hollywood’s offering of twenty sequels to already-bad original movies sounds fun, but that waste of time can always be accomplished during the week or during rental season in the winter.

Summer television? Taking in that third repeat of House or 24 can’t be a good sign of adulthood… . Family picnics are great, but showing up as an “I” only to be roasted by relatives for even being an “I” instead of a “we” is usually something reserved strictly for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

The omnipotent and morally flawless members of the realhoboken message board will likely chastise me for this perspective, as they oh-so-myopically do at the end of every one of my columns. They will predictably state behind fake names and emails that I need to stop living in my fantasy world of beach bumming and start acting my age. Undoubtedly these same people live an exemplary, exciting, infallible lifestyle.

But if you’re unattached and still looking to meet those in the same boat as you with the similar interests while in a social setting that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country, I honestly don’t see what the mentally healthier alternative is from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Really, where else in America does an ecosystem of shared co-ed properties with a mix of friends and strangers exist?

Unless you still visit Mr. Rork and Tattoo often on Fantasy Island, the answer is nowhere.

Over the past five years my beach houses have produced six couples from within that have resulted in marriage, engagements, or those engaged-to-be-engaged. Those who didn’t perfectly connect still found close friends to hang out with during the off-season that had never existed before. The yearlong benefits far outweigh the petty issues of sharing bedrooms, morning clean-ups, and not having control of the remote control for two days.

Still, the final—and perhaps most ominous—item to be considered in the decision-making process of whether to enlist concerns the perception others may have of you for doing a beach house at any age older than 30.

“I don’t want to be that person who is still doing the shore thing at 37, 38 years old,” is the commonly voiced fear. “I’ll stay home before I become that.”

No worries…just check the birth certificate and you’ll be fine. Most of you are not there, at least not yet, and those who are still appear to be having a fantasmagoric time.

Besides, if a decision is made to sit out the summer in an effort to act grown-up, all you’ll be is the “old” man/woman hanging out at Madisons or Trinity instead of the “old” man/woman hanging out at The Parker House or The Ketch.

In the end, your decision between sand and city will always be based on your status.

“We’s” will stay home and may visit for a weekend or two…

While the “I’s” are like Pacino’s infamous line in Godfather III:

“Every time I try to get out, they pull me BACK IN!”

And that isn’t such a bad thing…