Dorothy Harris

Beach vacations aren't for everyone

On day five of our annual camping trip to the beach, Mr. Harris informed me he hates camping. (Please note his exact comments have been edited for this family newspaper.) I was surprised to hear this, even though his behavior was reminiscent of Walter Matthau's Grumpy Old Men. All he needed was a crab hole to crawl into - an air conditioned, dry crab hole; preferably with a couch he could crash on. This was his point of contention. He had been wet for days. He was fed up with sweating his guts out, getting rained on and being battered by ocean waves. "I am sick of it," he groused. "What are you saying," I questioned, not sure if he was just complaining or serious. As our discussion churned like a rip current, it became clear as beach glass. My ocean delight was no longer shared by my spouse. Mr. Harris hated the bugs, heat, heavy surf and the whole sticky, sweaty mess of camping. His joke of being Master of the Dark Waters, referring to our holding tanks, wasn't actually the jovial fun he made it out to be. He despised the chore. The strong waves made his knees hurt and the skin roasting sun required ongoing applications of goopy sunblock to prevent a new season of hack, snip and biopsy at the dermatologist. Evenings were accompanied by soaking rains or still air peppered with no-see-ums, leaving us looking as though we had a recent bout of measles. This not fun? Say it isn't so.
Well, he did, over and over again, in ways not involving words. This is our dysfunctional communication style. He jokes, meaning something more serious and I assume it's all in fun. Eventually it becomes clear no fun was intended. He's ticked and I'm to blame. Discussions hover at the edge of argument, falling overboard according to how important the issue is to him. Being cool and dry was apparently very important. For me, beach camping is a blissful escape. Trading makeup and business clothes for sun block, a bikini and flip flops is a dream come true. For five days, I never had to get dressed. We went from swimming to fishing and back again, following the tides. One night we fished until two o' clock in the morning. My daughter and I giggled with delight when we discovered it was already the next day. We gushed about how cool it would be to fish until the sun came up. Mr. Harris just wanted air conditioning and sleep. He had reached his limit. Once he came clean, figuratively, not physically, I had to admit I could see his point. As we packed, it started to rain again. This wasn't a squally shower, but a semi-tropical monsoon. Mr. Harris moaned it was his penance for being such a beach bummer. My daughter and I laughed out loud as we ran for the truck, but driving home was no joke. Towing a trailer through two hours of blinding rain becomes a harrowing experience of white knuckled driving. It ruined our visibility, but made clear this trip was not the rest and relaxation Mr. Harris hoped for. Now as we unpack and get back to daily life once again, I'm hoping we'll spend some time discussing next year's vacation. That would be a big improvement over not talking or not saying what we really mean. Our personalities are so different; I guess I should have expected our vacation preferences to be so as well.