As a teenager, I became acquainted with our modern society’s expectation of “spring break” through MTV’s spring break specials. I remember as a teen feeling an acute sense of “fear of missing out“ when seeing slightly older peers dancing on the beach and swimming in the ocean.
Growing up in rural Ohio, I was nowhere near a body of water other than Lake Erie, which is aptly named. Towards the end of high school, I did end up going to Lake Erie on spring break, which felt like a dampened and dirtier version of the MTV spring break experience. You cannot swim in Lake Erie, it is heavily polluted. My only experience with it other than drinking next to it as a teen was jumping in on a drunken dare, and having to immediately recuse myself to shower, regretting the decision.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties and well out of both high school and college that I had anywhere near a spring break beach experience. After moving to New York, my friends and I would buy one dollar cans of malt liquor and dollar store snacks, and take the train out to the beach on the tip of Queens into the Rockaways. While I understand that this is not the glamorized spring break I saw on TV as a teen, it certainly felt like it.
These trips out to the Rockaways felt magical. We would spend the day dancing and swimming and drinking cheap beer. While there was certainly a feeling that these trips were working class/low budget, something about this made the trips more special than the sanitized MTV version.
Growing up working class in capitalism, where we are taught to envy others for what they have, we sometimes forgot the parts of what we have that cannot be bought or sold.”
As we were riding the crowded train or bus, someone blasting dance music on a boom box, sneaking drinks before we even hit the beach, there was something forged there – friendships that I have maintained several years down the road. No one was pretending to have more than anyone else, and no one seemed to care. It was, in its own strange way, a type of class solidarity that no one on MTV spring break would know anything about.
Growing up working class in capitalism, where we are taught to envy others for what they have, we sometimes forgot the parts of what we have that cannot be bought or sold. And it is those parts that I hold most dear.