Headed for the beach? Please, beg fellow sun worshippers, remember the Golden Rule.
"Beach etiquette is no different than everyday etiquette," says Syndi Seid, founder of Advanced Etiquette, a San Francisco-based company that teaches social etiquette and protocol. "The overarching theme: Be sensitive to the people around you, and refrain from behaving in ways that would be disruptive to your neighbors."
In other words, don't be a beach bum.
Some specific pointers, in case you need a tutorial:
Leave only footprints Put litter in its place — even if its biodegradable.
"For some reason, every time I go to the beach, someone is sucking on a chicken bone," says Meredith Bergman, a 30-year-old legal marketer who recently moved to New York City from Southern California. "The next thing you know, there are bones in the sand. It's extremely disgusting."
Leaving old soda cans or glasses is dangerous. Any kind of trash is unsightly.
Bring a small garbage bag or plastic grocery bag with you so you can pack your trash and keep it from blowing away as your day goes along. (And then put the bag of garbage where it belongs, of course.)
Watch your kids The piercing shrills of screaming children can be a real buzz-kill, if you're trying to relax to the dulcet tones of waves lapping the shoreline.
Keep the kids in regular family play areas or off somewhere where they won't bother anyone. Help them learn how to give a wide berth to others' towels, and remind them not to kick or throw sand.
Julia MacEwan, a 25-year-old education administrator from Brooklyn who frequents Cape Cod, asks that if your kids dig holes, have them fill them up before they leave.
"It kills me when kids dig up the beach and don't put the sand back. Falling into the holes is pretty awful, especially in a two-piece," she says.
(Same rules apply to dogs, too.)
Don't let the smoke get in their eyes Most nonsmokers don't want their salty air to smell like nicotine. "There's nothing worse than being downwind of a smoker," says Cindy Neuberger, a 32-year-old real-estate agent from Baltimore who regularly makes the three-hour drive to Bethany Beach, Del.
If you do smoke, be mindful of others both during your break and after.
"And then they just put the cigarette butts in the sand! Just clean them up, that's all I ask," Neuberger says.
Space it out Don't overcrowd. "I hate it when we are all packed in like sardines," says Julie Epstein, a 28-year-old graduate student from New York who goes to Ocean Beach on Fire Island.
"It totally takes the relaxation out of being at the beach when some stranger is on top of me." Her solution: Avoid the "cool" beaches and head for the more family-oriented ones where alcohol isn't allowed. "It's just not relaxing to me to be towel-to-towel with hundreds of strangers!"
Keep it down Again, people came to the beach to relax, not to sit in on your public rock concert. Turn the boombox down, says Lydia Ialongo, a real-estate agent from Ellwood City, Pa., who is a regular on the sands of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republican.
"I don't want to listen to your music," she says. "I came to relax or read."
And please, leave the cell phones at home, she asks. "I sell real estate, and my phone rings all day long," she said. "That's why I come to the beach, to get away from the cell phones."
(Given that there's little chance most people are willing to forget their mobiles completely, at least keep your conversation quiet by moving away from others' towels.)
Dress the part If it's a nude beach, by all means, let it all hang out. Otherwise, dress appropriately.
"Fat, old men in Speedos? No way," says Neuberger. "If you've got a hot body ... then by all means. Otherwise, no one wants to look at your belly hanging over," your abbreviated suit, she says.
Share Most people come to the beach to look at the ocean, not your back. So be mindful of where you place your blanket.
And share the facilities, too.
Says writer Patrick Mesterharm, a regular volleyball player at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica, Calif.: "What really irritates me is when people take a court and then don't use it for a good half-hour or longer. ... It's really not fair to prevent other people from using public facilities just because you want it available when you're ready."