Had I been on the same sand, with my children in tow, as the young man discussed herein, I probably would have been offended. Since, however, I was nowhere near the scene of what some are calling a crime, but which once upon a time was simply an indiscretion of youth, I hope I can bring a different perspective to the situation.
One of my biggest concerns about my children getting older is that, unlike when I was a kid, teenagers these days are expected to possess the wisdom and restraint of 45 year-olds. What adults once laughed off as childish mischief now marks young people as miscreants with permanent records.
The impressionable 19-year-old lad arrested this past June on the beach of Tybee Island, while in some respects a man, but in most ways a mere juvenile, lacked the sense that God gave a rat; not his fault, really. It's just the way nature made him.
That's why, when his friends dared him to strip to his skivvies, right there in front of God, lifeguards, and everybody, he did, without hesitation. What kind of self-respecting, testosterone-pumping, post-pubescent, 19-year-old male would ignore a dare? Plus he has the double whammy of being southern. And southerners don't pshaw at dares. Even I, myself, once ignorantly leapt out of a hayloft onto a smattering of hay on the sole basis of a dare.
But for that, for being the creature nature intended him to be, the boy was handcuffed, arrested, hauled off to jail, made to post $1,400 in bail, and given a criminal record for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure; all of which he will have to explain to every potential employer.
How can we raise boys to be men, if we never let them be boys? How will they ever know the difference between the two states of mind, or gain insight from their mistakes, if we make their mental errors terminal life sentences? I mean, please, this kid wasn't even creative in his tomfoolery. He went with the old tried-and-true methods practiced for generations before him: dares and nudity.
And for heaven's sake, he was only naked, i.e. without a stitch of clothing on his body. He didn't get nekked, i.e. without a stitch of clothing on his body and up to something. He sat modestly among the friends who had levied the dare. Very likely, all on his own, when the novelty wore off and his friends paid up the cash reward dangled like a carrot, he would have soon clothed himself again and gotten on with the business of a day at the beach; or so I like to think.
Because if the adults involved with this young man's punishment had used the good judgment and maturity attributed to a 45-year-old, they would have soon realized that no better rebuke for idiocy exists than the one Mother Nature doles out to her subjects. Tucking properly sunburned tender parts into the mesh lining of salty, sandy swim trunks would have sufficiently taught the teenager in question about the effects of solar energy.
A sunburnt bum, or another unmentionable part, would surely be enough discomfort to deter the fellow from stunts of that kind forever hereafter. And truly, isn't that how 45-year-olds developed their wisdom in the first place?
(Lucy Adams is a freelance writer, syndicated columnist, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, GA. Lucy invites readers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and to visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)