A Call For A Little Decency


On the beach!

Our family just returned from a GREAT week in Ocean City, Maryland.  We always enjoy our time there, and having visited almost every year since 1979, I have seen family-friendly improvements implemented in almost all aspects of the town.  There are many more kid-friendly options for lodging and dining.  Several competing grocery stores have moved in.  In a major safety renovation, the city has installed pedestrian islands between traffic lanes on the main highway that runs through the entire city.  In my opinion, Ocean City grows into an even better option for families each year.

But there is one flaw that I believe has become more and more anti-family, particularly over the last decade:  T-shirt shops.

Yes, I said, “T-shirt shops.”

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed browsing through t-shirt shops at the beach.  It used to be that the relatively few shirts that might been of any concern for parents featured beer ads or ambiguous sexual inuendoes.  Instead, many shirts advertised the town, depicted movie or television characters, or offered innocent jokes.  My personal favorite purchases in the early ’80s reflected my enjoyment of Ocean City, my appreciation of the art (?!) that was The Dukes of Hazzard, and my support for Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins (along with a corresponding hatred of the Cowboys).  But the world has changed.

Shirts hanging outside of these same shops now brag about illegal drug use–in words and images.  Some make explicit proclamations about casual sex; they celebrate treating others–especially women–as objects, marginalizing the importance of emotional attachment.  Others joke about violence and/or racism.  For perspective, there is no doubt that such shirts violate typical public school dress codes for content.

So since my kids have been old enough to read, we have avoided going near these shops.  We have even abandoned what used to be annual trips to the boardwalk.  Am I just getting old and uptight?  I don’t think so–at least not when it comes to this.  I recognize that a reasonable counter-argument might be that people wear those shirts, so kids may see them anyway.  But for me there are two critical differences between what I would consider a tasteless shirt on an individual and dozens of them hanging outside of a shop:

First, my kids are well aware that not everyone lives according to a single set of values.  So we can have a conversation if they notice someone wearing something I would expect them to view as inappropriate.

Second, there are other shirts hanging alongside the “adult”–How’s that for an ironic euphemism?–ones.  And those other shirts draw children’s attention with images of pop singers, Sesame Street characters, and sports.  Some of the inappropriate shirts even satirize characters children love.  Familiar images serve as attention magnets for kids, who are then exposed to offensive content.

So, assuming anyone agrees with me on this, WHAT COULD BE DONE?  Assuming laws are not already on the books, waiting to be enforced, it seems to me that a simple ordinance prohibiting PG-13 and beyond content from being displayed outside of shops or in shop windows would be reasonable and effective.  I am not an attorney, but I have to believe the same types of community standards that allow the sale of pornographic magazines–but restrict their display–could be invoked.

Mini-golf!  Good times.

Mini-golf! Good times.

In the end, there is probably more money to be made by making the boardwalk and shopping centers more welcoming to families.  Family-friendly is good business.  It’s also usually right.

Not everyone plans to visit the Maryland shore.  But we all take our kids out into the world to places where standards that I–as a dad–consider appropriate to protect children have been relaxed, or even abandoned.  If you have encountered something similar–or if you disagree with my concern–please take a moment to leave a comment sharing your perspective.


Filed under Morality, Places to Go, Vacation & Travel

3 Responses to A Call For A Little Decency

  1. I am in total agreement with you on this. The encroachment of vulgarity on our society is alarming, and the fact that nothing is done about it only makes it more common. Sometimes I worry about the things modern sociey accepts (vulgar public speech, literature, and clothing) and the things it chooses to fight against (religion, traditional family values, chicken sandwich chains). Seems the world is living upside down most of the time.

    On another note, my brother and sister-in-law go to Ocean City every summer too. They were just there two weeks ago. I’ll bet you have crossed paths at some point over the last decade.

  2. I agree that the lines of appropriate just keep on moving. I don’t think we are old-farts either. The idea of a law may be too hard to accomplish, but something like a AAA rating may work if someone had the passion to push it. If shops displayed a FF (family friendly) rating, then I would shop there. It allows the shop to decide if they want to keep families as customers. Anyway, you can see your post has my mind in a whirl-wind thinking of how to stop the insanity.
    Thanks for posting.

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