A More Senior Viewpoint on Senior Week A Letter from Ocean City

June 27, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

A few days in Ocean City can be a time of discovery.

From the sand, you learn that footprints show you walk like a duck.

From the sun, you learn where on your back you can't reach with the SPF 15.

From the amusement parks, you learn how quickly 50 tickets can disappear.

And from the seniors, you learn that teen-agers only look different from when you graduated high school.

That's what strikes you if you find yourself in Ocean City during Senior Week. Sure, you're not old, but suddenly it seems very much like 18 years since commencement.

Let's start with hair. In your day, guys didn't deviate much. There was the basic sweeping bangs across the forehead or the Afro.

Now, though, the choices are dizzying. On-a-weekend-pass-from-Parris-Island buzz cuts. Close-cropped sidewalls with a combed-back page boy on top. Hitchhiking-to- the-Dead-concert ponytails. Junior Bob Marley dreadlocks. Big Man on Campus clean-cut curls. Surfin' USA Beach Boys circa 1964 'dos.

You and your buddies had a basic outfit -- jeans and T-shirts. In the summer, that changed to cut-off jeans and T-shirts. The Senior Week crowd hasn't abandoned that look, but it has taken the T-shirt and boldly gone where no one in the Class of 1975 had gone before.

You think you're pretty hip in your Harmonic Convergence World Tour T-shirt, but you get buried in the sand by the Seniors' offerings. Maybe the first hint was the guy sitting one table over at a food stand who sported a shirt depicting two pigs running through several chapters of the Kama Sutra.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll pretty much sum up the raison d'etre of the beach T-shirt.

Even if you liked Mettalica, you probably wouldn't wear one of their black-on-black T-shirts. And that's one of the few groups you recognize in this clothing Top 40.

"Take me drunk, I'm home" is a popular message, as are the several marijuana designs that would warm the cockles of old pot smokers' hearts, if they still can remember whether they have cockles.

A question running through your mind while down the ocean is: Doesn't anybody have a belt? It's quite popular to wear baggy shorts and pants low-slung on the hips, the better to reveal one's boxer shorts. You have a vague recollection of how major uncool it was to have boxers peeking out from the bottom of shorts. The times, they are a-changin'.

And what's with these Doc Martens boots? Big, black and clunky, they're everywhere. I'm a Marten, he's a Marten, wouldn't you like to be a Marten, too?

And that's not to mention the nihilism-is-us all-black look, the Maynard G. Krebs goatees or the inexplicable perpetuation of an old teen-age lie -- it's cool to smoke.

But underneath all of that, you see a lot that looks familiar.

A pack of boys sitting on a wall, nudging each other to check out the pack of girls strolling down the boards. The half-hearted, half-baked come-ons from the boys, seemingly more for their buddies' sakes than for any chance of connecting with a female.

The group of boys and girls together, everyone looking past everyone else's shoulder to see who else might be coming.

The couple holding hands, staring intently into each other's eyes and speaking softly, so serious. (The last time you and your wife did that, she was telling you to stop forgetting to take out the garbage.)

Mostly, though, it's another look on the young faces. It's a look that says each night is filled with possibilities, that on the next block you might come upon The Girl or The Boy.

And although you've read the statistics on teen sex, seen the lewd messages on the T-shirts and felt that you were a lot younger at 18 than these kids are, that look bears an innocence that you suspect -- that you surely hope -- never disappears.

Ray Frager is an assistant sports editor of The Baltimore Sun.

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