If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
I never wear sunscreen. Maybe this traces back to putting some on when I was young, and inadvertently rubbing it in my eyes. This led to me howling and screaming around the house, convinced I was blind for at least an hour. I’ll forever remember staring at that little girl and her cracker white ass on the bottle while my eyes misted over, and wondering why I needed, for the first time in months, apply fucking sunscreen.
I would spend hours outside as a kid, most of those in the summer in the local pool, where you could collect friends, Dickie Dee ice cream and warts. Generally I’d forget that spending 11am to 4pm in water in direct sunlight is a bad thing, and would wince my way home, the color of an angry lobster. occasionally I’d manage to give myself heat stroke as well, leading my mother to toss me in the tub in an attempt to bring down 104F temperatures.
Sunscreen she’d mutter as she rubbed a stick of cocoa butter roughly over my baked skin why can’t you ever remember sunscreen? Or get in the shade? She ignored any grimaces or cries of pain, considering them collateral for what I had done to myself. Later, trying to sleep in a windless room on sheets that stuck to my charred arms, I’d think, suncreen, huh. Maybe.
I can’t say I became any smarter as I grew older, walking for hours in tank tops and shorts to the point where once, my shoulders blistered like a toads back. I stared at myself, fascinated, while friends retched. It’s not my fault I’d repeat. I shouldn’t burn this easily. I’m ruddy and brown haired, with dutch and english blood. I’m not fair. My ability to sear like tuna was inexplicable but true. Give me 15 minutes, and I’d be burned. 20 minutes, maybe, with sunscreen. It never failed.
You can lecture me until you’re blue in the face, and I’ll still forget the sunscreen.
Now, at 32, spending more than 20 minutes in the heavy warmth of a July afternoon will cause me to become, in order, whoozy, nauseous, cranky and weak. I’m like some consumptive Victorian swooning in the light. It’s irritating to almost anyone I know, but I don’t fake it-I cannot handle the sun.
And I miss it. Little miss hates the sun…doesn’t hate it. She misses those days when she spent hours lazy under a blue sky, chasing after the cute guy driving the Dickie Dee bike. I miss hot toes on pavement, afternoons by the river, staring. Sand tossed from swimsuit bottoms, bass nipping at legs in seaweed, swimming off the side of a sailboat bouncing lazy on the bluegreen water.
Minus of course, the sunscreen.
(Quadelle had a fab idea to do a series of posts based on phrases from Mary Schmich’s commencement address . [You may remember it better as a “song” by Baz Luhrmann] I thought it was a great idea, so, I stole it. Or copied. Whatever. Imitation is the soul of wit. Or brevity. Or both. :P)