As the summer solstice has just passed, I thought it might be a good time to say a word or two about sun:
Now, I love a sunny day as much as the next person. I love being outdoors. But only in the shady parts.
I sneeze every time I hit sunlight. I burn faster than a cheap polyester suit next to an open flame. I suffer heat stroke at the drop of a hat – literally. I break out in a rash the second I put on a sundress. I have never had a tan. Seriously. Never. I freckle, but not once in my life have I had a tan.
I don’t know, maybe it’s my DNA. All those ancestral roots in northern climates, like Winnipeg, Scotland and Iceland. I used to be embarrassed about it when I was a kid. On summer vacation, all the kids in my neighborhood would slather on baby oil and head for the Sargent Park pool. They’d be out there all day on the concrete deck frying in the sun, flipping every hour to get a nice even sear like they were chicken fillets on a griddle. I couldn’t bear five minutes before plunging into the cold pool and then heading home using, “I’ve got cramps!” as my excuse.
Going to my parent’s summer cottage put me at the mercy of the tanners on the beach. One time, some well-meaning (?) woman watched me lay down my towel, drop my terry cloth cover-up, adjust my bikini straps and head for the water. “HOO BOY!” she shouted in my direction, “Are you ever PALE! Whattya been SICK?” Nice.
I’d try to make up for my lack of sunbathing stamina by using tanning lotions and spray-ons, but I could never get the color even. I mean, who among us has ever been able to get the backs of our legs blended with the fronts with that stuff? I generally looked like I had been dyed in carrot juice anyway, so I gave that up as a lost cause.
During my adult years, friends and folks at work would toddle off to winter resorts in Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, Arizona or the Caribbean and return home looking like a million bucks, glowing some lovely toasty shade of adobe or café au lait or Jamaican patties or Kona coffee bean. How I envied them. How I dreaded the arrival of shorts season when my fish-belly-white legs would be exposed for public scrutiny.
This year is my tenth anniversary of not wearing shorts. It was a joyous day for me when capris and crops came back in style. It is also somewhat fortunate for me that dire warnings about sun worship have been issued. Now I can seek shade with impunity. I can enjoy dappled light coming through leafy canopies. I can stay off golf courses. I can find a large umbrella at a pool and get comfortable in a lounge chair with a towel over my knees. I can stroll on a beach wearing mid-calf pants, a long-sleeve T-shirt and a giant sun hat. And no one asks if I’ve got some rare disease that renders my flesh the color of halibut.
Pass me the SPF 100!