Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Baked

As I write this, I am utterly exhausted. I would do anything for a good, long nap right now, but bedtime is only a couple hours away and we've got Thai delivery coming. That's worth staying up for.

Passover ends tonight and I'm really glad for it to be over. During the holiday, my home became a refuge of ham and bread for my mom, sister and brother-in-law who don't follow the holiday. Every time I turned around somebody was over here looking for some tref and chametz. The Jewish relatives will be gone on Thursday anyway. I've got a friend of ours staying here until tomorrow morning and then Thursday morning my father-in-law arrives. Someone else is coming after he leaves, but I've actually lost track of who's coming and when.

The one thing I noticed that all these guests have in common is a pathological need to blister their skin within seconds of spontaneous combustion. I don't know why they do it, but every time someone comes here from another state the first thing they do is rip off their clothes and sprawl themselves across the backyard to bake. You can practically hear the sizzling flesh. I swear I've seen blisters raise with my naked eye.

I thought people knew better than to lay out in the sun. I guess I also thought people knew smoking would kill you, but plenty of people do that too. I have an aunt who actually does both. She smokes while she lays out. Watch her outlive us all.

Sunburn is inevitable. There's also a strange denial of sunburn that happens, wherein guests red as a freshly steamed Dungeness will say things about getting a base, or how by the morning it will be tan because they don't burn of course. Sometimes they'll poke at their drawn, broiled epidermis in wonderment, watching their fingerprints fade to white and then back to scarlet. Even after all that, they'll remark at how they're getting good "color." Yeah and that color is RED.

I try to tell them it's not healthy to burn. I practically toss tubes of sunscreen at them like beads from a Mardi Gras float, but it does no good. Later, they'll meekly ask me for the aloe gel, but by the next noon, they're out there again. Towards the end of their vacation, everyone'll be peeling; skin just falling off in sheets. The house looks like a damned leper colony.

No one listens to me. Instead, and it never fails, someone will ask me how I can live here and be so pale. Yes, I'm pale. I admit it. I inherited the milky Irish complexion of my ancestors and I'm frighteningly prone to freckles, so ever since high school I've obsessively stayed out of the sun. I think I can thank Robert Smith of The Cure, at least in part, for starting my aversion to strong daylight. Back in high school I lucked out because the pale skin, dark haired look was in amongst my clique and I just happened to look like that naturally. I tried to preserve my color (or lack thereof) and I guess staying out of the sun kind of became a habit.

Obviously that's not the only reason I shun the sun. When you live here, life's generally not one big vacation, not unless you're a stripper or a call girl and have your days free. People have to work and most people work when the sun's out. Tourists have a hard time not thinking of Florida as one big vacation for everyone, I guess.

Laying out bores me. It's uncomfortable and hot and sticky. I can't stand feeling my skin prickle. Tan lines look ugly on me, as I prefer to be one solid color. I guess I could tan naked, but I think the neighbors would be uncomfortable and honestly, I think the cellulite on my ass looks better white. You know, more like cottage cheese. Ok, my cellulite's not at cottage cheese levels. I'm exaggerating. It's more ricotta.

Perhaps the main reason I stay out of the sun though is because I was deeply traumatized at an impressionable age by seeing my grandmother naked. It was an accident. I should never have seen her out of her tasteful pleated slacks and cream colored mock turtleneck, but she was staying at our house and had left the bathroom unlocked. I didn't know she was in there and well, now the image has forever been imprinted on my brain, where it causes me great pain.

My grandmother was what was known back in the day as a bathing beauty. She'd turn her kids loose in the neighborhood in the summers to go beat one another with chains, get glass stuck in their barefeet and fling fishhooks into one another's lips. People didn't care about stuff like that back then and a few trips to the emergency room or a few extra bottles of Absorbine Junior were worth having a few hours to yourself. My grandmother used her alone time to scorch. She was the prettiest woman in town and after five children she could still flaunt a bikini in her front yard. With a folding, metallic reflector, she'd lay on a chaise lounge greased with baby oil. She'd get so dark people'd think she was from some exotic foreign country.

"She's french Canadian," someone would explain.

"Ohhh, that's why," everyone would say in understanding.

My grandmother might have had an enviable tan when she was in her twenties and thirties, but in her seventies and eighties all that sun exposure has resulted in an unfortunate case of sun spots and weird tags. She looks like she's growing pencil erasers on her back and is as speckled as a leopard. My mother compared my grandmother's skin in both texture and appearance to a chocolate chip cookie and I don't think I need to tell you that that is not a compliment. No one wants to look like a chocolate chip cookie. I hope. Seeing my grandmother just out of the shower wasn't pretty, but that's what happens to people who roast themselves. It is by the grace of God alone that my grandmother has not turned into one, big, bleeding, black melanoma. I should also mention that she has smoked cigarettes since she was twelve, so by all rights she should be a walking tumor by now and has just gotten very lucky.

I'm not taking any chances. Yes, I live here. I could have a tan if I wanted one. I'm white and I like it that way. I don't care that when my husband saw my new passport photo that he asked me if that was my head shot for my audition for the next Twilight film. Bring on the SPF 50.

**PS - We caught the feral cat and put it outside!!***


Anonymous said...

I live in Central Florida and use sunscreen to go get the mail from the mailbox at the road (the driveway is only slightly longer than the car).

I don't get it either. I burn and I get sick from the sun (migraines I guess). And I pay good money for a/c.

I'll join you on the bench throwing sunscreen at the vacationers. Oh you could get the continuous spray kind and just walk by them and spray them whether they want it or not.

Kerry said...

So kitty's fine? Cool!

I'm with you on laying out- boring. Tried it a few times, couldn't do it even with a book. I've resigned myself to having tan lines from my bike clothes. Sunscreen is your friend, yes, I agree!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap I think this is one of my favorite posts ever. I was laughing the whole time.

rosie-b said...

I really wish I could go back in time and tell myself NOT to tan (among other things). I am another pale-skinned, dark-haired French Canadian girl with freckles. All that tanning plus pregnancy hormones have left me with brown freckly blotches on both cheeks. Smart girl for staying out of the sun!

How did you catch he cat?

thecatwithglasses said...

Good for you! I am the only one in my family who doesn't immediately turn a couple of shades darker when I step out in the sun. I have, in fact, never had a tan of any sort, and most people don't seem to understand that I am not at all sad about it. Makes me want to be a goth again just so that I won't have to explain my so-pale-it-glows-in-the-dark skin.

JDogg said...

Sunblock is a requirement, but the current job has me outdoors for a lot of the summer.

Not getting a burn, or going to a tanning bed, but the freckles have a distinctive tan line.

Anonymous said...

You are so right about guests and sunburns. I live in Florida, too, and it always happens with our visitors. What I hate is that they don't take my sunscreen advice, then they are miserable and a pain in my butt for days afterwards due to the sunburn. It's not rocket science, they need to do the math and stop making me crazy.

islandwonder said...

We have visited Maui every winter for 6-years now and have seen the same people each winter. It is amazing how powerful the sun is. Those that sun bathe 12-months of the year on Maui have gone from healthy looking early 30 something's to spotted and leathery looking 40 year-old. They have stepped on the gas so to speak.

greyspasm said...

I will never look at a chocolate chip cookie in quite the same way....

Laurie said...

I've got guilt flashes reading this post! Don't kill me, but I absolutely LOVE laying out. Here in NJ we can't lay out all winter or most of the spring and fall, so late April to mid September you can bet I'm in the sun on nice days, except for when it's humid. I even have a tiny sun tattoo!

I can't wait every year to feel the sun on my face and soak up some vitamin D, but limit myself to 15 minutes a day, unless I'm actually on the beach. I use a minimal sunblock, but practically dip my kids and Irish hubby in waterproof SPF 50 whenever they're out. I'm half Italian, so after the initial pink I turn a nice light golden brown. It's like instantly losing 5 pounds and having your hair naturally highlighted by just lying there! Awesome.

Also, don't faint, but I'm kind of like your aunt - 15 minutes in the sun with a Parliament Light 100 is my guilty pleasure in the summertime. (Hangs head in shame - LOL!)

Glad you caught the kitty!

Alison said...

Thank you for this post! I'm going to Florida next weekend and whether or not to wear tons of SPF had been something I was wondering about. I'm irish too, and pale as hell, so the idea of coming back with a tan (er...burn, who am i kidding?) was slightly appealing. Shows people I've gone somewhere, you know?

I did want to point out though, that skin tags are caused by moisture and friction, not sun. They commonly pop up where your clothing or skin rubs together. (As I said, I'm irish and never in the sun, and I have a teeny skin tag under my armpit.)

But thank you for this post, I will find the highest SPF I can :) I don't want to look like a chocolate chip cookie. (Although, I am with you on the ricotta.)

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