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Done with the Sun July 23, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Health.
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s no secret.  I’m white, but not white like raw chicken.  I like to point out that although I have red hair, I don’t have freckles. My mother always said I was lucky to get my father’s olive complexion.  As a child, I found this confusing because when I held up a cocktail olive next to my skin, I couldn’t see a match.

Last year I decided that a hat, sunglasses, and sun block were no longer enough.  I bought a lacquer-coated paper parasol like the ones I’ve seen Asian women carrying.  I read that for many Asians, it’s more of a cultural thing.  Historically, having a tan was a dead giveaway that you worked in the fields.  In the store, all folded up, the parasol looked like it had Chinese characters on it.  I imagined they said “Prosperity” or “Abundance.” But when I got the parasol home and opened it, those Chinese characters said “Skull and Crossbones.”  Oops!

I wondered if this image, which I associate with a label that screams POISON, might alarm my students, so I worked on my comeback line.  “The sun is like poison to my skin,” I’d say.  I needn’t have bothered.  The first day I carried my parasol, a crowd of children yelled, Pirates of the Caribbean!  

When students asked where I’d gotten my parasol, I took to telling them I got it from a pirate who was in touch with his feminine side.  They’d walk off looking rather confused, but then I like to give kids something to think about.

What I’m going to say next is a little awkward seeing as I’m always the person reminding everyone to put on that SPF 60 sun block 30 minutes before they even think of going outside.  

Right now the skin on my back is the color of the pimento in that cocktail olive from so long ago.  Yes, I have a sunburn.  How could this have happened?

I went to the beach to meet my friends.  I don’t even like to go to the beach unless it’s at sunset or during the winter, but I do like my friends so I made what’s called a Small Sacrifice.  But then I did a bad, bad thing.  It was a gray cloudy day.  I was wearing a top with spaghetti straps and had my back to where the sun should have been.  By the time it occurred to me that maybe I should put on sun block, my back was toast. 

I’ve never understood those people who could spend an inordinate amount of time just lying in the sun with their eyes shut.  It’s like being a professional napper.  Growing up in Omaha, laying out on a towel in the grass just left you looking like a piece of meat set out on a place mat for the mosquitoes.  

My Aunt Lou from California used to come for a visit.  She was a bonafide sun worshipper and could have played “Leatherface” in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies sans make-up.  She was what you call a walking Cautionary Tale.

I did have a great tan – once.  One Spring Break in college, five of us drove 18 hours from Lawrence, Kansas to Padre Island, Texas, where we proceeded to dedicate ourselves to getting a tan the first day.  We were young and full of attitude, so we failed to factor in the change in latitude.  If so, we might have realized that laying out in the mid-day sun for four hours sauteeing in baby oil wasn’t a good idea.  

Sometime in the middle of that first night, I was awakened by the anguished cries of my friends, who’d cast off their sheets.  They now resembled two-legged lobsters hissing in a pot of boiling water.  By the next morning, I felt like the night watchman at the morgue.  I was flushed, but thanks to my olive complexion, at least I could stand up.  My friends pleaded with me to go find a remedy for this hell that was called Spring Break.

I walked over to the manager’s apartment and explained our dilemma to an elderly couple.  I could tell they’d heard this story before.  They motioned for me to follow them outside where they they hacked off a spike from a gigantic green alien life form.  

Now, you have to understand that we didn’t have succulents in Kansas, except for small potted ones at the dime store, and they could have been made of rubber for all I know.  I learned that this miraculous plant had a name – Aloe Vera.  I was informed that it worked on nuclear burns as well. This was before you could buy aloe vera at every grocery and drugstore, so it all seemed very exotic.  When I’d left my friends they were nearing nuclear meltdown, so I figured it was worth a try.

I returned brandishing the foot-long green pointy thing and announced that THIS was the cure.  I’m not sure what my friends expected, but it wasn’t THAT! I slit open the spike and scraped out the gooey green insides.  My friends lined up and I slathered the sticky paste over their backs, one-by-one, as they yelped in pain. Then, one-by-one, they stopped crying.  I’d found the cure!  

We avoided the beach the rest of our Spring Break.  Later, I heard about two students who had such bad sunburns, they were flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital.  So, in hindsight, my friends got off easy.  It also helped that this was pre Girls Gone Wild

A week after we’d returned to Kansas, I was sporting a bleached muslin Mexican shirt and the ultimate tan.  By the time it began peeling a week later, I didn’t care cause I was back to wearing long sleeves.  For some things, once is enough.  So, I’m done with the sun.  That is, as soon as my back is done peeling.





1. Elisse Stuart - July 25, 2008

This is rather timely as I too, am sporting a burn and a tan I picked up at McCullen Air Force Base. Despite the sun block 70. Standing on the tarmac watching the Thunderbirds air show and the ‘flyby’ of the “Spirit of Alaska” B2 bomber was the noisiest sun burn I’ve ever had.


2. Skin Cancer | Catherine Sherman - March 20, 2013

[…] Here’s a blog post by my friend Jan describing our spring break trip in college to Padre Island, where we got horribly sunburned within hours of our arrival!  Done With The Sun. […]


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