This summer, I've decided to end a relationship that has meant the world to me for most of my life. Through summers on the beach and my parents' boat, to vacations in Florida and the Caribbean, I've carried on a life-long love affair with the sun. And now, it's over... Sob...
I'm in my mid-forties and am suffering from what my friend Chris calls LIS Disease: Lousy Irish Skin Disease. In short, my skin in a disaster area, and I really have only myself (and Mr. Sun) to blame. For years during my misspent youth, I was under the impression that the fifty percent of me that is Portuguese would eventually trump the 50 percent of me that is Irish. No such luck. My brother, who got the Portuguese skin, tans like a God. We'd go on family vacations when we were in high school, and he would return to school brown as a berry while I was red, scabby and peeling. People would ask if we went to the same place. Hardy har har! Not much has changed since then except for the sudden onset of wrinkles and ripples and other stuff that just doesn't belong on anyone's skin. I've already had several "suspicious" moles removed. After one such removal, the dermatologist said, "Congratulations. Now you'll live to see your grandchildren." Great...
Remember the baby oil and iodine years before we all knew that the sun could be bad bad bad for us? Remember the scorching sunburns of childhood before everyone had SPF 250 in their beach bags? Yep, that was me. Burnt to a crisp for most of my life. My parents used to talk about the time my mother took me to the beach as a baby, had me in a playpen under an umbrella and I STILL got burnt. My father was apparently beside himself over this incident, to which my mom said, "SHE WAS NEVER IN THE SUN!" They decided the sun reflecting off the sand had gotten to me. It was an ominous start to my relationship with Mr. Sun... I once had a blistering sunburn on my arm as a kid. Every dermatologist I've ever been to as an adult points to that spot on my arm and asks, "What happened here?" During my five years of working on the docks at a marina, I wore a Panama Jack-style hat that was tied to my belt loop with a shoelace. I'm convinced that hat is the only reason I don't look 90 years old now.
In the ultimate irony of life, my late mother (who also got the Portuguese skin) hated to lay in the sun but tanned effortlessly nonetheless. Traversing from the house to her car, from the car to the boat, from the car to the grocery store, she'd get in five minutes the tan I spent a summer cultivating. Over time, I managed to convince (or perhaps SHOCK) my skin into believing that it could in fact tan. But this past winter, I couldn't deny any longer that the damage I've done over the years is getting worse, and if I don't break up with Mr. Sun NOW, I'm going to look 80 when I'm 50. One of my dad's best friends, a gorgeous red head who has studiously avoided the sun her entire life, looks better at 85 than I do at 46. She says that's ridiculous. I say it's TRUE.
As a mother, I've been MILITANT with my kids about sunscreen. Last year, my son and husband attended the Indy 500 and Jake got a wicked sunburn on his neck--the one spot they missed with the sunscreen. It was an ugly, blistery mess by the time they left Indiana to come home. Knowing this is one of my pet issues, my son called me from the airport to give me advance warning about the ugly burn and to tell me, "It wasn't Dad's fault." (Haha, of course it was his fault! LOL) The warning didn't stop me from SHRIEKING when I saw just how badly he was burnt. Whenever one of my kids gets even the slightest sunburn, they apologize to me because they know how crazy I am about them avoiding the same mistakes I made with my skin. Sadly, their skin is fairer than mine, if that's possible. Poor kids. When attending sailing camp in the summer, Jake's EYES get sunburned even with SPF-protecting sunglasses on all day. Their dad, however, tans like a brown berry. When Emily was younger and drew pictures of our family, Dan was always drawn with a brown crayon to reflect his perpetual year-round tan. I'm after him ALWAYS about using sunscreen so he doesn't look like shoe leather by the time he's 60. He's starting to get a clue, but it might be too late to save him from a leathery fate.
So my dear friend, Mr. Sun, we had a good run, you and I. I had lots of fabulous days on the water basking in your glow. I spent lots of days hiding my now-wrinkled toes from your wrath by burying them in warm sand. But the sunscreen people have yet to make the SPF that will protect my disastrous skin from your mean side. Now, just because you and I are through doesn't mean I'm forsaking the beach or the boat. No way! Before my first trip to the beach (and day now), I'll be purchasing a large umbrella and a sledgehammer that will live forever in my beach bag to make sure I can get that sucker deep enough that I won't be chasing it down the beach at the first strong gust.
I'll miss you, dear friend.
Have any of you broken up with Mr. Sun?