Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Painful Breakup

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?

22 comments:

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

I burn so easily. I try to stay out of the sun. My sister tans and she loves the sun. But now that we're older, she looks much older than I do and we're only two years apart. Sun! My daughter has my skin and I've taught her to be careful.

Marie Force said...

Sherri,
I'm with you on teaching the kids to be careful. My daughter was blessed to get my late mother-in-law's flawless complexion. I point to Nicole Kidman as an example of a fair-skinned girl who was smart enough to stay out of the sun. I think my daughter is on board with being careful, but she does get 500 new freckles after every trip to the beach! :-) THey were cute at 12. she hates them at 17!

Jane said...

we moved to America when I was 13 and I got the worst sunburn of my life the following summer. I am proud to say that I do not go out in the sun. I do not like the look of green welts that leak sticky gummy fluid that require more than 2 people ot remove clothing because it may have been exposed too long to that sort of glue!!

Too bad for the sun. I don't even like it. I am the whitest person, but then I do have nice skin!

Gretchen said...

Hi Marie, I feel your pain!! I spent my adolescence on the beaches of Massachusetts and lifeguarding my way through college, and now I have brown patches on my face and neck and at 48 (almost 49) I am mortified!! So now I wear a hat and try to stay in the shade as much as possible, luckily my kids had an Aunt die from skin cancer many years ago so they learned the hard way. You can still worship the sun from afar as I do...however nothing will be the same. Good luck!!

Stephanie O. said...

The sun hates me. We've broken up many years ago. My husband always makes fun of me because him and our kids have his native American skin and every summer the get a wonderful tan, while I on the other hand look like a lobster. I buy the highest SPF sunblock and cover up as much as I can when we go to the the beach and yet still seem to burn. It's no fun :(.

Bex said...

I've had to break up with Mr. Sun, too. The pigment of my skin looks like a corpse and I hate being so white, but I hate the increase in moles and freckles even more . . . and would rather give up Mr. Sun then meet Mr. Basal Cell Carcinoma again . . . I think it's especially hard for summer babies who were born and continue to live near the coast. It's in our DNA!

Harriet said...

Working in the skincare industry I broke up with the sun long ago! I've seen the leathery faces and try to preach to all the young girls to stay out of the sun and for Pete's sake stop going to the tanning salon. My son has inherited my skin that gets golden luckily not his dad's paler skin. He's been at day camp one week and despite the spf 50 is already a golden brown. He doesnt even look like he belongs to his pasty parents.

CMD said...

I spent many a year hanging out on the beaches of the Mediterranean and getting some nice colour to go along with my Iberian heritage... and then I moved to Canada, did the International Baccalaureate in high school (so basically, I was indoors all day), went to university in Missouri, and to graduate school in New England (where I basically live in lab & only really see the sun through the window). So I went from that nice Iberian colouring to looking like a pasty vampire scientist. I've since started scuba diving again, so when I'm not sporting >8mm of neoprene (so I don't freeze my arse off-- bloody North Atlantic!), I'm out in the sun during sumer. Generally wearing a UV-resistant dive skin, and sunscreen. So I get some colour, but generally avoid burns. My lack of sun exposure during my vampire scientist days was so bad that the doctor had to prescribe some wicked strong Vitamin D supplements, at least 15 minutes in the sun every day, and normal Vit D supplements every day during winter. 'Twas good times :)

Janet Watros said...

I am of Irish lineage also and have the palest skin, I have to be so careful because I burn within 5 minutes of being in the sun. I grew up on a farm so was outside all the time but my mom was adament about protecting our skin. So while I do have a few age spots my skin at 54 is not as bad as it could be. I either stay out of the sun or lather myself in the highest spf I can find. So while I love the sun, I enjoy it from inside, from my porch or under an umbrella.

Barbara Dail said...

Well again you nailed it for me. I also have the lousy Irish skin- my sister got the Olive skin - the little brat.
I should've given it up years ago, but didn't and the Californian sun has really taken it's toll on my skin. You're smart to cut back on it now - unfortunately I didn't. And yes I also did the baby oil and iodine thing. So at my age, I have a 49 year old daughter, I do have lots of sun damage and wrinkles- but too late now to do anything about it. You'll see when you come to Anaheim next month!

Anonymous said...

I am 100% Italian, so you'd think I would get a great tan. Not so, I have fair skin and light eyes and burn then peel. But even so,I too had a love affair with Mr.Sun in my youth. Now I have to see the skin Dr. every six months for full body scans because I've had numerous skin cancers removed. The Dr. totally scares me and now I avoid the sun religiously. I preach to my kids constantly, the girls listen but my son ignores me. We always put on #100 sunscreen. If I could go back, I'd do things differently.

Karen Lawson said...

I never really got into a serious affair with Mr. Sun, although I tried a short fling one summer to get that beautiful tan. It just didn't work - white, burnt red, peel, white - repeat....

But Mr. Sun and I haven't been on speaking terms for over 40 years. Everyone used to comment on how white I was, but now they can't believe I'm 62, so I think it worked out in my favor! SPF 65 is my best friend when I have to be outside. Fortunately, my children all have their father's lovely olive complexion!

NotThatTrashy said...

I broke up with the sun in my 20s. I'm now 47. It's the best thing I've ever done for my skin! Oh, how I'd love to be tan! But, it's just not worth it. Good luck with the new adjustment, it'll be okay :)

Genna said...

I was a lifeguard the past five summers and it definitely did a number on my skin. I took and desk job this summer and am glad I did, though I miss the sun, because it was definitely the right choice! Instead I sit on my porch and read your books in the evening :) P.S. I'm dying for the next Gansett book!

Marie Force said...

Genna,
Summer jobs in the sun are tough for us fair-skinned girls. Thanks for reading the Gansett books. Glad you're looking forward to the next one!

Watercolors by Susan Roper said...

Marie...I have a heritage that is half Norwegian, half Irish, so I got the double-whammy. I grew up in sunny, hot Yuma, Arizona...can you picture my perpetual sunburns?! by the time I was 22, I was married and starting to think maybe I shouldn't keep trying to have a tan, so have avoided the sun unless I had sunscreen for a lot of years after that. At age 62, my skin is doing better than most, but my arms still bear the sun damage that I should have avoided all along.

I ordered the first of the Gansett books as a free one, then got hooked and have paid for and read all the remaining ones available. Your characters are so believable and loveable, I so look forward to the next one. I will be waiting and watching for it to become available. I can't wait to read what happens to Seamus and Joe's mother, along with how all the others are doing!

Marie Force said...

Thanks so much for checking out the Gansett series, Susan! And I'm glad your decision to abandon the sun is paying off now!

Anonymous said...

You see, if you lived in the country your skin was made for you'd be fine. I live in Ireland and for the past few Summers (?) we have had record rainfall but we constantly live in hope of a few sunny days and some blue sky. I even bought 2 new pairs of sandals in June - so optimistic. On the other hand I stayed in last week and read all of the Gansett Island books - why would I go out in that rain?
Mary Reilly

Laura said...

I feel like I just read my own story. Fair, Irish, Red Hair - believed I could tan!! Beach, boats, tennis courts, vacations, the sun was my worst best friend. 37 now, having a non-life threatening cancer spot removed this week. Not the first, won't be the last. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue. I broke up with Mr. Sun a long time ago. I chase my kids around with a bottle of sunscreen everyday and go ballistic if they get a bit pink. (Never on my watch).

Thanks for the Gansett Island series! Can't wait for more.

Marie Force said...

Glad it's not just me chasing the kids around with the sunscreen, Laura. I even drive my friends' kids crazy asking them when the last time they reapplied. :-)

Fat Lady Singing said...

This blog mad me chuckle. I can so relate! I remember the days of baby oil and being convinced that this time would be different and I would finally get a tan, only to burn so badly that I would have the shivers and be hot all at once. Out of 4 children I am the only one that inherited the LIS skin, my siblings tan beautifully - even with sunscreen. Now days I have regular "scrape & burn" appointments with my dermatologist and am convinced that I have paid for a new wing on her house! And the ugly hats that I use to scoff at are now my best friends.....

Laura Hault said...

English rose skin myself, and my shoulders always take on the worst of the impact. The terrible irony is that I suffer from horrible SAD and need the sun to not get depressed.

I take a lot of vitamin D suppliments.