A Delayed Phenomenon

_MG_1989_w Sunburn is always a delayed phenomenon.

You are completely ignorant of the fact that you’re getting fried to a crisp in the midst of your fun, sunny summer activities. You don’t feel red. You might not even look that red. You think you’re fine. You try to be cautious about sunscreen, but sometimes you miss certain areas. Certain large areas. Like…oops, oh yeah. Your whole entire back. At the moment, mine is as red as a fire truck, thanks to a day at the lake.

It’s not until later that evening that your skin feels like flames are shooting out of it. It’s not until several days later that it itches so badly you want to lean up against the wall and scratch your back like a bear, and you are clawing through all your beauty products under the sink trying to find that elusive Aveeno oatmeal bath stuff.

Sunburn is a sneaky, dirty trick. Enjoy the moment, pay the price later. (A lot could be said about that, but I won’t).

If only there were some advance notice! If only our skin would break out in green dots or something when it reaches the boiling point. Just temporarily. So you’d know. Like when water is about to boil on the stove, and it gets those little tiny bubbles in it, just before the big bubbles start erupting. Or what if you could buy little stickers for your skin with sensors in them that would change color as a warning? They would have to be strategically located, and small enough so as not to be unattractive. Am I burning? Wait, let me check my stickers.

For us fair-skinned folk, the sun is our nemesis. We go from pale to red in 60 seconds. There is no brown. (Fair-skinned folk really should not attempt to become tan. It never works right. Just resign yourself to your fair-skinned fate). Once when I was about 12, I spent a day on the beach with a friend and her family, away from my parents, and I decided to skimp a little on the sunscreen since nobody was there to make me slather it on. With all my heart, I believed that I would come back with the glistening bronze skin that I so desperately wanted. But I came back with sun poisoning and shivered all night long in the motel bed. Misery. Other times, I would sunbathe in our yard and end up with bright red knees and thighs. Not quite the intended result.

Then sunless tanning lotion was invented! Eureka! It was unfortunate that the early versions of it smelled awful and only delivered bright orange streaks all over you. But in my eyes back then, orange was infinitely better than pale. I think sunless tanning technology seems to have improved since then. Somewhat. At least we have that to fall back on.

Now that I am older and wiser, I am much more diligent in my sunburn-prevention tactics. Hat. Cover-up. SPF 50. Be cautious between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reapply, reapply, reapply. Preach it to the kiddies. Go ahead and let the sun-worshippers shake their heads and smile their wry smiles at you. Just give them a big, friendly smile back from where you sit…the place that is always superior to the sun, given the option…

the wonderful, blessed, harmless…shade.


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