Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lesson Learned

With temperatures like this, it's easy to get too much sun, especially if you're a thoughtless fool like the girl in this story. Any similarities to persons real or fictional are purely coincidental, but for the sake of making things easy, we'll call her Gina.

A bit of necessary back-story, if I may. A few weeks ago, Gina got a sunburn on her arms. It was a "farmer's tan" - she was wearing a v-neck t-shirt, so only the small exposed area of her upper chest and upper arms burned, while her lower arms tanned. It was painful for days, and she swore she wouldn't leave the house without sunscreen for the rest of the summer. Even worse than the pain was the appearance of this particular burn; the markings looked ridiculous if she wore any shirt that didn't cover the tan lines. Was it fixable? Was she doomed to spend the summer as a multi-tonal freak? Time would tell.

On with the story. Canada Day started as a hazy but comfortable Tuesday in Port Hawkesbury. Wearing her same v-neck t-shirt, the very fair-skinned Gina decided to hold off on the sunscreen, since the UV index didn't seem very high (and being far from a meteorologist, this conclusion was drawn merely from looking out the window that morning).

After about an hour of screaming children, free hotdogs, and lining up to get her three year old on the Bounce-arama at the Grenville Green, Gina and family were done celebrating, and had decided to go to the beach. It would be practically deserted, since most people were at Canada Day festivities, and the kids would have a ball.

Home they went to change, and it was here that Gina had an epiphany: her skin color was completely uneven, and sunbathing on her deck would be both frustrating (with kids running around) and obscene (she's no Gisele Bundchen). What better way to even out her tan than to let it all hang out at a deserted beach? With the car packed, the family headed to Port Hood.

Upon arrival, as always, the first order of business was to coat her kids in four inches of sunscreen. Once finished, it was just Gina, a blanket, the blazing noon-time sun, and her plan of action. She put a tiny bit of sunscreen on the most burnt part of her upper arm, but then all bets were off, and out came the big bottle of Hawaiian Bronze Golden Tanning Oil, which clearly read, "does not protect against sunburn". Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, it was totally feasible to blend the multicolored skin with the white skin by turning all the skin a deep brown.

Cut to three and a half hours later, and the family had packed up for the drive back to Port Hawkesbury. Cut to 10pm, and now that the sun had gone down, the extent of the damage was clearly visible. Cut to the next morning, and the pain was almost unbearable. Such is the saga of a sunburn.

However, this was no regular sunburn, oh no. This was the mother of all sunburns that, in her 29 years on earth, she had never suffered through before. I'll give you a few highlights of the effects of using tanning oil on fair skin in 30 degree heat.

Her entire upper body was off limits to everyone, as even an accidental brush to the area produced a yelp and a grimace that would have scared you to death. She was so tense from trying not to move her shoulders, that she ended up pulling two muscles in her back. Sleeping was impossible. Wearing a bra with straps was impossible. Changing her clothes was excruciating. The heat emanating from her body was enough to cook raw meat, yet she sat huddled in a blanket for two days because she had the chills. The skin on her body was too tender and sore to apply any sort of soothing lotion until four days later. Any chore requiring the use of her arms took at least an hour. She was unable to enjoy any of this past week's nice weather because sun exposure was too painful.

Her skin is now a variety of different colors in different spots, including burgundy, red, fuschia, brown, white, and even green (the massive amount of aloe vera lotion used had dyed some spots of skin an emerald color). I'll leave out the details about blistering and layers of fried epidermis coming off. You don't want to hear them, trust me. But know this, I've seen crime scene photos less gruesome than the sight of Gina's upper body.

So kids, the moral of my story is: don't be like Gina. Sunscreen is made for a reason, so use it liberally. She wishes she had.

Summer Lovin'

I thought I'd lighten things up a bit this week and write about the top 5 best things about summer.

Number 5 is esthetic discipline (probably only applicable to women). It's easy to throw on a big sweatshirt and shoes when it's cold out, but once the nice weather arrives, it's time for girls to buckle down and get in gear.

Once shorts and skirts are a daily wardrobe staple, those legs need to be shaved, ladies. I know women who don't shave their legs all winter, and while I'm not one of those women, I think I can speak for the majority when I say that leg-shaving happens much more frequently this time of year than any other. Now guys, I know you're probably grossed out, since in your universe of Jessica Alba et. al. girls are hairless sun goddesses; I don't want to burst your bubble, so forget your read any of that and skip to the next paragraph.

For you ladies, isn't it nice to have a regular routine of toenail-polishing, waxing, tanning, cute-skirt/shirt/sandal shopping? It's easy to get a little careless when there's twenty feet of snow on the ground, but the promise of nice days and fun gatherings always makes me care a little bit more about how I look.

Number 4 is the heat/absence of snow. My favorite season is autumn, but I'll give summer sun it's props when props are due.

The sun shining and birdies tweeting every morning is such a nice change from our most recent, relentless winter. Regardless of Maritimers' penchant for dissatisfaction with the weather, everyone can agree that it's nice to get a break from snow and sleet and driving wind.

We can swim, spend time in the garden, golf till our heart's content, and relish every ray of sunshine that comes our way. And trust me, that's exactly what I'm going to spend the next two months doing.

Number 3 is BBQing. Who doesn't love a good BBQ? I don't know if it's the food itself as much as the BBQing atmosphere as a whole. There is nothing that says "summer" better than a group of people on a patio, steaks and burgers grilling, someone drinking a beer, music playing and everyone laughing and having a great time.

On second thought, maybe it is the food. Leave the fancy steaks and chicken for someone else - hot dogs are my favorite. Years ago, myself and a friend of mine had a little contest to see if we could each eat an entire package of hot dogs BBQed. I don't know if it's funny or kind of disgusting, but we each ate a whole dozen (minus the buns), and it wasn't even a challenge.

I'm that nut you see on her deck in November, parka on, hair blowing around in the wind, trying to squeeze in one more BBQ before it's stored away for the season.

Number 2 is driving. I love to drive. It's very difficult these days to enjoy a good drive, seeing as there are two demanding and talkative kids in the back of our car, but that doesn't stop us from trying.

A perfect evening for me includes a relaxing (ish) drive, cool breeze blowing in the window, listening to The Hawk. This is an activity that is much easier to enjoy in July than it is in, say, February, when your studded tires are barely gripping the ice on the road and the slush slows traffic to a crawl. Yes, it's the summer drive that does it for me.

Number 1 is the beach. I've never been a big beach-goer, unless you count Murray's Beach in French Cove (which you shouldn't). However, since being introduced to Port Hood beach, things have changed. It's like an all-inclusive summer experience.

You get to paint your toenails and put on your best beach outfit. You get to enjoy the drive there, the warm weather, and you can even take along the portable BBQ. For a parent, the beach is like a dream come true. Fill your trunk with shovels and pails and toys, dip your kids in sunscreen, and let them run! That's where we spent Canada Day, and it was a perfect start to a very beachy summer for us.

So there you have it, my top five. If you're at all interested in the top five worst things about summer, I have that list, too. Mosquitoes, sunburn, June Bugs, humidity, and two months of terrible hair weather are the worst offenders. But in keeping with a positive outlook this week, I'll go heavy on the deet, stick my hair in a ponytail, use lots of SPF 5000, and be thankful for the sun. It'll be gone before we know it!