I despise summer. All the sweat and skin. But I remember a time when I used to enjoy soaking up the sun, working on my summer tan. I used to bake on a sweat-sticky chaise lounge in the yard, lawn sprinkler at the ready, my body slick with baby oil and iodine. Yes, baby oil and iodine. Something I learned from my big sister. Waaaaay before all the health warnings regarding skin cancer and the need to apply 200 SPF before walking to your car.
Just fifteen years ago, Brad and I, when we had the means to do so, would select vacation spots with beaches and plenty of sun. We would sizzle together, Pina Colada’s or a bucket of beer between us. We swam with the stingrays in the Cayman islands, and lounged for hours on the sands of Aruba. But these days, when we have the means to do so after such a rough time during this fabulous economy, I’m planning a trip to Alaska.
I’m not sure when it happened. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of summer. I don’t like sweating in my car or seeing all that skin. There’s nothing like being at a barbeque and glancing down to see overgrown toenails and bunions to ruin your appetite. And the pedicure with the best intentions, daisies and all, cannot conceal a case of Fred Flintstone feet on any woman. And yet, I sun bathed with the best of them.
Thinking back, my sunbathing was more or less an attempt to catch up with the skin tones of my family. I am, what my Godfather jokingly describes as a “white Mexican.” My mother’s family is from Mexico, as well as my father’s, but his great-grandfather is from Santander, Spain. I attribute my lighter skin to my Spanish heritage. So I believe my hours spent in the sun were a grand attempt to darken my skin. It never worked. I usually ended up with red cheeks and scorched shoulders while the rest of my body turned just a shade darker. And I mean, just a shade. Only when I was able to spend a week on a beach did my skin actually become that golden brown I’d been seeking.
And while I often see the sun-kissed skin of women in their sundresses or shorts, and for a moment wish I had their coloring, the work behind the tan is too much. Last year, I think I spent a total of six hours in the sun during the entire summer. I have the white legs to prove it. This year, I thought I’d make a bigger attempt, but so far I’ve racked up a mere four hours. Today it was 35 minutes. My husband stated the obvious when I entered the kitchen, beach towel, ice water, and book in hand, “that was quick.” This coming from the man who is always darker than me. My parents once joked he was the real Mexican in our family. I’m convinced he has skin like my brother, the two of them able to get a great tan while standing under a street light.
It’s the sweating. It’s the heat. It’s the dampness of my swimsuit, wet with sweat, and the salt taste in my mouth, the glare of the sun in my eyes. I just can’t hang. I believe my sun-goddess days are over. Often I wonder if a swimming pool might help. But I’m not sure. It’s not like I don’t have friends with pools and an open invitation. Or maybe it’s all these skin cancer warnings, although honestly, it’s too late if all of their science is correct and most skin cancers begin with the first sunburn. I think mine was in the late 70s while vacationing in San Diego with my family. My entire upper body peeled in wafery, gray chunks. It was hideous.
All I know, is that while I type this I’m under a ceiling fan in the air-conditioned sanctity of my study, and wishing for fall. And it’s not even the fourth of July.