Below is a picture of me at the beach on a beautiful summer day. Yes, I am wrapped in towels and wearing a large brimmed hat, and no I was not dressed this way to be funny. This is my usual summer attire. I actually wear more clothes during the summer than I do the rest of the year, and in case you are wondering, I do not suffer from one of those rare photo-sensitive-type diseases. I am just really, really pale and do not like the sun. On vacation once in Israel, the natives called me Casper (as in the friendly ghost). I don't think they had ever seen anyone before quite as white as me.
When I was younger, back in pre-SPF 70 days, people used to slather themselves in baby oil and iodine and bake themselves in the sun for hours. Not me. To me the summer meant days inside with the air conditioner on. When forced by my parents to go outside, I would find some shade where I could sit and read. Yeah, I was that kid. My family would spend two weeks every summer at the beach. I think I maybe went into the water twice, not twice a summer, I mean twice in my life. It just all seemed so uncomfortable: the itchy bathing suit, the sand that stuck to you, the cold, salty water with weird things floating in it, the unpredictable waves that would knock you down. And the unrelenting heat. How does getting a sunburn compare to a nice comfy sofa, indoors, with a bathroom, kitchen and good book at the ready?
A few years ago, on a trip to California, my husband rented a convertible. He and my two children were excited about driving down the highway, sun beating down on us, hair blowing in the wind. They wanted to live in a soft drink commercial. Unfortunately, they had me with them. "I am burning," I cried, "Put the roof up, please!" They still haven't forgiven me.
I actually like the idea of summer. I am as happy as anyone on the last day of school, and I graduated 30 years ago. I love gardening, barbecues and long walks; I just do all these activities after the sun goes down. If forced to go out during the day, I prepare myself: SPF 70 all over. (I wear it all year round, every day, as my dermatologist recommends.) Long sleeve shirt (bless you Solumbra for your light weight, UV-blocking shirts and pants). Sunglasses. Hat. Newspaper for any exposed flesh. Nah, I'm not that bad, but I do wish I had the courage to carry a parasol.
The upside of all this? Nice skin. No wrinkles. I look younger than my age. On my honeymoon, I paid the child's admission rate everywhere we went. When I was pregnant with my daughter and went to visit my mother at the high school where she taught, I was put in detention for not having a hall pass. Who knew that at 28 I could be mistaken for a pregnant teen? At a restaurant with my family, the waiter told my husband that they were taking bets in the kitchen as to whether we were a couple with two kids or if he was a single parent with three. As recently as 10 years ago, when I was in my 40's, a maître d' told me and my daughter that we couldn't be seated until our parents came. I know that as I age my skin will lose its elasticity and I will get wrinkles, but hey, when I am 70, I will totally deal with it.