Before you aptly point out that I “must have gotten some sun,” please take a moment to consider what legitimate purpose that comment actually serves. Yes, my ordinarily fair skin is currently the color of crustacean commonly consumed with butter, but what are you really getting at? Do you think I’m somehow unaware of the fact my skin is on fire, my bra straps feel like they’re made of barbed wire, and in a few days I’m going to be molting? I’m more than just a lump of reddened flesh, you know. There’s a story behind my scarlet epidermis that would put good ol’ Nate Hawthorne to shame.
It’s a tale of a sunscreen SPF overestimation, indolent clouds, and an unexpected face-down ass-up nap in a chaise lounge by the pool. This saga would recount the hours I spent immediately after my sun exposure, during which I increasingly felt crabbier (no pun intended) and crabbier as the full extent of the burn set in. It would spare no detail about the unexplained headache and feelings of nauseousness that briefly had me considering the implications of being impregnated with UV’s baby.
Don’t assume that because I’m burned, I must be delighting my share of unprotected sun liaisons with multiple partners all over town. I know it’s an old excuse, but I didn’t think it would happen to me. I thought I would be okay! I re-applied sunscreen as necessary! I even remembered to coat the top of my feet, an oft-forgotten body part when one slathers on the Coppertone. How dare you assume that I willingly chose this fate — that I risked skin damage in the pursuit of bronzed skin! My recent UV exposure negligence isn’t a literal red flag indicating that I haven’t accepted the limitations of my skin tone.
“That looks like it hurts.”
Did you really just say that? Do you think that pointing out the probability of my discomfort makes me feel better? Of course it hurts! I am living, breathing almost-food right now. Did you ever ponder how that must make me feel? I am this much closer to being fit for a cannibal’s consumption than I was pre-sunburn, and no amount of aloe gel will take that away.
I bet you’re one of those people, huh? You’re the person who can spend all summer at the beach using SPF 30 without a care in the world! You’re the person who looks at me with pity because you “just get tan.” I envy you. Given the chance, would I have chosen this life for myself? I don’t know the answer.
Beyond being uncomfortable and a little embarrassed, now I’m on WebMD researching basal and squamous cells and worrying about melanoma. Do you think I’m proud of myself? Do you think I relish that my skin looks like it’s been tortured, and monsters like you think it’s funny to joke about slapping me on the back? This isn’t what I wanted for myself!
Perhaps I should have done more. Maybe I should have covered up, hiding my delicate complexion from the sun’s lethal embrace, but I didn’t. I was seduced by the temptation of cute summer freckles and fresh air on my skin. Alas, it’s too late for me now, but you still have a choice. You can still decide to ignore my sunburn, because I’m still the same person I was before I looked like I got a bad chemical peel on my back, shoulders, and chest. I’ve got a bunch of weird strap lines that will haunt me well into fall and winter, and the last thing I need right now is a bunch of jerks like you pointing out the obvious and making me feel like a bigger fool than I do already.
So yes, I “got a little sun” and I look like a lobster, but this little lobster kindly kept her mouth shut when you got those ugly glasses, when you gave yourself a black eye doing Pilates, and when you thought you could dye your own eyebrows.
Peeling With Poise