Wednesday, March 11, 2009

keep out of direct sunlight

My friends, I am about to journey to a land of great peril. Sun, sand, sea, four-star luxury, mojitos on the beach. Vitamin D, Cuba style. Did I mention sun? I’m as good as dead.

See, I have a problem. I recently lost a paleness contest against a bowl of vanilla ice cream. And SPF 50 is the highest I’ve ever managed to find.

A friend told me this summer, as he hopped off his motorboat onto the Sproat Lake dock I was standing on, that he’d used me as a homing beacon to find the spot. “Just wave your arms around and you’re a perfect lighthouse,” he said. I was not flattered.

I’m a little sensitive in that department. I don’t tan. I don’t even freckle. The darkest I can ever aspire to become, in the torrid heat of August, is the colour of a normal person in wintertime. I’m in denial of this fact – summer after summer, I languish for hours on the lawn or the lakeshore against friends’ exasperated advice and retreat home at the end of the day nursing freshly lobstered skin.

This July I thought I’d finally done it. Look, everyone! Tan lines! They squinted and peered, unsure. They made me stand against a white-painted wall. They debated amongst themselves in hushed tones. I was jubilant. Until the skin in question promptly peeled off and I was forced to start over – tabula rasa. Thank you, Solarcaine.

Needless to say, I was not excited at the prospect of enduring this trauma six months before I’d normally be donning a bikini and venturing beyond the door (or in front of a mirror, for that matter).

I realize that I simply suffer from an unfortunate case of genetics. Melanin in the skin aids UV tolerance through tanning, but fair-skinned people lack the levels of melanin needed to prevent UV-induced DNA damage. Studies have shown that red hair alleles in MC1R cause increased freckles and decreased tanning ability – and that individuals with pale skin are highly susceptible to a variety of skin cancers, especially melanoma.

Cover up, everyone says, fondly condescending. Don’t be stupid. You’ll just burn.

Maybe this time I’ll listen. I’ll stay away from those coffin-like beds, stick to my SPF 50 and slather on some self-tanner. Maybe all the stares and pointing from toned, tanned Varadero vacationers won’t be due to my Casper the Friendly Ghost impersonation. Maybe, just maybe, they’re secretly jealous of my glowing health!

Yeah, that’s it.

Sigh. I would have been so much cooler if I’d been born during the Renaissance


  1. I love your writing style and reading about redheads, good thing I've stumbled upon this!

  2. You should be able to get at least SPF 60 in the health section of a super store or at a drug store. I wear 60 and I'm just a pale dark-haired person.