I step out of the shower and grab my towel, slicking the water off my arms and chest, doing each leg. As it swipes over my stomach, I notice a diagonal stripe of normal skin, bracketed by hot, cotton candy-pink sunburn.
Back up a few hours, and I’m lying on a chaise lounge by the pool. I’m reading Mamrie Hart’s book You Deserve A Drink. I’m shirtless, and feeling awkward. I’ve always struggled with body image, which has been simultaneously alleviated and aggravated by going to the gym. But at this moment, it’s not my muscles that are the source of my discomfort. No, it’s my fresh Irish skin.
Through the amber lenses of my steampunk tortoiseshell sunglasses, my skin is tinted tan. I used a sunless tanning moisturizer that gives me a healthy glow, but in direct sunlight, it seems to be bleached of color, returning me to my wintry pallor.
And the pool is probably not the best place to be when you’re feeling hyper-aware of your paleness. It doesn’t helped that I’m sitting in a long line of glistening-skinned women, and my sister, Margot, who has beaten her Irish skin into submission and is a deep honeycomb brown. I’m feeling very judged at this pool.
So I decide to stall my sunscreen application. Sometimes, a little burn causes my skin to take on a rosy flush. I set a 15-minute timer on my phone and settle back into the horizontal plastic straps of the lounge.
After fifteen minutes, I unstick myself from the tacky plastic and peer underneath my sunglasses at my stomach. I don’t feel burned, so I put off putting on sunscreen until a few minutes later. After that, I don’t think about it until I went to the bathroom. I moved past the mirror towards the urinals—
Wait, TOTAL side bar, but when I was at the pool a few days after, I went into the bathroom and saw this totally hot guy at the urinal a few away from. And whenever I tell this story, it sounds like the beginning of a big gay cruising adventure, but I swear that didn’t happen. Because when I was peeing, he finished up and walked out of the bathroom without washing his hands.
And if you don’t know me—actually some people who do know me probably don’t know this—is that I hate dirtiness. I used to hate fruit because I had this irrational fear that it was secretly dirty and filled with maggots inside. I knew rationally that that couldn’t the case but I avoided them like the clap. So washing hands is a major turn-on for me. And this pool Adonis just DIDN’T DO IT. Our autumn wedding crashed and burned.
Also I like how I said it didn’t happen because he didn’t wash his hands, as if anything would’ve happened anyway.
—I noticed that my chest was pale pink from the sun.
Sitting in the car, my short bathing suit, which normally goes halfway down towards my knees, bunches up on my thighs and crotch. A clean line divides the skin that was exposed to the sun and the skin that wasn’t, making it look like I’m wearing a particularly anatomically correct pair of boxers.
Additionally, my skin was two weeks away from really adjusting back to normal after a particularly bad tank top tan line situation.
So with the tank top tan line, the sunless tanner, the book-reading tan lines and the bathing suit tan lines, I was Fifty Shades of Fucked Up. I was dealing with more darks and lights than a noir film. I was doing my best Tony the Tiger impression.
I was serving straight up paint-by-numbers realness.
Luckily, because I actually put on sunscreen, the burn was actually more like cotton candy and less like that fluffy pink insulation wool: a.k.a. it would soon melt away. Weird simile but it works (?). Like, simi-let me do this. Can I live?
Side bar: “Can I live?” will remain one of the most iconic lines ever to be uttered. Thanks, Kim Kardashian.
I always feel like there should be some overarching theme to end my posts, like “Don’t sun-tan” or “Drink lots of water,” but I like keeping the bar extremely low. It keeps you pleasantly surprised when I do mediocrely, and that’s really all I’m aiming for.
Side bar: my scrumptious friend—let’s call him Paul—wanted to be included in the post and give a quote.