It’s true. When I wake up on a summer Saturday, I look out the window and I think ‘well isn’t a lovely day, I must make sure I go outside and do something today.’ I don’t ever think ‘well isn’t it a lovely day, I must go to the beach’.
Firstly, if all the public health adverts on TV are to be believed, we’re not even supposed to go to the beach anymore. Sun exposure is right up there on the deadly sins list alongside smoking and binge drinking.
Many people like to go for a bit of a swim at the beach. Not me. Not even between the flags. This is because waterproof sunscreens are not, in fact, waterproof. Never mind water plus sea salt plus towel abrasion proof. So once I’ve gone to the trouble of smearing every exposed centimetre of skin in sunscreen, I’m not about to go anywhere near the water.
This leaves me on the beach itself which is, as you are well aware, made of sand. Sand seems to just roll off of most people, not getting stuck on their skin, in their hair or on their towel. My skin however has a magnetic attraction to sand. Within minutes, it’s all over me. Just in the process of laying down my towel, removing my outer clothing to reveal my slightly outdated Roxy bikini, checking that I did in fact sunscreen every exposed area of flesh before leaving the house, I have become a sandmonster. It’s all up the back of my legs, all over my hands, in my hair, and in my ears.
To get into sunbaking position, I usually start by laying on my front, so that the sun does not get in my eyes and I can read my book. No sooner do I adopt this position than, as if by magic, some sunscreen appears on my hands and starts to smudge the letters on the pages. It seems that books are not sunscreen proof and neither are magazines.
After my maximum safe exposure time of 30 minutes (yes, that’s with factor 50), I turn over. And then the sun is in my eyes. Even with sunglasses on, it’s not comfortable to be trying to read a book while staring up at the midsummer, midday sky. So I give up and lie with a hat half over my face so that I can go to sleep if I feel like it, which I usually do because the beach is just so damn boring.
When my friends have had enough of doing whatever they wanted to go to the beach to do, we might then go to a pub for a bit of food. The mirrors in pub toilets are usually such that I can’t really see the tone of my skin, and with sunnies on and hair up I usually look passable, just with a much grainier, sandier look to my legs and arms than everyone else in the pub.
It’s late that evening, or the next morning, that the real damage reveals itself. There’s that inevitable bit of skin that didn’t get the sunscreen and is now bright red, glowing and ready to peel. If I’m really unlucky, this will have happened all the way around my bikini top or bottom line, leaving a little red bikini shaped line in between two fairly close shades of pale.
To really top the day off, nothing beats the familiar sinking feeling that accompanies the sudden memory of wiping sand off my forehead really vigorously with my towel but not putting sunscreen on again afterwards. There’ll be no hiding that pink bit at work on Monday.
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Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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