If you can’t already tell from my stunning headshot, I’m very white. Not your normal white, like pasty almost albino white. I’m practically a vampire sparkling in the sunlight.
While there are many dandy aspects of my Irish heritage—I love pubs, I love the Emerald Isle, and I even love folk music—this fun biological adaptation is not one of them. Having this skin really puts a damper on my tan game.
Thinking back on the ghost of spring breaks past, I remember many of my friends hitting the gym before beach trips and warm weather. Me? I prepared the hard way, deliberately getting my first burn out of the way so that I might not be a crispy sheet of phyllo dough by the time the trip came around.
I’ve gone to great lengths to dispel the notion that I cannot tan. I’ve ignored it, convinced myself that I was only getting red because I was hot, refused to reapply sunscreen. By thinking I was tanning, I believed I would miraculously be tan and not burn. If you believe it, you can achieve it, I thought. You can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough. News flash teenage dummy, it does not work like that.
And boy, oh boy have I had some bad burns in my day.
I’ll never forget the worst burn of my life. It was the summer after freshman year of college, and I went to Bethany Beach with a friend and her family. On one of our last days there, we stayed out on the beach all day. Pretending that melanin might magically find its way into my skin, I alternated between hiding under the umbrella and defiantly basking in the sun, without reapplying my sunscreen once.
It was bad. Especially on my hands. My ankles. OK, and my feet. Oh, and my knees. All the sensitive places that you really don’t want to burn. I walked gingerly for the next week, unable to wear shoes or do anything that bent or flexed my angry skin. Picture a penguin waddling, and crying, and miserable. Don’t let my smile fool you, I was in a lot of pain. No amount of aloe could cool the heat emanating from my body.
Even worse, right after that trip, the McWeeneys went to Hawai’i for two weeks. My mom prohibited me from leaving the protection of a cabana without a surf shirt on. Thank goodness my mom didn’t have time to grab me a wetsuit, or I might’ve had to wear that the whole trip. Nice dinners included.
Needless to say, after that experience, I’ve given up on tanning. I’m embracing my sparkling vampire skin, a la Bella Swan.
Me, running to the closest umbrella.
Living in Florida, I stuck out like a sore thumb from all the sun-kissed, tan people, riding their lawnmowers, watching their NASCAR, sitting by their pools. My coworkers frequently asked me if I ever saw the sunlight. And they laugh. And I laugh. And God laughs. This is the luck of the Irish.