May 27, 2011
So the first thing people usually say to me when I get back from vacation is, "Hey, you got some sun!" And I always like to reply, "Actually I went to a 19th century recreation village and spent the week working in a mine. That’s not a tan–it’s coal dust." It’s always interested me that tastes change throughout the years, though. Now being svelte and tanned is considered attractive, but there was a time when it was just the opposite. Henry VIII was the Brad Pitt of his day because being overweight, pasty, and having gout was so sexy that women lost their heads over him.
Anyway, I came back from this recent trip to the beach looking like Henry VIII because I wore plenty of sunblock. In the past I’ve gone to the beach and come back looking like a sundried tomato and spent hours glued to a naugahyde recliner seeing how big a sheet of my own skin I could peel off. As much fun as this can be there were other things I wanted to do on this trip. Also, even though aloe used to be a very effective way of treating sunburns, I’m pretty sure sunburn is now aloe resistant because it’s been so overused, and used for so many things completely unrelated to sunburns. The last time I had a cold someone suggested I take a big spoonful of aloe, but that’s another story. So I used sunblock. I remember when all sunblock was was zinc paste that lifeguards only put on their noses so they’d end up looking like sundried tomatoes with pasty white noses. Girls, on the other hand, used tanning oil. As a kid I couldn’t help thinking that slathering your body with oil then lying out under a hot sun or, worse, putting yourself into a tiny booth and being blasted by radiation, isn’t "tanning". It’s cooking. What happens when your skin darkens when you’re out in the sun or in a tanning booth is the same thing that happens to a piece of bread in the toaster. Think about that the next time you’ve been out in the sun too long and you end up pulling off crispy strips of your own skin. It’s no wonder some people stay out of the sun and avoid tanning booths and instead opt for having their bodies spray-painted orange, even though they could get the same effect by eating a lot of carrots.
Anyway, I used sunblock that was SPF 60. I remember when sunblock first started using the SPF rating system. Back then it only came in 5, 10, 15, and 20, although I think there was also a 30 that was aimed at vampires who wanted to go to the beach. Now they’re up to SPF 5 Billion which, when properly applied, will allow redheads to live on the sun. I never knew what SPF stood for until I just looked it up. It’s one of those things I always just sort of accepted, especially since people seem to think it’s important. It stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is a real letdown. I thought it would stand for something complicated, like Solar Polarizing Fasciitis. Acronyms should only be used for things that are really complicated or really cool, like DNA or the RAF, or things no one really understands, like UV rays or the scoring systems of the ACT and SAT. It’s also acceptable to use the acronym AC for "air conditioning", because usually when you need air conditioning it’s too hot to use all those syllables, especially if you’ve gone to the beach without sunblock and fallen asleep in the sun and ended up completely FUBAR.