Monday 13 April 2020

Testicles, Sun Burn and Fake Tan; All in a Fleeting Summer's Day

One day. We got one day, dammit. I can only speak for the North of course, and to be precise by North I mean Grimsby (I guess the clue here is in the name), but ONE day of nice weather? Are you kidding me? One day only of glorious sunshine that allowed me to live out my afternoon lounging on the garden furniture with a book in one hand and a fruit cider in the other, wearing only a boob tube and short shorts. If it weren't for number 8 on the street behind me, which just-so-happens by the way,  to be the only damn dorma out of all of the bungalows that surround the house, whose upstairs overlooks my back garden, I have no shame in telling you I'd have been very happy to be starkers. And by starkers I of course mean topless, even in the 23 degree bliss you wouldn't catch me wandering about with no pants on, no one needs to see that.

Men seem to enjoy wearing no pants. I imagine for them it's the closest they get to feel of that orgasmic moment of taking off your underwired bra at the end of a long day carrying around the equivalent of two bags of sugar strapped to your chest, though I'm sure testicles don't carry such a burden. I'm not making this up right? Blokes enjoy not wearing pants... I mean they have to have something left to reveal don't they? They're topless the moment a single ray of sun hits the ground and it peaks over 10 degrees here. Not all men. Sure. I'll give you that. But they're out there, right? Please someone know what I'm talking about so I don't feel like a total freak after my brain has wandered off on a complete tangent here thinking about mens testicles, for goodness sake.

Anyway, I digress - wow that took a bit of a turn from where I was supposed to be heading. Where was I? Oh yes. One day. One. I feel cheated. Not even the burning red glow and sting of my now sunburnt shoulders (it's not big and it's not clever kids, remember your sun cream) is enough to make me feel even slightly relieved at the overcast skies I now stare at through the window. In the height of Saturday afternoon's heatwave, a mirage had overcome me - or maybe it was the 3 ciders I'd knocked back - my back garden had become the stunning Jardin Majorelle of Marrakech (I've never actually been to the gardens so it's easy to imagine you see) and number 8's pond trickling in the background could have easily been the filters of the hotel pool. There I sat, sunning myself and soaking in the bliss of every Brit's dream weekend. BBQ pending.

I don't know who, but someone somewhere in my family is a secret red head I swear, and although I missed out on the fairer than fair eyebrows and lashes gene, I was however unfortunate enough to be bestowed with skin that is naturally paler than pale. At times, I am actually grey and that's no exaggeration. As a child on holiday with my parents I actually looked adopted (I'll put some photos below as evidence for your entertainment) - five days in, they're all beautifully golden and there I am, still ghostly with a hint of what can only be described as Dulux shade 'Salsa Red'.

Bless my mum, she tried to protect me - if not for me, then for fear of people thinking she was a bad mother for carelessly letting her child burn in the scorching rays, I'm sure. But it truly wasn't her fault. She would always make me wear a white t-shirt even in the water due to my shoulders forever betraying me and developing into a crimson burn later that evening, despite the amount of waterproof kids factor 50+ slapped onto me. Though, on the 2004 family holiday to Portugal it wasn't my shoulders that let me down in the hours after falling asleep face down on a lilo, drifting gently through the water for probably less than 45 minutes. Oh no. It was my bum.

There I was, 10 years old and playing chicken with the shower later that night in the hotel room to try to avoid the water cascading from above that would torture my burnt ass. Isn't it the worst? The sting from your skin as the bullets from the shower head add an even more unbearable amount of heat to your already hot to the touch burn. Blisters forming under the surface to push at that already unbearable pain level.

That evening, smothered in copious amounts of after sun rich in Aloe Vera with the faint promise to relieve me of pain, the torture continued. The restaurant we journeyed to for the evening's nourishment and entertainment had wicker seats. No cushions. It's child abuse at this point I'm sure. Naturally, I stood in protest for the 3 hour meal. My family donated their knitted cardigans in the hope of trying to offer comfort to sit on, but it was no good. Safe to say I slept on my front for the next few nights and stayed in the shade during the day until the redness and pain subsided. Any hope of a hint of brown diminished.

And all these years later, you'd think I'd have learned, but unfortunately dear reader, I haven't. Despite my many attempts to still even now achieve a radiant glowing complexion to convince others of my travels abroad - I still have only two shade settings and absolutely nothing in between; whiter-than-white-blinding-to-look-at-sun-reflectingly-pale OR burned to a crisp. Dear reader, there is no in-between. It will never happen. I will forever be pale and it's still not something I have come to terms with.

So I heavily rely on the fake stuff, tan in a bottle. I've tried and tested my way through the years of Garnier Summer Body in shade Dark that promised sun kissed skin and instead left me with scaly and streaky legs, hands stained as though I had marinaded them in crushed wotsits and a lingering odour of gone off hobnobs. Later upgrading to Sally Hansen's 'makeup for legs', proudly caking my body in the stuff, only to leave streaks down my legs from spilled drinks and a peculiar orange rim around the bathtub from where my shower water has rid my body of its mask. Scrubbing myself to the bone and shaving every inch of me to perfectly coat myself in tint after tint, only to have my perfect shade (if a little orange) last for nothing more than a few days, has become my year round weekly ritual.

Stretching out the last few days of past it's best tanning as the cracks begin to show before I need to laboriously scrub, shave and slather myself in tan all over again, contorting myself into the weirdest of positions to make sure every centimetre is covered, jumping around and stretching my arms to their brink to reach the centre of my back, have become the tasks I endure in my most dreaded chore. And it is a chore because as much as I dread it, it is something I must do, something I feel all the better for once the 10 hour process is complete and I'm back to my best presentation of myself. So it's worth it, I guess.

Life is better with a tan, mine is anyway. I feel more confident with colour, healthier, like a better version of myself. It's like a mild addiction. I crave the glow my monthly £30 (give or take...) affliction costs me. Without tan, I'd rather not leave the house on a baking hot day than to wear something that bared my true flesh to the world. On my last abroad holiday, I collected a pre-ordered bottle of Isle of Paradise Ultra Dark Express from the Boot's store inside the airport, along with three bottles of Dove Derma Spa (dark) to make sure I wasn't left feeling insecure poolside or blinding fellow sun worshipers as rays bounced from my skin into their unshielded eyes.

I'm quite possibly the only person who is still tanning my way through quarantine, even if my only exposure is in my garden with just my parents and perhaps the residents of number 8 to shield my true form from. These products, I'm not even ashamed to say, were some of the first I grabbed when fleeing home from London to my parents, fully aware of what the terms 'Lockdown' would mean when it eventually came.

Maybe, I should be pleased we've only had one day of sun. Perhaps it's a sign or reminder for me to ration my time in it and stretch out the amount of days I can hide my true skin shade. I'd rather just make a promise to any greater powers that be that I'll wear some damn sun cream going forward and stick to the fake stuff; just please send back the sun.

And with that, you may not believe this, but the sun has just made an attempt to peak through the cloud as if accepting my promise. Can someone please source a bottle of factor 15? Hmph. Sun's gone in... okay, fine... 30? Sun's back out. 30 it is. Pass me the Isle of Paradise!

*this post isn't sponsored at all, just the references the products I use if its of interest to anyone
Named and shamed from left to right: Brother, Mum, Glenn, Auntie Sam & Me, the ghost

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