Monday, May 12, 2008

Turn Or Burn

The title here may lead you to think I'm about to launch into a post about evangelizing the lost in a heartless way, but actually, I'm about to ramble about a sunburn as a reply to Dive's post about British people and their fair skin.


Several years ago we went to Cancun, Mexico for a brief vacation. It was spring break, and you really don't want to be anywhere near Cancun during spring break unless you enjoy mobs of drunk and obnoxious college kids. We managed to stay out of their way, for the most part. We stayed at the Camino Real, an old hotel on the tip of the peninsula with its own private beach and away from SeƱor Frogs. We arrived at night, so I wasn't sure of my bearings, but in the morning, when I stepped out of our room's back door and stood in the lush grass, and I faced the ocean and the rocks and the lizards sunning themselves on the sidewalk, I knew I was going to like this place. After a leisurely morning, we found our way to that private beach I mentioned and settled in. We claimed some beach chairs under thatched-roof umbrellas, stretched out, and spent the afternoon doing nothing.

There was a bar within a few feat of our spot, so we had ready access to fish tacos, ceviche, and Coronas. We read and splashed in the surf and played in the sand and took naps. I swear I tried to stay under that umbrella as much as possible, but I burned anyway. I burned head to toe, even my poor scalp—my hair is a bit thin.

The next day we drove small speed boats out into the gulf for a snorkeling tour. While I wore a hat when driving the boat, I couldn't very well snorkel with one, and once again my poor head was exposed to the Mexican sun. What is a fair-skinned girl to do? The day after that, we took a bus ride to a touristy snorkeling river and a tour of Tulum, and it was on that day that I turned into a cartoon character. If I could choose a cartoon character to become, I might choose Bugs Bunny or Huckleberry Hound or Angela Anaconda. I wouldn't mind being Pepper Ann for a day, and Betty Rubble is cute as a button. But those weren't the characters I became. Of course not. On my lovely vacation in Mexico with ocean breezes and wonderful food and side-trips to ancient ruins, I became Squidward, a cranky sea creature with a bad clarinet.

My forehead swelled up like a balloon with big dents from where my last snorkel mask had been strapped on. You know how you can look down with just your eyes and kind of see your nose? As a sea creature, I could look up with just my eyes and see this looming mass above my eyebrows. I was the Elephant Man on holiday. While at the snorkeling river, Daughter No. 2 and I swam with dolphins, and we each had our picture taken with one of them, the kind you stop by later to view and pay for. When I saw my photo in the rack and saw the huge dent in my head from the snorkeling mask, I left the photo behind. I would be happy with the memory of the dolphin experience but would not be taking documented proof that I was malformed for a day.

Once back at the hotel, I rested with a cool cloth on my head, hoping to ease the swelling and wondering how this would come back to haunt me in my old age. What sort of melanoma would surface from this bout with sun poisoning. Within a few hours, the swelling subsided enough that I could clean myself up and go out for dinner without drawing attention from gawkers, but my forehead was still a little puffy.

The sun can be a scary thing for the fair skinned, and it only takes a few hours of thoughtless exposure to make you wish you had worn a hat. If your burn is bad enough, you might even wish you had chosen a vacation in the Yukon Territory instead of the Yucatan Peninsula.


dive said...

Hee hee. What an excellent cautionary tale, Robyn.
I remember one year in Portugal, Ming The Menstrual overdid it on the first day and spent the next four days in a darkened room suffering from heatstroke and snapping at people (well the snapping was nothing new). People do the silliest things when the sun comes out.
Run and hide is my advice (being a pale northerner).

And yes, Betty Rubble is indeed cute as a button!

MmeBenaut said...

If it weren't for Barney, I'd say that Betty Rubble is a good choice. But then again, he's much sweeter than Fred.
You poor thing Robyn (about the sunburn). You lucky thing for going to Cancun. I always wanted to go there, not just for the beach but the closeness to the Mayan ruins. Alas, it was not to be. I had no idea that the place had been overrun by young idiots though. I guess I'll never see it now. I'll take a trip on Google Earth instead perhaps.

savannah said...

i agree with dive, sugar, a great cautionary tale, but i swear, i couldn't help but laugh over your descriptions! when i think about all those summers out on the beach covered in baby oil, i shiver and thank my lucky stars! xox

(brown skin girls get burnt, too!)


Lulubelle B said...

For Robyn & All Robyn's Readers -

May is Melanoma Awareness Month here is the U.S., but everyone should know that suntans and sunburns can lead to cancer.
Folks with pale complexions have the highest risk, but people of all skin tones are vulnerable.

As a Stage III (and third-generation) melanoma patient, I would not wish my past year on anyone. For your sake, and the sake of your families, stay out of the sun.

- Lulu

Scout said...

Lulubelle, thank you. I thought of you as I was telling this story. One of my dear friends was treated for melanoma last summer, and it was a tough few months. Fortunately, she caught it early before it spread, and she is fine. She and I used to spend lazy afternoons by the pool, but we stopped doing that last year.