the exquisite sting of sunburn

pink and white mickeyI grew up as a child in the late 70's and early 80's in Australia... so I'm no stranger to the exquisite pink sting that is sunburn...

But I haven't been sunburnt over quite the amount of skin that I was yesterday for a long while... usually it's just my face or one arm or both arms... not my face and both my arms and the backs of my hands and my fingers and the back of my neck and the sides of my neck and even my lips I think...

And so it got me thinking about sunburn and my childhood and the strange and somewhat specific phenomenon that IS sunburn...

Like I said, as an Australian child, especially in the years before "Slip, Slop, Slap" came in, I'm no stranger to the concept... and I have more than a few childhood memories of warm Summer nights, after having spent the whole day at the beach, feeling like your whole body was on fire and dreading even the seemingly incredibly scratchy and heavy press of a light cotton sheet on hot, tight, pink skin (okay, that last bit sounds a bit filthy)...

Then there's the additional joy I had given that I have a mother who seems to have a particular thrill over peeling off the skin once it starts to flake and peel... and she's an evil wench, she really likes to peel it off in as big a piece as she can. She's the same with glue on fingers actually... I have no idea what that is all about... weird, freaky woman...

I know there's a whole bunch of science behind sunburn, and the fact you've probably cooked the top couple of layers of skin, but this is one of those cases where I'm far happier not knowing the exact whys and wherefores... but just the fact that your skin suddenly holds all this heat in it, and tightens up like a $3 facelift, and even the slightest kiss of either additional sunlight or water that's anything other than freezing cold will make it burn with the most exquisite pain imaginable.

And I also know I've used the word "exquisite" a lot during this post, but it was the one that sprang into my mind while I was in the shower this morning when the warm water was hitting the back of my left hand and the right side of my neck, the two most badly burned places on my body... it was that level of pain that is so sharp and bites so unexpectedly... but at the same time I didn't want to make it stop. But then that's probably just because my brain is wired all wrong when it comes to certain kinds of pain.

When it comes to pain from sunburn though, there have been two instances that are possibly the worst in my memory. I'm sure there were others that were more painful at the time, but these two stick in my mind possibly because they weren't "usual" cases. The first I think because it was just really, really odd, and the second because I wore that particular sunburn like a badge of honour...

Back when I lived in the house I grew up in, we had a big conifer tree in the front yard, right next to the front fence... and then, for some reason (maybe it had dropped a branch, maybe it was the wrong kind of tree, I honestly don't remember why), it was being cut down. So I sat on the front step in a pair of shorts (which tells you I must have been fairly young at the time) and watched them cut it down (the only thing I actually remember is that when they felled the main part it fell the wrong way and hit the gate and we had a huge dent in the top of the gate from then on). And that night, I had sunburn in the oddest of places... not, as you would have expected, on the tops of my legs... oh no... I was only sunburnt behind my knees! The only thing I can assume is that it was reflected sunlight from the step... but even that just seems really, really weird.

My badge of honour sunburn comes from my brief, but enjoyable, stint going down to the nude beach at Maslins with a former friend a few years back. And no, it wasn't where you would expect (everybody always assumes that certain parts of your anatomy will get burnt, but if you look at the skin on them, it's always much darker than the surrounding skin, so your chances of sunburn are much less likely)... and it wasn't even my butt if memory serves... but that section right at the top of the thigh. So for the next three or four days try to sit for any length of time while at the same time trying no to put any pressure on the sunburn... there wasn't a position known to man...

I've always wished I was one of those people (like my buddy J for example) who tan to a consistent, even, deep, golden brown in the Summer (or any time really)... but thanks to however many thousands of years of probable genetic inbreeding by my hardy English peasant stock ancestors (at least on Ma's side... although I would imagine that the ancestors on the paternal side disappear back to the Mother Country before too long too), I have basically three and a half skin colours... I have "Never Sees The Sun White", "Too Much Sun Pink", "Gradual Repeated Exposure Light Tan" and then the "half colour", which also happens to also be the slight bane of my existence on occasion, "Proper Golden Freckle".

The freckles were cute when I was little (and to be honest, on the right kind of guy, grown up facial freckles are still incredibly sexy)... but now they're just my skin's way of mocking me by producing little tiny blobs of tan in a sea of mediocre pink or beige.

For now, however, I remain pink and white...

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