I was a bit red in the neck after last weekend, which is a confirmation of the obvious for those who know me.
I spent Sunday fishing (carp fishing, no less), and apparently I did not apply sunscreen to the manufacturer’s specifications, or I used some that was beyond its prime. I prefer the spray stuff, but I ran out at some point last summer and didn’t resupply.
I always seem to have a few bottles of greasy sunscreen in the back of my truck, stashed in my fishing gear or stored in my driftboat. But either it failed me, or I failed to use it properly.
I come to this point every spring when it gets sunny and warm. I have an internal debate about whether it’s worse to get a sunburn or suffer through slathering some motor oil-grade ointment on my body.
Getting a tan? It’s as distant a memory as flat abs and a size 32 waist.
Since those days when I could actually get a tan, I’ve gotten brutal sunburns anywhere from ski slopes to the tropics, and not just your average red-nose and ruddy-cheeked burns.
I’ve taken sunburning to the verge of performance art. My Picasso would be a day at the beach when I self-slathered my back with sunblock and ended up with a tiger-striped sunburn.
There also were many top-of-the-foot-Teva-burns.
I often get rosy knee patches when I row my driftboat. The sun gets a direct shot at the skin between my shorts line and knee caps while my lower legs remain their natural white-boy beige.
There’s the angry-Roger-ear-burn (I guess red ears make you look mad), which often goes with raccoon Roger when I am wearing a hat and sunglasses and not applying enough sunscreen, or not applying it often enough.
Honestly, I try to avoid sunburns for obvious reasons, like they hurt like hell. There’s also the lingering specter of skin cancer, so I don’t take red skin lightly. That melanoma paranoia has made me a semi-devout shade worshipper, even though I enjoy being out in the sun.
But I get tired of trying to hide from it for months on end. It’s hard to not get bitter when you can’t go outside and play without risking an ultraviolet beatdown.
Last June, I spent a week in Belize and came back nearly as pasty as when I left. I wore long sleeves and pants most of the time. Ridiculous, I know, but there’s a simple explanation: I was on a seven-day fishing trip, and one thing worse than a nasty sunburn is standing in a blazing, tropical sun while you have one.
Staying indoors and missing a day of fishing because of a sunburn was not an option, so I dressed similar to an Iranian woman on her way to a mosque.
The alternate was to fill a bucket with sunscreen, pour it over my head and hope it trickled down to every spot on my body the sun could reach.
I must not be alone. It seems sun protection is big business these days. I keep reading about clothes with an “SPF” rating. As many sunburns as I’ve had, I can’t remember getting one through jeans and a T-shirt.
I suspect there’s more marketing than science behind those sun-protecting fabrics, but maybe someone from some institute will straighten me out.
I’ve tried to compromise and slather up or cover up between the hours of 11 a. m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is most intense. Afterward, I will take a dip in a river, lake or reservoir, or if that’s not available, a sun shower comes in pretty handy.
You don’t realize how sticky and sweaty your skin feels when it’s coated with sunscreen until it’s washed away by fresh, cool water. Then that same sun I’ve been dodging feels like a big, warm hug after I get a straight shot of rays and the water evaporates off my skin.
Why do I have to hide from something as pure and natural as sunlight? Just reality, I guess, so I better buy some spray and liberally douse myself whenever the sun is blazing away.
Fall is a long ways off, and pasty-white skin looks worse when it’s lobster pink.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Sunday. Look for Zimo next week.