Sometimes as kids we do stupid things. Sometimes we learn nothing from these mistakes, because, well, we are kids after all. But sometimes the mistake is so ridiculously stupid that even as a teenager, you know there’s a lesson to be learned in there and you learn it. Hard.
I learned a lesson the summer I turned 13.
Hoo boy, did I ever.
My parents had a beach house on Isle of Palms in South Carolina. It was pretty much paradise, disguised in pastel paint and white picket fences. I was always much more of a pool person, since after swimming at the pool, you never discovered sand in crevices that you didn’t even know you had. But the beach on Isle of Palms wasÂ undisputedlyÂ beautiful, even to a teenager.
One fine day, I found myself parked on a beach chair with a walkman, a Speedo one-piece, and a pair of red Umbro shorts. And there I stayed. All day. I fell asleep in the chair. I didn’t even go inside for my daily turkey sandwich and mayo (REAL MAYO…not that miracle whip salad dressing disguised as mayo) on white. I didn’t even go inside at all. I fell asleep in the sun. Some time before dinner I was found in the same place I had been all day. In the beach chair. With the walkman. In a speedo. In my Umbros.
I remember at the time feeling kind of annoyed that I had spent the entire day baking in the hot sun and had absolutely no color to show for it.
(Because this is how 13-year-olds think.)
Until I went inside.
Remember that scene in Summer Rental when John Candy’s all “what on earth are you talking about, I don’t have a sunburn!” and meanwhile every single person around him is all…OMG YOU ARE A LOBSTER! I CAN’T LOOK STRAIGHT AT YOU IT’S LIKE LOOKING INTO THE SUN!
I was the exact color of my shorts.
And then it started to hurt.
And then the fever set in.
I spent the rest of my vacation in bed, unable to even eat turkey sandwiches or see the sun or even put on clothing.
And I have spent the rest of my life with two permanent carrot-shaped marks on my legs, leftover from the Umbro shorts the day I sat out in the sun for too long.
It’s true. If you are nice to me, I might even show them to you.
But only if you promise to wear some sunscreen.