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Sunday, February 5, 2023

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Mama in a Burka

mama-in-burkaSummer is closing out and the days are getting shorter. While many of you may mourn this, I don’t. I’m counting down the moments until I can stop slathering every inch of my exposed body (the precious little that isn’t covered up, that is) with sunscreen. I look forward with joy to turtleneck weather. I positively long for dreary, cloudy fall days.

Yes, call me a summer and sun-hating, no-fun kind of gal, but (ironically) it is precisely because of my prior love affair with the sun that I am now shrouded and hiding in every speck of shade that I can find for most of every summer.

Once upon a time, my half-Irish self lived in Brazil. There I sunbathed regularly—all year round in fact. I lived there during those hellish years known as middle school and early high school and if I couldn’t be the prettiest or most popular girl, I sure as heck was going to be one of the tan ones. So my friends and I would lay prone around the pool in our bikinis, working year-round on those savage tans. In my case, it was more like one mega-savage freckle, all over my 5’10” frame, but at least I wasn’t ghostly white.

When my father’s job brought us to Virginia, I had to confine my skin abuse to the summer months, but I made the most of our pool membership from Memorial Day through Labor Day. I still remember (PG-13 alert here, readers) admiring my tan lines in the bathroom each day as I took my three-hour ritual shower. How the glorious golden skin contrasted with the pale skin normally covered by my bikini! Lovely, just lovely. In my more deluded moments, I likened myself to the Girl From Ipanema in that Frank Sinatra oldie:

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes – ah

Then I reached the ripe old age of about 21. Seemingly overnight, I started noticing funny little blotches on my skin. Long story short, I had sun damage showing up that usually did not hit until (horrors!) the age of 40. I came to find out my dad had the same condition, though his showed up a bit later in life.

I started using sunscreen and gradually progressed to the sun-avoiding, hat-wearing, virtually burka-clad woman that I am today. Khakis and long sleeved shirts are one of my go-to sartorial choices; the other are billowy skirts that come to my ankles along with, yes, long sleeved shirts. Top it off with a broad-brimmed sunhat and shades and you have my hot and sweaty (no longer, alas, hot and sexy) look for summer.

So if you saw me this past summer hovering in the shade all frumped out while watching my SPF-clad and lotioned kids at the pool, you know why. I’m not a member of an obscure religious sect, or against the showing of bare skin (unless it is mine). I’m just the former Girl from Ipanema, paying (for the rest of my life) for those few years in the sun.

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