El sol. Le soleil. Il Sole. In any language, in any part of the world and regardless of the temperature, I love the sun. I could be in the hottest of deserts (I grew up Arizona) or the coldest of climes (Chicago at 30F has brilliant sunshine), either way, the brightest star in the sky makes me happy like nothing else does.
Perhaps it’s a function of genetics or environment, but I feel like everything in life is happier, brighter and infused with more energy when it’s sunny outside. Winter offends me, unless I’m traveling to it as a novelty. One of my favorite days of the year is when we turn our clocks ahead and an extra hour of sunlight appears. (I dread the converse.) France has the right idea — each major French city throws a serious party to celebrate the summer solstice, when it stays light until 10:30pm. Bliss!
A well-respected futurist once told me that everything about me indicates a foundational need for the sun. My favorite beverages are sun tea (iced tea brewed outside), water with lemon and green juices. When the temperature famously hit 122F in Scottsdale, I was swimming with my friends. My in-laws were fearful when I started planning an outdoor wedding because they worried it might be incredibly hot on the big day and the bridal party would pass out. (We agreed on the fall instead.) College roommates used to use me as a temperature gauge — if I was finally happy with the Northern California weather, it was clearly too hot for them to go outside. I can use the sun to tell time within a 15-minute accuracy.
As teens, friends and I spent hours at water parks without sunscreen, in a machismo move to see how tan we could get without burning. (I usually won). Sometimes, we would even elect to crisp a bit because it yielded a better, longer-lasting tan. Homework was often done outside in the pool as we turned at various angles and shuttled in and out of homes for water and ice. Peak tanning hours meant fewer people at the pool and thus better seats. If the backyard needed watering or a car needed washing, sign me up! I could tan in the process. Then there was the Hawaiian snorkeling incident of ’97 when I burned so badly that I had to take Advil.
Maybe my body requires more Vitamin D than most people’s. The sun’s rays fuel me with energy and positivity and offer a comforting hug. Much like a newborn feeling equalized at a certain room or water temperature, I feel the same about the sun. Around 80F is my equilibrium. The sun is an essential element of my mojo. Coco Chanel and I agree on many things, one of which is that a tan is a fashion statement.
As the ozone has thinned and science has evolved, however, my sun tanning ways have evolved with it. In recent years, I’ve had to come clean about my vice with dermatologists in the name of good health. (It pretty much felt like a confessional.) My love for the sun doesn’t rule me — I’ve learned to manage it safely. I avoid tanning salons, which are the skin equivalent of crystal meth (no thank you). I keep myself protected from the perils of UVA and UVB rays with quality products that have standards higher than those of the FDA. I apply them generously at frequent intervals. In fact, these days I could be a sunscreen sommelier.
I wear SPF daily, even in winter. As a point of pride and good manners, no one burns on my watch, which makes beach vacations with my British husband possible. I also try to avoid peak tanning hours (le sigh) and I am religious about skin care. A healthy diet and constant hydration mean that the occasional weekend in Miami with a girlfriend rotating chairs from 9 to 5 isn’t going to kill me. Like many things in life, moderation is key to avoid harmful consequences. It’s not as though I am outside baking with a reflector and baby oil.
Some people need booze, others crave a ciggy in social settings or sex in illicit places. I’ll take a warm beach or poolside seat with a tall glass of ice water any day. Honestly, I believe my vice may be more of a virtue. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time that I headed outside.
(Photo: Sunset Girl/Unsplash)