Tomorrow I’m going to the dermatologist. I don’t mind going because my doctor is a soft-spoken, sort of glamorous person who wears cute skirts and give me fancy sample products I can trade for cat sitting and other favors.
Early on in my appointment, my moles will be assessed. I will be told that I handle sunlight about as well as a vampire and that I should wear 100SPF under my Hazmat suit should I chance meet daylight. I find this grossly unfair. The other women in my family run around, say, the beach at noon and turn a nice golden brown without additional unsightly blemishes and disapproving looks from the medical community. I, on the other hand, tend toward a veiny, splotchy blemished pallor that not even the most besotted of poets would ever confuse for ivory and a tendency to redden at the first opportunity. Experience shows that I can tan, though it takes several painful variations on the theme of salmon and maybe a second degree burn to get there.
This didn’t used to be a problem. As a teenager, my personal style icons tended to be either slightly goth or mostly dead. And because I had neither a waif-like build nor a natural tendency toward flowing Pre-Raphaelite tresses, flowy skirts and a pasty complexion were really all I had going for me. Inclined to be contrary and unwavering in my belief that evident enthusiasm for things (like warmth and/or daylight) would brand me as a loser or maybe a poseur (or both), I spent most family beach vacations hiding in the condo, reading the Western Canon, stealing my mother’s cigarettes and trying to act like I didn’t want to go swimming. I thus preserved my pallor and kept my moderately unhealthy adolescence safe from any potential benefit of sunlight and sea air.
In general,I went to great lengths to appear as unaffected by the wonders of nature as possible. No wilderness adventure for me. My version of badass inhabited an urban jungle somewhat resembling the cinematic East Village in the 70s and 80s, full of great bands and artists and fashionably tragic Nan-Goldin-ish waifs with probable drug problems and cute vintage party dresses.
By the time I hit my mid-twenties, most of my teenaged affectations, though I still stopped short of committed enthusiasm for forests and mountains and waterfalls and the smell of green things around you and all that transcendent shit. The jig, however, was up. Maybe my friends caught me lingering overlong at creeksides or perhaps my habit of ruining party dresses by running around in the spring rain like some clumsy offspring of Cathy Earnshaw and a Wordsworth poem tipped them off. Or maybe it was just that no one believed my subscription to Outside was an accident. Whatever the case, I clearly remember having an argument with a roommate and failing quite completely to convince her that outdoorsy-ness was a dealbreaker in romantic relationships.
She just rolled her eyes and said something about not fooling anybody and “ Seriously, Alison? You’re totally going to marry some mountain climber, whose best man is a Sherpa guide. ”
I blushed and stuttered with the shame of the FOUND OUT, but I didn’t argue. Because as a match, that actually didn’t sound so bad and really I’d been waiting for someone to call me on that bullshit for years. By the time I admitted to being secretly outdoorsy, the secret part was probably unnecessary.
I don’t want to overstate this. I’m still far more likely to wear crinolines than hiking boots and the last time I was anywhere close to the Appalachian Trail, I was in a car. But the more time I spend outside the more time I want to spend outside if you know what I mean. If you ask me to tag along on your adventure, I’ll probably go, because why not? I’m far more likely to regret the not doing, even if the doing sometimes sucks while I’m doing it.
And yeah, sure, I’ll even wear sunscreen.