What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Life Lessons in the Small Print October 26, 2018

There are certain things people don’t remember to teach you. Like don’t put the lash glue on your eye, put it on the lashes. Turkeys and chickens are not the same. Don’t give birds soda.

All kinds of little life lessons we have to stumble through as a right of passage on our path to true competency.

One lesson I had to learn the hard way was about sunscreen.

I was probably fourteen, so still a respectable age to be this dumb, and I was going to the ocean on a summer camp trip. The plan was to spend the whole day on the beach, including a picnic lunch. We had been woken up at some ungodly hour to be put on a bus and had all fallen right back to sleep. The counselors woke us back up when we were about five minutes from the ocean and told us to put on our sun screen now, then take only our beach towels off the bus since they were taking care of water and lunch.

I was young and dumb and followed their instructions. I slathered on my sun screen, left everything but my towel behind, and as soon as the bus stopped I ran right for the ocean. I kicked my shoes off and dove right on in.

Sounds like an idyllic scene from a movie, right?

It was for the first hour or so. Then I started to get pink. I didn’t know why. I had put on my sunscreen. By lunchtime I was bright red. Of course, the counselors didn’t have any extra sunscreen, and none of the campers had been allowed to bring theirs. The bus was gone and wouldn’t be back until pick up time. I hid under my beach towel for the rest of the day, already feeling the sting of my horrible sunburn.

By the time we got back to camp and I went to the nurse, I was like a bumpy lobster. She yelled at me for not applying sunscreen. I pulled out my sunscreen from my pack and said I had put it on, but the bottle must have expired (teen logic at its best.) The nurse pointed to a fine line of text on the back of the bottle: Do not submerge in water for fifteen minutes after application. I had washed all my sunscreen off the second I jumped into the ocean. It was a miserable two weeks of cold showers and peeling skin, but I learned my lesson.

Always apply sunscreen, and always read the directions.


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