Pique'n your interest 

In search of the elusive tan

It was as if Whistler had never seen the sun before.

Last weekend hordes of people took the first tentative step outdoors to taste the first real sights and sounds of summer 2002.

They were on their bikes, in their canoes, relaxing on patios, lamenting or cheering on the golf and frolf (disc golf) courses, and generally enjoying the sunny weather.

In the village eyes were bugging out of heads everywhere as Gore-Tex and fleece were replaced with skin, skin and more skin.

And it was white.

Some of it was pale white, while on others it was more of a pasty colour. Some of the skin, like my own, was of a ghostly hue.

As the weekend drew to a close, and the Frisbees, bikes and balls were packed away, people suddenly started realizing how much they had enjoyed the sun.

The proof was in the burn.

By dinner on Sunday night once milky white skin had been transformed – some to a rosy pink, others a more lobster tint, and then there were the fools who had turned a fiery, glowing, sunset red.

It was as if Whistler had never heard of sunscreen before.

Some had simply forgotten to lather up. Others were just too lazy.

But then there were those who purposely neglected to protect themselves, believing a small burn would stand them in good stead as a base for the following months.

This is a topic close to my heart. My summer memories are punctuated with the sunburns that scarred various parts of my body.

This year however, I have determined not to let it happen again. I have finally learned from my past mistakes – and there have been many.

One of my ugliest burns happened on a family trip to Spain when I was just 10 years old.

It was three gruesome weeks of walking through ruins and museums until the kids were rewarded with a trip to the Water Park.

Mum lathered us in waterproof sunscreen and off we went, but as I was sporting my fashionable bowl cut at the time, she had neglected to put the lotion on my forehead.

As soon as my hair got wet, my forehead was exposed to the hot Spanish sun.

For the remainder of trip I looked like something out of Star Trek as my forehead ballooned into a huge water blister.

In the grand scheme of things, that burn was really just a small oversight. I'd even go as far as to say it wasn't really my fault and just passed it off as poor parenting.

The next bad burn wasn't an oversight; it was due solely to my own vanity.

About three years ago, I was a bridesmaid in Texas.

I was so honoured to be a bridesmaid for one of my closest friends… and then I unwrapped the bridesmaid's dress sent from the States.

There it sat in the box, all long and flowing and light and summery – and a pale beige.

A pale beige, spaghetti strap dress works for some people but on me it's not really clear if I'm wearing anything.

I decided in the 10 days in the Lone Star state before the wedding that I would become a golden hue, even though I've never ever been anything but white or less white.

I swear it was only 30 minutes out by the pool with no sunscreen but there was no getting that half-hour back. I had burned one side of my body from head to toe.

By the time the big day rolled around, despite aloe and lotion and prayers and many painful showers, I was still a tender pink.

When the time came to walk down the aisle, I was also peeling in huge, transparent layers. It was something akin to a lizard shedding its skin.

So not only was I one colour on the front and a different colour on the back, I looked like I was wasting away with some flesh eating disease.

I promised to never be vain again and just resign myself to my pasty fate.

While that experience taught me that a tan is just not worth the pain, it still didn't teach me to be prepared.

That was a lesson to be learned from my most recent sunburn, last year when I was a cub reporter interning at a daily paper in Toronto.

One steamy hot day, the kind unique to smog-infested Hogtown, I was sent out on assignment to cover a story where a highway construction worker was trapped in collapsed scaffolding.

Standing on the concrete jungle all day, with miles and miles of endless asphalt snaking off into the horizon, the crowd of rescue workers, construction workers, fireman, policeman and media, watched as a dramatic rescue unfolded over the course of six hours. (Truth be told, the first 10 minutes were the only dramatic part.)

I had no hat, no water, and no sunscreen for the six slow-burning hours.

Still, after the rescue, I had a story to write.

Everything was in a daze by the time I got back to the newsroom. The world was spinning as I rehashed the day's events for the next day's paper.

By the time I made it home, I was ill with sunstroke. I spent the night hugging the toilet bowl, which actually cooled down my burning, throbbing head.

I hope I've learned now from my past mistakes. I must always be prepared. I must never think I can go bronze in a day, if indeed ever. And I must be wary of trusting my mum.

For those who took some tender showers this week, and felt like their skin had turned to leather, would you agree now that it's not worth it?

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