Reconsidering sunblock | Bleader

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reconsidering sunblock

Posted By on 06.21.12 at 06:15 AM

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That damn dog
  • That damn dog
I used to find the scent and feel of sunblock repulsive. Growing up in the often unbearable heat and humidity of southwest Ohio, I was forced to slather high concentrations of oily, pungent SPF on my pallid Scottish complexion each time I ventured out into the natural suburban terrain. It was not by choice. I wanted to be tan—just like an early-90s Richard Grieco—but the idea of having a son covered with bubbling boils eventually perish on the overheated tar-based blacktop parking lot of our local supermarket didn't much appeal to my mother at the time. So a few coats of sunblock were a requirement almost anytime we set foot outside the house.

Many of my early summers were spent at the local neighborhood swim club idling around the pool—not really wanting to do anything other than gulp down Slushies—with the overwhelming stale stench of Myrtle Beach vacations gone by clinging to me like the plague. During the 15-minute adult swim each hour, I sat in the club's overgrown lawn batting away bees as the sun baked me alive.

I was never much for swimming to begin with, mainly because of my vexing inability to float on my back in the water or really do anything active for five minutes without feeling like my heart was going to explode. So for years the swim club represented nothing more to me than the wafting smell of perfumed sunblock, a host of moms in lawn chairs reading Danielle Steele novels, and maybe an impressive cannonball or two.

But as the years passed and I shed some of the baby fat and realized there was more to life than air-conditioning and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns, I got out of the house and onto a bike or skateboard or running path. I still applied plenty of sunblock—my skin will never tan, just peel—but the objectionable smell that once recalled summers of searing heat and misery had become therapeutic. It now reminds me of exercise and the pleasant parts of summer—park hangouts, lazy bike rides, beach days—and gives off a floral scent rather than the stank of salt water and seaweed.

There will always be my pale kinsmen forever searching for a non-greasy, non-foul-smelling sunblock—just check out the thread in Straight Dope solely dedicated to the issue—but for me sunblock has become one of the best scents of summer, an inimitable force that sticks to my skin during the long days toiling away in my office cubicle. I'll occasionally get a whiff, remember what outside smells like, and long for the good old days of adult swim.

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