This has been a bittersweet summer, to say the least. This might be the first summer since college where I haven’t been able to go on a real, actual vacation. It’s disappointing and distressing. I badly want to go to the beach, hit up a beach bar, or just visit some friends or relatives out of state. I haven’t been able to do any of that this year, due to the goddamn pandemic.
However, I don’t just want to lament at how this has been a lost summer. I like to think I’ve made the most of it, despite being stuck at home for the most part. There are ways to enjoy summer without going to the beach. They aren’t always as fun or fulfilling, but they still work.
In lieu of bemoaning my lack of vacation travels this summer, I thought I’d share a brief personal story. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s not overly awful either. It’s just one of those memories that stands out more than most and for reasons that are sure to become abundantly clear. It involves the beach, sunburn, and how a simple oversight can cause plenty of discomfort.
This particular memory takes place a number of years ago around the 4th of July. That year, I decided to head up to the beach to celebrate the holiday weekend. The weather was perfect. The food was as delicious as it was unhealthy. There were no masks, social distancing, or angry fights that broke out when someone sneezed. Good times, indeed.
Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing trip. On my first full day there, I was set to spend most of the day out on the sand with my dad. Since it was sunny and over 90 degrees out, we both made it a point to go heavy on sunscreen. For me, that’s somewhat challenging. I burn very easily and I’ve had many vacations undermined by nasty sunburns. At this point, though, I’d gotten pretty good at protecting myself.
On this day, I thought I did everything right. I lathered up as much as I could. I even used extra for good measure. I did not want to get burned. I wanted this trip to be memorable for all the right reasons. I thought I succeeded. The fact I smelled like a coconut for hours should’ve been proof of that.
Sadly, I was wrong.
I didn’t know it at the time, but there was one part of my body that I neglected. Trust me, it’s not the part your thinking. It was the top parts of my feet.
This may sound like a trivial oversight. Trust me, it isn’t and I had to learn that the hard way. I didn’t know it at the time, though. I just went about my day of surf, sand, and relaxation. My dad and I had an awesome time. We just lofted about without a care in the world, enjoying the summer sun at the beach. It was pure nirvana.
I only started to realize my oversight shortly after we got back. I realized the top parts of my feet were stinging. I wasn’t sure why until I kicked off my flip-flops. That’s when I saw it. A distinct pattern of red sunburn had formed all over the top of my feet. At the time, I just thought it was a mild inconvenience. I didn’t get burned anywhere else, so I thought I had avoided the worst.
Again, I was wrong.
It turns out that getting sunburned on the top of your feet is one of the worst places to get it. It’s not just that it makes wearing socks and shoes a lot more painful. The simple act of taking a shower, stretching your legs, or sleeping under the covers at night became a test in pain tolerance. At least on your back and arms, you can apply ointment or creams to alleviate the pain. It’s not as easy on your feet.
I won’t say this ruined my trip. I still had fun. It just complicated it. I had to be a lot more careful when it came to putting on socks and wearing flip-flops. I had to take lukewarm showers for a while. I also couldn’t go in any hot tubs. It was a bummer, but I got through it.
Thankfully, the pain only lingered for a few days. However, once my skin started peeling, it made for some interesting challenges with laundry. I’m pretty sure I had to throw away at least three pairs of socks after that trip. It was not a pleasant experience, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.
When it comes to applying sunscreen, do not skip the tops of your feet. You do not want to get burned there.
For those lucky enough to still have access to a beach, I hope you heed this advice. For those stuck in place, like me, try to remember it when this crisis is finally over. Next summer, we’ll have a chance to make up for all the time we’ve lost this year. Just be careful. You don’t want to get burned in the wrong place.