Tuesday 8 September 2009

The Grilled Mancunian

I’ve been cooked several times in my life and I’m bloody sick of it.

Having blond hair and fair skin is seen by some as a blessing. Phrases like “blonds have more fun” may give the impression that we are rampant extroverts with a party animal mentality and can make any social occasion memorable.

Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that blonds are cursed. I won’t even begin to discuss the common myth that blond people are stupid. You’ve all heard the jokes:

How do you make a blond’s eyes twinkle? Shine a torch in their ear.

Actually, blond jokes are geared towards airhead blond women (at least that’s what people telling blond jokes tell me) so I like to think that people don’t consider me to be stupid just because of the colour of my hair.

How are we cursed then?

We are basically allergic to the sun (well excessive sun at least).

So does that make us vampires? In a way, it does. I’m not saying that I am an evil undead monster who sleeps in a coffin all day and then marauds around at night, attacking young female virgins and bleeding them dry. Last time I checked, a cross didn’t burn my skin and the closest I get to drinking blood is when I have a medium rare steak. Besides, I quite like garlic.

The sun has a similar effect on my skin as it does on your average vampire. I don’t burst into flames and crumble into ash. However I do cook, albeit very, very slowly.

When I was young, like most stupid youths, I considered myself to be indestructible. I would jump around like an idiot, climbing trees, throwing myself off walls and leaping into water from great heights. I was a moron (okay maybe I was a true blond in those days). And I actually thought that I could spend a whole day in the sun without getting sunburnt.

The first time I remember being cooked, I was on holiday in Bala, a lovely little town on the edge of Bala Lake in mid Wales. I was eighteen and four of us were discovering the glory of alcohol and more importantly freedom from our parents. It was my first real holiday with them and I was ready to take the next stupid step.

On that fateful day, we drove to the lake and hired a boat. It was a gloriously sunny day and, being a complete and utter bonehead, I chose to sail on the lake without a shirt. I still don’t know why I did this. Even my mates suggested that perhaps I should wear a T shirt. I wouldn’t mind but my physique wasn’t exactly worthy of parading to other sailors. I was so skinny that I resembled a living skeleton. Arnold Schwarzenegger I wasn’t.

What was I hoping to achieve? If any young women had seen my bony body they would have either fled in disgust or called an ambulance. Either that or tried to play me like a glockenspiel.

I stepped onto that boat looking like a milk bottle. I stepped off it, three hours later, looking like a strawberry milkshake with a blob of chaotic cream on top.

I burned really badly. When I pulled on my T shirt, I screamed like a little girl. There were tears in my eyes as we travelled back to the cottage. I didn’t sleep a wink for the entire night. My whole upper body felt as if it was infested by tiny microscopic devils pummelling my skin with pneumatic pins.

Worse was to come. I came to terms with my stupidity, thinking that the red skin would gradually become brown. It’s not so bad, I thought. At least in a week or two I will look like a tanned hunk and the girls will throw themselves at me.


My red skin began to peel. Having never seen this phenomenon before, I began to panic. My dad reassured me saying that it would be all over soon (as he struggled not to laugh). It was as if I was covered in layer upon layer of cling film. I peeled off great swathes of skin. I could have made curtains for the whole street out the skin. There was almost enough to create another human being. One time, I pulled skin off my entire torso and arms like a jumper.

As the initial pain diminished, it was replaced by a terrible itch all over the exposed and grilled area. I scratched and scratched and ripped off handfuls of skin. It was horrific – just like the incredible melting man. You’ve seen “The Fly” with Jeff Goldblum? That was a picnic compared to me.

And what was the colour of my skin after I had shed more coats than a rampant snake? You've guessed it - white!

Since then I have been very careful. I love to travel to very warm and sunny places and laze on the beach; now I sit in the shade and cover any exposed bits of my body in factor 3 million sun block.

Many people ask me why I bother going to hot places if I come back looking like a ghost. I love sitting in the shade watching people, reading, listening to music; the only difference is that I don’t have skin like leather with more wrinkles than a ninety year old man. My fair skin makes me look younger than my years and I am often mistaken for a man in his mid-thirties.

That said, I have accidentally been grilled a few times.

At the Monsters of Rock festival a few years ago, I foolishly neglected to take a bottle of sun block. As I watched the various rock bands, I was unaware that I was gradually roasting in the sun. The only problem was that the sun was constantly on my right hand side, so I acquired a rather lopsided burn; the right hand side of my face was red raw as was my right arm. My left hand side was milky white.

I looked utterly ridiculous for weeks.

Another time I was caught out was at a cricket match in Manchester. The sun was intense and I burned quite badly. I was wearing sunglasses and when I returned home, I looked at myself in the mirror; a red and white panda stared back at me.

Even though I am proud that I have milky white, fair skin that has preserved a semblance of youth, I am envious of those who simply look at the sun for seconds and turn a lovely bronze colour. In my youth it always seemed to me that bronzed men attracted the best women; of course in my case bronze skin probably wouldn’t help because a bronze baboon isn’t the most attractive beast on the planet.

So what is the worst place to fry? Well in my experience, the backs of the legs is a pretty nasty place because you simply cannot sit down. On one occasion I burned the bottoms of my feet – that was very unpleasant.

But the worst place? Well I’ll leave it to your imagination but suffice it to say I am glad that I am not a naturist.


Kath Lockett said...

This is a brilliant description: "I could have made curtains for the whole street out the skin." Gold!

I too am blonde with legs I invariably describe as fluro-tubes. Living in Australia means that I'm always the whitest at BBQs, in the pool, on holiday, walking down the street in shorts...

I too have had the soles of my feet burned when I fell asleep under the shady umbrella at the beach. I needed three days off work because I couldn't walk. I've been burned in an angry 'v' on my chest during a tennis tournament - I applied sunscreen everywhere else but forgot I was wearing a v-necked t-shirt. For three weeks after I had tiny blisters that resembled bubble wrap and it burned so badly that I still sport a faint mark of that day 26 years ago...

We (natural) blondes need to stand up and march for our milky white rights. Preferably at night time or somewhere shady of course... :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'day Kath,

Tanning isn't worth the pain in my opinion and I vigorously defend my white skin when people come up with comments like:

"You look ill. You're as white as a ghost"

Why do you have to be tanned to look "healthy"?

I'm with you on the march - milk bottles and fluorescent tubes should stick together!




River said...

I tan without even thinking about it. I don't sunbake anymore and wear sunscreen, especially on my face, I spend most of my time inside. Still by the end of summer my arms and legs are very brown just from walking to and from the local shopping centres and libraries. All are within 20 minutes walk. When I was much younger, under ten, I was often asked if I was half aboriginal, because I spent all day at the beach all summer and was brown as I could possibly get.

Anonymous said...

It's even worse when you're born in a place where everybody is tanned in summer (and many of them, most of the year). Being Spanish and not fond of sunbathing seems to be a shame, I'd eagerly join this milky white association :).

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I envy you in many ways. As a young lad I would have loved to have been able to pop out on a sunny day and return nicely tanned.

The only way I could possibly get a tan is by covering myself in spray tan - and I've seen that episode of "Friends" where Ross makes a mess doing just that. I'm sure that would happen to me.



Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Najork,

I love Spain and could quite happily spend time there without sunbathing. I would definitely stand out either as a milk bottle or a strwaberry milk shake.




bingkee said...

This is a very funny post. Hehehehe!

Just like you , my husband is fair (Caucasian) skinned, with blond hair although now bald. He loves the sun , but the sun hates him. The sun toasts him not to dark , but to red. I tease him "Elmo".He easily gets burnt red.
Unlike him and you, I don't get burnt. I just get darker and then the dark skin fades back to my natural dark brown color. As Southeast Asian, I have a natural shield of sunblock---abundance of melanin.

By the way, when you get to Cape Cod , by that time, it's cold. And the beach is freezing. It's only good in the summer---from June to August.

Robin Easton said...

OMG!! I laughed and cringed my way through this whole post.

I can pretty much relate to this as I am quite pale. But after years in Australia I did become a bit more accustomed to the sun. Here in New Mexico I go out in the early morning into my garden and in the late avo or early evening and surprisingly from that I do get a nice tan. But the rest of the day I burn like an egg on a griddle.

I once skied in Colorado which is very high altitude and I had always skied in Maine (sea level) without sunscreen and never burned. But by that night I wondered why my face was on fire. I looked in the mirror and it was already blistering. BRIGHT RED!! In the middle of the night I woke screaming and had HUGE blisters on my face filled with fluid. I was rushed to ER and had second degree burns. My WHOLE face was one big blister. They had to give me cortisone cream and something else for pain. And the worst part of it was that I had worn those aviator reflector sunglasses while skiing and I had these two perfectly white ovals where my eyes are. I looked like the monster from hell. LOLOLOL!!!

(I was SOOOO embarassed that I refused to go to work and I finally had to go to the grocery store a few days later and I really looked like a reptile shedding its skin (with two white oval eyes) and I remember little kids screaming and crying and asking their mothers what was the matter with that lady. LOLOL!! I'am DEAD serious. I left my produce and ran out of the store, called a friend and told them they would have to pick up my groceries. There was no bloody way I was going out EVER again unless my face healed.

Even when I went back to work people teased me. And ya, the backs of your legs are one of the worst places. Having been a "naturist" in the rainforest I can atest to the places one can get burned that are far worse than the backs of your knees. LOLOLOL!!!

On that note I will leave you to ponder your white skin.

PS I loved your comment on my blog and will respond to it today. You are a joy.


Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Bingkee,

I yearn to have some melanin. I have none. in fact I have a negative amount.

Yes, I know that it will be colder when we go but that's fine. We've had our sun holiday - Majorca (37 to 40 degrees) so we just want to spend a relaxing time, enjoying the scenery and having a bit of fun.

Given the weather here in the UK, it will still be relatively warm (though thankfully not sunny enough to turn me into a lobster).




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Robin,

That sounds absolutely horrific. I think I am lucky not to have burned so badly. That first time was nasty but very mild in comparison to you; it prompted me to take extra care.

I have had blisters on my back before but that was pure stupidity on my part but on your face? How on earth did you cope with that? And the white eyes too? I shouldn't laugh but it is really difficult not to imagine the look (without the blisters of course).

My skin will remain white (definitely so now) - unless I have a moment of absolute madness.

And yes - I can imagine places worse than the backs of your legs. I cringe just thinking about it.