In the summer of 2012, I was the most tan I have ever been in my entire life. It was my second experience with Italian summer sunburns – the first being in 2006 on our family vacation, where my brother’s nose promptly turned Rudolph red by the time we hit Taormina, though I barely changed tones.
By the age of twenty-three, I had succumbed to the fact that my mix of Irish-Italian heritage had made me repel sunlight. My mother and brother bronze right up just like the Italians do. My father freckled and burned. I don’t “tan” – like noticeably tan skin meaning people go “Wow you’re so TAN!” – I maybe go from like Porcelain to Ivory on any skin color chart. But I don’t burn that much either unless its freaky strong sun like in Costa Rica (saltwater doesn’t help). I don’t burn like my Dad, either, though the freckles came early and are here to stay. So I just kind of…stay the same color. Reflective skin. If I put sunscreen on, forget it – I need a year.
But in the summer of 2012, I found myself in Italy during one of the hottest summers with sweltering heat so bad that most of the time you wanted to wear as little clothing as possible. I was outside constantly – either flyering in Florence or guiding outdoor tours from Thursday to Sunday – normally either hiking in Switzerland or on the beaches in the Amalfi Coast. For a while, my Saturday consisted of getting up early, hiking down to Positano beach, and riding around on boats with my favorite boat captain grandpa, go cliff jumping, and swim through emerald caves full of gleaming red coral below the surface. All of that included a LOT of sun – and for some reason, my skin liked it.
I got as bronzed as everyone else here that spends their month-long vacations lounging in their lines of reserved beach chairs. My brother thought I photoshopped pictures. Maybe my freckles just blended together, I don’t care. It happened. I felt much more comfortable looking even more “local,” and it felt entirely awesome just to get actual color for once in my life. The only problem with this is that apparently, I need an entire summer with ridiculous standards of sunshine for that type of color to happen, and it doesn’t stick around. I’ve never gotten even close in the years since.
In the spring of 2013, our trips to Amalfi started up again. The first person I hadn’t seen in a season, a ferry operator out of Sorrento, met me with this exact greeting in rapid fire: “Oh! Ciao Lisa come stai! How was your winter? So good to see you again! You are so pale!”
He wasn’t the only one to notice. Just for reference, I was also told I have to “change color” in Morocco. This is a theme for me.
Today was the first day of my thirtieth year that my legs felt the sun. They are as pale as ever and were probably blinding to my neighbors. I would never dare walk outside my door in shorts this time of year (no bare legs here until like June – everyone wears tights and funky socks) but in my backyard, I’m going to steal as many minutes of early sunshine as possible. Maybe I can build up to summer 2012 this year. Or at least some shade that’s named after something warm on the color chart.