Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Always Use Sunscreen

The social committee at my work is planning our Christmas luncheon for December. They decided to do things a little differently this year and begin the gathering with a mixer game that required me to provide something that makes me stand out, but it had to be something that my co-workers didn't already know about me. And after many days of deliberation, trying to decide how quirky or serious I wanted to make my personal information I decided on: I was given an award for being most likely to sunburn.

It was the summer before sixth grade and my softball coach had taken an interest in woodcarving. His wife was always very crafty, and one night the two of them must have put their creative minds together and decided to make small, personal trophies for all of the girls on my softball team to be handed out with our "official" trophies provided by the league. They were very small, a 2"x 2" wooden block for the base, with a little something goofy carved on top. My trophy had three small bottles that Mrs. Coach painted white and added SPF in red lettering. I was too young to find the humor in it at the time. I felt humiliated instead.

Just a few weeks prior I had gone to the Grand Prix of Cleveland with my best friend and her family. I knew nothing about cars or racing, still don't actually, but she and I did everything together so I agreed to go. We sat up high on the bleachers, watching the cars as they circled the track, and we talked about boys, cheerleading, and what we should have been doing instead of watching a bunch of cars taking laps around a track. It was nearly 12 hours of mind numbing boredom, all the while we were unaware of the sun beating against our skin from behind the massive bleachers. She was okay. She had that skin everyone longs for that doesn't have to burn instead it just tans. I, with my fair and freckled complexion, never tan instead I get second-degree burns that leave me immobile for a few days at a time. And that's exactly what happened. Normally I would have played through the pain, I loved softball that much, but because the sun was coming from behind most of the time we were there the worst burning was from the back of my knees all the way down my calves. I couldn't stand letting my knee-high socks and black polyester uniform pants touch my skin let alone take up my starting position at first base and actively play. I opted to miss two games in one week and this was apparently my coach's way of razzing me for it.

My SPF trophy is now hidden away in one of the closets at my parents' house along with the rest of my "official" sports trophies. I'm not sure why I was so ashamed of it. Perhaps it was because I expected something a little more flattering, like a box of Wheaties for all of the impossible plays that I pulled off or a chain link fence for all of the foul balls that I dove headfirst into the metal for, something that symbolized how good I played and not the two games of the season that I missed. I don't know the real reason that I didn't appreciate my coach's humor when I was in junior high school but looking back on it now I think it's hilarious. I'm half tempted to stop by my parents' house tonight to collect it.

At least the guy taught me a valuable lesson about using sunscreen, if nothing else.

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