Sun shock

Being both an Oregonian and a night shift worker I am unfamiliar with this thing you call "sunshine." The other morning I awoke to light and warmth flowing in my bedroom window. My first reaction was panic, after all, who's not afraid of the strange and unusual?

Fortunately I'm a quick thinker, and amazingly level-headed during this time of extreme personal stress. I made a brief, reassuring, call to my mother, who convinced me I didn't need to go running into the streets to warn my neighbors about the burning orb hovering ominously over our backyards.

"That's the center of our solar system, my dear," which was confusing because I always thought that was me (as you can see I'm incredibly humble and would never claim the entire universe for myself).

Sun, that's right, I think I remember you! I think we may have crossed paths, for a moment or two, last September. Or maybe I've just seen pictures of you tagged on Facebook — those faces always seem so oddly familiar. Anyway, you're kind of cute. Maybe we can hang out?

The combination of a job which often requires me to sleep all day and being born an Oregonian has resulted in a beautiful outcome I like to refer to as an "Oregon tan." An Oregon tan is the opposite of a beach-induced California tan. An Oregon tan is pale skin — which borders on translucency.

This has actually been a money-saving trait for me, no X-rays are ever required. If I lift up the hem of my shirt you can see straight through to my internal organs. Handy for a cheap visit to the emergency department, but not so hot in a bikini. All winter long no tropical vacation or glare from a ski trip marred my perfectly developed Oregon tan.

Foolishly, on the very first pleasant day of spring, I forgot all about my tendency to trend toward transparency. I'm going to put all the blame for my lapse in critical thinking right back on those innocent-looking rays of sunshine: They traveled straight to my brain and caused an all-out attack of foolish springtime frolicking. I think we can all predict the end results — a sunburn. I ended up a shade of red previously only known to airport terrorist threat levels.

The sunburn on the top of both my feet, outlining my strappy sandals, proves I must have done my carefree cavorting directly underneath the hole in the ozone layer. I've heard the hole is getting smaller, but maybe, in fact, it's just coming into better focus, with a certain ghost-complexioned columnist as its target.

But have no fear, my fellow Oregonians, my baseline bloodless look, which I worked so hard all winter to achieve, is not in any imminent danger. My red sunburn is slowly turning into splotchy patches of dry peeling skin, resembling a particularly undesirable archipelago of desert islands across my face.

Finally, once the fun of picking at my arid skin peelings has subsided, the only reward for my brief attempt at sun worshipping will be a couple new freckles.

The only risk I run for developing anything with any resemblance to a tan comes at the very end of summer. This is when my freckles have grown and multiplied and stretched so far out to greet one another that what appears to be a tan is actually one giant, body-encompassing freckle.

So, sun, although you are life-giving, and undeniably smoking hot, I'm afraid you and I can never really be lovers. Our brief attempts at flirtation are fun, but sort of like flirting with guys who live with their mothers, it never turns out well for me in the end. Sun, it's not you, it's me. And I think we should just be friends, preferably Facebook friends.

Zoe Abel is stocking up on SPF 500 and filling the bathtub with aloe vera. You can contact her at

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