It’s THURSDAY! That means it’s time for me to create a post based on a prompt from good ol’ Mama Kat. This week’s prompt I chose was: “It was a bad burn. Tell about the worst sunburn you ever received. How did that happen!?!”
Hands down, the worst sunburn I have ever received happened when I was in high school; specifically during spring break of my freshman year, which would have made me 14 at the time. Age is an important factor; keep in mind I was a stupid teenager who wasn’t all that concerned with sun damage and my skin. Also, let’s remember that one of the most important things to a 14-year-old girl is boys; especially the boy she REALLY likes…and even more so if he wants to spend time with her.
So. I spent my spring break that year on a cruise in the Bahamas with a group of students from my high school – our jazz band and ensemble was performing on the ship. Since I wasn’t actually part of the group performing, I got to spend my free time wandering about the boat and relaxing. One of the days of our trip, all of the students were permitted to go off the boat for a “day excursion”. There were really only two options for the excursions that day: swimming with the dolphins or snorkeling. Just about everyone in the group wanted to go swimming with the dolphins…EXCEPT the guy I really liked. And it just so happened that I was close friends with his friend, so when his friend invited me to go snorkeling with them instead of going swimming with the dolphins, I jumped at the chance!
There were definitely some things on my mind OTHER than sunscreen at that time: what bathing suit to wear, how should I wear my hair, ummm I’ve never been snorkeling before…I hope I don’t suck, OMG I’m PMSing, etc. etc. I donned my favorite swimsuit of the bunch: a cute one-piece with a low-scooped back. I tied my hair back in a ponytail. I popped some Midol. I sprayed myself with my best-smelling suntan oil: Banana Boat. With an SPF of 4.
You read that right. I put on suntan OIL, not sunscreen, with an SPF of 4. Let’s remember I was a stupid teenager. Also, I’m half-Asian and had never really had sunburn before; I always tanned. Sunburn was the last thing on my mind that day.
Snorkeling was amazing. I got to spend time with my friends and the guy I was crushing on. We even held hands under water while swimming together! (Let’s keep that part between you and me; the hubby wouldn’t be a fan; even if it was over 10 years ago.) But here’s the thing about snorkeling – you are just below the surface of the water the whole time (I didn’t dive down) and the sun is reflecting directly onto you. And here’s the thing about snorkeling in the Caribbean – you’re pretty freaking close to the equator, so the sun is particularly harsh there. Let’s not forget the thing about my favorite bathing suit – it had a low scoop in the back, meaning there was nothing between my skin and the water and therefore, the sun. Oh, and one other thing: SPF 4 does absolutely NOTHING, except make your skin a little shiny when you put it on.
I snorkeled for several hours. It was wonderful. We got back to the cruise ship and I headed off to my room to shower and change before the captain’s dinner that night. (For those of you who haven’t been on a cruise like this before: there was a “themed” dinner each night; the theme was really just the dress code. The Captain’s Dinner was the formal dinner of the trip.) I pulled out my amazing cocktail dress (short, black, spaghetti straps with a criss-cross back) and hung it up in the bathroom to steam out the wrinkles while I showered. I got into the shower with my face facing the water and I noticed my face felt a little tender. I realized I still had marks on my face from where the snorkeling mask was, so I attributed the minor pain to that. No worries, right?
Then I turned around. And promptly screamed. Oh.My.God. I was not prepared for the pain. I still shudder when I think about it. It was like someone was stabbing me with a million hot knives in my back. Ow, ow, ow, ow. Not good. I finished showering the best I could and got out as quickly as possible. The air in the bathroom felt cool on my back, but then I made the mistake of rubbing my towel on my skin. Ow, ow, ow, OW. Such a bad idea. I wiped the steam from the mirror and turned around to see if I could get a glimpse of what was going on with my back.
Bad idea. It was all different shades of pink, red and a purplish color. And there were bubbles. BIG bubbles. Bubbles that popped and leaked fluid when you touched them. All appearing just inside the white tan lines marking where my bathing suit had been. As I stared at my back in horror, I saw my cocktail dress out of the corner of my eye. OMG, I have to put that on. With multiple straps diagonally crisscrossing my back. OMG. I didn’t even have aloe.
I slathered on as much lotion as I could stand and somehow shimmied into the dress without causing too much pain. I figured if I could just sit still for the rest of the night, I would be okay. Little did I know that part of the dinner with the captain involved him dancing with every single female on the ship. Granted, it was only for a few seconds each, but I was cringing in terror. He was grabbing the women’s hand and putting his hand square on her BACK. His plan of attack didn’t change with me and the second he placed his hand on my back, I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying in pain. Good Lord, was that painful!
Thankfully, that was our last night on the cruise and we were headed home the next morning. I bought some SolarCaine the second we got back to my hometown. I wasn’t able to sleep on my back or wear a bra for a week or two after that incident. The bubbles healed quickly and the burn eventually faded. But I’ll always remember how awful that was and remember to always, always put on sunscreen.