SPF 30 is the new 4

Every summer, my mom would send me to Gam’s house in Delaware armed with my Music Machine cassettes and a gallon jug of SPF 15. And Gam would say, “How do you expect to get a tan with that?

Gam was obsessed with tanning.

I remember her laying by Miss Connie’s pool (the far-away neighbors who were nice enough to let us borrow it all summer long) sprawled out in a patio chair with a big old bottle of tanning oil, a microscopic tube of SPF 4, and two tiny match book covers placed strategically over her eyes.

I’d look over at her bottle of Banana Boat, which smelled like coconuts and grown-ups, and give it a whirl. Only to wake up the next morning with a swollen face the color of a tomato.

“Don’t worry,” she’d say. “Tomorrow, it will be beautiful brown!”

Fortunately, I’m now a sunscreen nazi–something we never agreed on. I don’t do tanning beds, I wear sunscreen every day, I try to hike in the small hours before the sun gets too strong, my SPF 15 is now at least a 30. (Except for my special scar . . . which gets a 100 and a bandaid. . . )

But every time I do “oops up” and get a sunburn, I still catch myself saying, “Don’t worry, tomorrow it will be beautiful brown.”

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