Facing the Sun


I criticized my sister’s vanity. She lived in California and she would never let the sun touch her face. She owned a house with a backyard pool but never swam.  It baffled me and made me feel inferior, short-sighted, as if I didn’t understand the sacrifices one must make. It was like a diet with no end in sight. Permanent deprivation.

I couldn’t see the point. I always wanted to be outside. I wanted to smell like outside. I wanted to sit on a beach and look up at the sky unimpeded by anything so safe as a hat. I wanted to swim and sit and walk around without thinking of consequences. I never worry about what happens next.

My sister and I went in different directions a long time ago. So I don’t know how her face turned out. I don’t know if her days of shade paid off.  In the whole balance of things, you know. Not just in her face.

If we were standing next to each other, I bet that I would look like the older sister though I am six years younger. I’d look like I hadn’t taken care of my face, never wore a hat and sat in the sun like a fool, only concerned about the present like the silly squirrel too scattered to put nuts away for the winter.

She put her nuts away, days and days of them. Maybe I should have paid attention to that and thought more about the future, the consequences.

Sometimes when I see myself in the mirror or someone snaps a picture, I’m astonished at my face, the deep creases, the lines. The person in the photo is so different from who I think I am.

In my head, I am still looking for a good park bench to sit on, one where I can stretch out my arms and lean my head back, look up through the trees at the sun with no thought to the future and no worry about what’s next. It’s as if time stood still for me. But only in my head, not on my face. My face wears every year I’ve lived like chevrons on a letter jacket.

It was a choice I made without thinking. And it’s not totally without regret.


Update: After a basal cell carcinoma was removed from my cheek several years ago, I started wearing hats, big hats, and slathering on 50+ SPF sunscreen. Doc says damage now is the result of sun exposure from 40-50 years ago so sometimes I wonder, why bother? But I do it anyway.

This post is first in BlogHer’s May NaBloPoMo.  The theme this month is PHOTO and the May 1st prompt was “Do you like taking selfies? Why or why not?” I’m going to try to follow the prompts for the entire month although I’m not a photographer and I’ve pretty much exhausted talking about my face in this piece. We’ll see where it goes.






5 Comments on “Facing the Sun

  1. I think you look great. We only get so many days on this earth to enjoy the sun on our face and go swimming in the pool. At the end you don’t get a do-over for any of the days you spent hiding.

  2. I’m still not putting nuts away – not those ones, anyway. Still surf every day in summer, not a hat in sight, and my face is duly wrinkly. But oh, I wouldn’t miss a day of it! I wouldn’t want to live a couple of extra years if I had to spend the rest of my life out of the sun.

  3. I dunno. I think you look great. A thousand years ago when I sketched, I never picked a young face. Something cartoonish about all that big eyed smoothness, and following the lines can take you deep into wonder. Why is it that we talk about growth and change and still expect to look always as if we are. . .(for me, the 40s were my best looking years). But oh, the sisters thing. My sister was the pretty one, I was the smart one. Now we are both no longer young, not that pretty, and I’m not so smart, but I’m not sure we’ve shed those old belief skins.

  4. I’m an odd mix of both you and your sister and your approaches to the sun. I chose to revel in it: walking free, no hat, no shade, basting my sin with baby oil to lie on the grass with my friends in college. Then a pre-melanoma was diagnosed and I became your sister in my thirties. And I’m here to tell you, it’s not nearly a much fun and makes you feel like a fuddy-duddy.

    I have related to every post you’ve written since I last visited your blog. It seems we’ve trotted some of the same trail.

  5. The lessons we learn should not be in vain. By passing them on to others they become ‘unexpected blessings’ to you and those who appreciate your wisdom. Have a nice weekend!

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