I used to be a T shirt in the pool guy, out of necessity. Weighing in at a hearty 280 lbs, it was better for my self confidence and everyone else’s eyes if I just kept my Champs Sporting Goods tall tee on when it was time to swim. Since then, I’ve shed a few pounds, and the shirt is no longer a requirement. I won’t traumatize any children at the sight of my man boobs anymore. I’m not rocking a six pack by any means, but it’s a palatable dad-bod that is generally acceptable.
Besides my chunky boy genes, I was also blessed with another horrible affliction: paper white skin. If a model’s milky white skin is called porcelain, I’d call mine tupperware. I am a transparent son of a bitch. I could get sunburnt at midnight. I should own stock in Banana Boat. I have a million of these, but you get the idea. I’ve always been militant about my application of sunscreen. That’s not true, I should say my girlfriend is. She keeps SPF 75 everywhere; both cars, my work bag, her purse, my golf bag, you name it. But there’s a point where sunscreen falls short. I’d say that point is about 106 degrees Fahrenheit, when you’re sweating so much that it’s melted off of you before you get to enjoy solace from the sun. I am known for not handling the heat well, either. Raised in ice rinks instead of on baseball fields, I was never exposed to punishing temperatures. That, coupled with the fact that my family all hails from Wisconsin by way of Colorado. I am not designed for temperatures over 80, let alone triple digits.
So there I was, in Merced, CA. If you don’t know anything about the Central Valley, it’s basically the 3rd circle of Hell. It’s not unlikely to see that 106 when you pull up the weather app for most of the year. At that point, AC can’t catch up. Sitting on a couch in front of the fan helps a little, but you’ll never see the thermostat go below 85. The best way to beat the heat is to sit in the pool and move as little as possible. That, coupled with as many session IPAs as you can carry (in coozies, because they heat up so damn fast), is the only winning strategy. Even with a hat, sunglasses, and three layers of sunscreen on I was still struggling.
My girlfriend’s sister sees my struggle, and comes to the rescue. She hands me something that has changed my life forever: a Columbia Pro Fishing Gear UV sun shirt. It’s her husband’s, who is also melanin-deficient like myself, just less so. I said I was fine and was going to get too hot in a long sleeve, but was told that this is the way it is down here. They were right. It’s got a UPF rating of 50, like a coat of sunscreen that you can’t sweat off or wash away. I’ve never fished a day in my life, but as soon as I put on this beautiful garment I felt like I could catch a 3 lb. fish (is that big?). With my new armor, I am invincible. No more reapplying every 45 minutes. No more farmers tans from sitting with my feet in the pool and a t-shirt on. Now I have all the chill vibes of a surfer without any of the sand in my shorts. There’s this beautiful dad energy that comes from doing something so sensible, like putting croakies on your sunglasses so they hang around your neck. Or the unapologetic practicality of a crispy pair of New Balances that have enough support for mowing the lawn.
I’ve borrowed one twice now, so it’s time to buy my own. I’ve gotten a taste of paradise, and now I want it all the time. From now on, I will never not be in one when at the pool. I’m getting the same brand so that I can match the future in-laws and pretend I’m reeling in big fish. It’s totally acceptable, if not expected, to have one on at the pools of Merced, but I’m not stopping there. Cloudy Oakland will also see the likes of my sun shirt whether sitting by the lake, or lounging at my buddy’s pool that he just discovered he had (he’s lived there for 2+ years). It might even make an appearance at a BBQ if I’m manning the grill and need to be in the sun for a while. But the most egregious will be when I pull up to one of those awful pool party things in Vegas. I’m not a huge fan of Vegas, and I told my girlfriend that I needed to do some bits in order to make it fun for myself. I think there were discussions about speedos. Stay tuned for that.
It’s almost the 4th of July, a time for BBQs, light beers, but most importantly, freedom. This year, I’m going to be free from melanoma. We will also test if they work against fireworks. I don’t care if I’ll look ridiculous rolling up in my sun shirt and my crocs. I might even throw on some zip-off pants, if I’m feeling crazy.