The thing about the sun back then is that our only concern (and I suspect this was actually only my concern) was accidental blinding. Remarkable as it seems now, I lived in a time before sunscreen. (This was also a time when you could, as a child, lie blissfully across the back seat of a car, sometimes getting flung onto the floor when the car stopped short.) It’s not that no one knew about sunscreen exactly. It’s just that for most people it was pretty much optional. Everyone used “suntan lotion” that smelled deliciously of coconut and the main job of this stuff was to draw the sun’s rays even closer. Summer weekends would find my mother lying for hours up on the big hill at our local park, wearing a bikini top and cutoff jean shorts, slathered in suntan lotion. She, like most women of the time, was an expert at all-day tanning.
And everyone got sunburned. Everyone. It was a regular part of the summer experience, as was the nightly application of Noxzema. (Note: This unexpected article made me feel unexpectedly sad.)
As a kid, I usually found simply lying in the sun completely boring, but I have one memory of rejecting an afternoon with my family at the San Diego Zoo in favor of lying out on a chaise lounge next to the hotel pool, working on my tan, taking only occasional breaks to play Ms. Pacman in the lobby. I was 12 years old and I figured that lying in the sun was something I needed to get good at.
However, now that the sun is pretty much unencumbered by the ozone layer, the idea of just lying out in it for hours seems almost as frightening as, well, staring at it directly. My favorite way to appreciate the sun now is from my bedroom window as it sets gorgeously every single night.
Or like this.