I’ve spent many hours lazing around on beaches and by the pool over the last few years and subsequently made several observations of my fellow female sunbathers. The culmination of all of these thoughts is that English girls like myself are just not destined for the life of a sun-kissed, beach goddess and here’s 10 reasons why:
1. We Burn. A Lot
The English Rose is a real concept. And what happens to a delicate bloom left out in the intense heat of the sun? It burns.
Take one excitable English holidaymaker, add a good dose of sunshine and what do you have? Sunburn. Notice any bright red tan lines as you’re walking along? More often than not an English girl who’s miscalculated the sun cream: surface area: exposure time ratio.
Like a delicate petal left out in the sun, her skin wilts and discolours, the edges curling up in a dehydrated frazzle.
2. We Don’t Tan. Ever
Displaying their bronzed flesh as if Ronseal wood varnish brought out a line in moisturisers, the beautiful Scandinavian girls, Continental European and South American girls, flaunt their tans in the faces of the poor, translucent English girl. But it is a sad fact of life that our skin will not tan like theirs.
For some unknown reason the skin of a blonde Finnish girl soaks up the rays happily and turns the colour of a beef roast dinner whilst their English counterpart ends up looking like a roasted tomato.
2. Bugs Love Us. A Lot
I’ve not met one English girl – nay, even an English person – who doesn’t get munched upon to oblivion by insects whipped up into a delirious feeding frenzy by the sweet bloody nectar that flows through our veins.
Sandflies. Horseflies. Mosquitoes. Tics. Bed bugs. Wasps. Bees. The list goes on and they’ve all had a munch over the years meaning that the English girl is almost always left looking like a children’s connect the dots puzzle.
The glowing red orbs stand out on our pearly white skin and some bites even go so far as to blister, weep and generally look unsightly. Our ability to sun tan is lessened by the fact that any sun cream we apply to those areas is scratched off again within ten miserable seconds. Best to cover up and keep your throbbing skin out of the sun at all costs.
3. We Can’t Stand The Heat
As I lie on a sun lounger next to a beautiful pool, I am uncomfortably aware of my body effusively leaking sweat from every pore. It’s hard to feel like Giselle Bundchen when a river of sweat is plunging southwards between your breasts and pooling in your belly button.
Mopping my face with the edge of my towel, I suffer the searing sting of sunscreen and sweat in my eyes. I notice that none of the girls around me look as if they have already been swimming when their big toe hasn’t even dipped the shallow end of the pool.
They’re Australian; I can tell by their accent. They clamp their shades to their face and bask in the sun like those tiny salamander lizards and I can’t detect the merest hint of perspiration. The tropical heat of northern Queensland or sunny Perth is clearly vital preparation to the humidity of Bali and I can’t help but feel enviable of their cool composure as I grimace at the feeling of a waterfall flowing down the length of my spine.
4. Sand is Annoying
Magazines would have you believe that your whole summer can be spent on the beach with the glow of the sun on your cheeks and the feeling of sand running between your toes.
Sand is annoying, grainy, invasive, and relentless in its onslaught of your towel when all you want is a sand free surface on which to lie for ten minutes – please – is that too much to ask? It’s in your hair, your eyes, inside your ears. It’s also in your mouth from that lunchbox to lips moment, when your sandwich is coated by a thousand fine grains mid-air.
‘Use it to buff your skin to look and feel radiant,’ the magazines cry giddily. Piffle. Is that the feeling of scrubbing viciously at your foot with a towel, gritting your teeth at the sting, whilst cursing your decision to wear enclosed sandals to the beach?
Hours later you will find sand on the seat of your car and on the sofa when you stand up, even after a shower and a change of clothes. And guaranteed it will fall on you in a fine shower when you next reach for the picnic basket.
Sand is only good in castles. Fact.
5. Bikinis Look Better On South Americans
‘Oh, but there’s just so much material here!’ my Uruguayan friend once exclaimed in horror when studying a pair of bikini briefs in New Zealand. ‘I have to ask my mum to post me bikinis from Uruguay because they look better.’
‘Look better?’ I query, confused, as she is of course referring to the fact that no South American female would be seen dead on the beach in bikini pants that covered their bottom. Actual arse is considered more appropriate than tucked away neatly behind a sensible floral print from Next.
Exposing our bodies in the summer is a daunting enough prospect without having to reveal our entire rump in the process. But the beautiful Brazilians and Argentinians do so with grace and style and look thoroughly gorgeous in the process frolicking on the sands of the Copacabana.
6. Our Hair Cannot Be Tamed
Is it just me or does anyone else’s hair resemble a dishevelled bush shortly after starting to sunbathe? At the pool, on the beach or the waterpark; give my hair the combination of water, wind and sunshine and it quickly mats itself into a comb-defying clump quicker than I can gasp “conditioner”!
I attempt to tie it in a neat top-knot: it falls out of its hair-tie, wisps dangling in my face.
I try to tousle my hair into nonchalant waves, to emulate a sun-kissed model in a magazine. I think I’m pulling this off until I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror and realise I look like Worzel Gummidge the Scarecrow.
Back in the bun it goes.
7. Waxing Unlyrical
Picture the scene: you are lounging on your sunbed kitted out in your new skimpy bikini bottoms, when you realise in horror that the teensy triangle of fabric does not cover your downstairs hair. You then grumpily spend the afternoon wrapped in a towel until you can get back to the room to sort it out.
Shaving is a dissatisfying means to an end that leaves you stubbly, rashy and itchy, with the female equivalent of a five o’clock shadow on your lady parts that now resemble the pimply flesh of a plucked turkey.
Whilst waxing is the way forward, it also must top the list as the most unpleasant and surreal way to spend your money.
You are lying on a couch in a beauty salon, legs akimbo, wearing little paper knickers that you highly doubt are covering anything, whilst a therapist rips hair out from your delicate nether regions.
You chatter away about your holiday plans in a desperate attempt to justify to yourself again why you are going through all of this, and try to ignore the stinging pain that you are paying to endure.
In the literal heat of the moment we English can lose all common sense.
We forget that rule number one of spending all day basking in the sun is to hydrate yourself. And sadly, the five Corona’s from the swim-up bar do not count.
The alcohol, sun and heat combination means that you are pretty pissed at 4PM, have a crashing headache, and need to go and lie down to sleep it all off.
When will we ever learn?
9. Wet And….Um, Wild
Summer is all about frolicking in water. Grabbing a surfboard to hit the waves or a stand up paddle board is a sure fire way to have fun and keep cool.
I’ve tried all manner of water based activities: sea kayaking, river surfing, canoeing, surfing, you name it. Now, obviously, in my head I think I look like Kate Bosworth in the Blue Crush movie as I attempt to stand up on my board (not very successfully).
See the above posts about hair that looks like a wet dog’s, bikini that will probably fall off at the merest wave and couple them with a – probably highly unflattering – wetsuit of some kind and the sad reality is that I probably look more akin to a flailing walrus as the waves come crashing down over my head for the hundredth time.
10. Summer, What Is Summer?
The sad fact is that in England we only get about two weeks of summer a year. Only a handful of days where we can enjoy a BBQ in the garden, melted ice creams, ice cubes in your cider, the smell of suntan lotion and exposing your pasty white legs in a pair of shorts.
And these days are not necessarily chronological, just an odd day here and there when the celsius rockets. Then, we grumble about how hot our commute has become and sleep naked with every window in the house open, gasping for air.
As soon as the temperature soars we all run out into the garden, burn within twenty minutes, and subsequently spend the rest of the so-called summer trying to get rid of ridiculous tan lines.
Perhaps it is just me, as a quintessential English rose, being sorely jealous of anyone who glistens rather than sweats, tans rather than burns and lies happily on a sandy beach without mentally crying at the amount of sand stuck to their face.
But that’s ok. When the sun shines you’ll still find me out there, factor 50 in hand, happily dozing in the shade of an umbrella.
Over to you!
Are you an English girl who bucks the trend of the rose, or do you spend all summer in the shade? Have you got a funny story about sunbathing or being marked out as an English girl abroad? Share your stories in the comments.
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