It's about that time to hit the beach, and is there anything better than sitting near the ocean, listening to the waves roll in and drinking something cold while you read under the warm sun?
Alright, don't answer that. I realize many readers are the "read while listening to the rain with a warm cuppa" type, and that's alright. But we're not talking about rain clouds – it's summer! Bring on the sun! BBQ! Picnics! Sun burns!
Readers face some unique and specific challenges when it comes to enjoying a book in the sun. It's a question of how to do it while avoiding the scenarios I'll describe below, all to which I've personally fallen victim to at least once. If you're headed to the beach with a book sometime this summer, be sure to change up your reading position often in order to avoid these sun burn patterns (a.k.a. Reader Tan Lines):
The Thigh Square: When seated in a position such that you're resting your book on your thighs as you read, you run the risk of getting the sort of tan line a pair of shorts would give you, except it'll only be visible from the front. No tan lines at the sides or back of your thighs to match make this one kind of awkward.
The Two-Face: There are a few ways to get the Two-Face look when it comes to tan lines. Maybe you're laying down with your head to the side, holding your book out with one arm. Maybe you're reclining and holding the book to the side while the sun isn't directly overhead. Maybe you're lying down with your head straight, but holding your book overhead with two hands, earning you the Horizontal Two-Face, where only the top or bottom half of your face gets the sun burn. Whatever the case may be – beware! It's a fate worse than the reverse raccoon-eyes look from wearing sunglasses.
The One-Sleeve: When laying on your side, the effects of the Two-Face tan extend from head to toe. Make sure you turn over often, if only to give the arms you're propping yourself up with a rest. That should be a rather good indicator it's time to cook on the other side a bit.
The Glowing Triceps: Prefer to read belly-down, propped up on your forearms? That's all well and good, and you're sure to have applied some sunscreen on your shoulders and back, but don't neglect the triceps, lest you curse the gods old and new for several days in the shower henceforth.
The Neck Burn: The last important bit of skin I'll highlight here is the back of your neck. Even if your hair is kind of long, you'll still get those UV rays while you're bent over that summer romance novel, so do take care.
Joking aside, here are three quick tips for protecting yourself against the sun. Take it from me, I'm from the tropics:
1. The clouds do not protect you from the sun's rays, so you should still wear a bit of sunscreen when you'll be outside for long periods on a cloudy day – any time of the year.
2. Reflective surfaces, such as sand, snow, and concrete, serve to bounce the rays of the sun much in the same way mirrors bounce light. You may be on the receiving end of the sun's damaging rays even if you're in the shade. By the way, if you think being in the water shields you from the sun, you're dead wrong.
3. It's important to apply sunscreen well before you begin frolicking outside. Apply your first coat a good half an hour before you get to the beach, and again while in the shade upon arrival. And reapply often. If your goal is to tan a little, I still suggest using sunscreen. You'll get there.
Enjoy your summer, and avoid sun burns!