LOUISE O'NEILL: When I am Queen of the World, the sun is going to be the first thing against the wall

I’m the person at barbecues dressed in what basically amounts to a bee-keeper’s uniform, writes Louise O’Neill.

I know everyone who reads this column on a regular basis is under the impression that I’m a perfect human being but sadly, I have to disabuse you of that notion. And not in that fake way you do at interviews — “My weaknesses? Sometimes I just work too hard, I’m a perfectionist, you know?” No, I’m about to get real with you.

I have flaws. Lots of them. I get terrifying fits of road rage. I fantasise about murdering people if they’re walking slowly in front of me on city streets. I like children but that soft patch of skull on newborn babies makes me want to be sick. I ssh-ed someone at a Sonic Youth show because they were singing off key and I didn’t pay good money to hear them massacring ‘Teenage Riot’. I detest pizza. (I know, I’m a monster.)

But my most egregious failing is this: I hate the summer. I can’t stand everyone’s obsession with the ‘longer days’, as if that’s a good thing. The best part of my day is when I get to go to bed with my book and for some reason, people find that unacceptable when it’s still bright. And by some people, I mean my father.

“Louise,” he’ll say. “It’s 7pm and it’s a beautiful day. Why are you in bed already? You should be outside.”

Outside is where the people are, I want to tell him, resisting the urge to shudder. Leave me in peace, Old Man. (I don’t say either of these things because a) he finds my antisocial tendencies something that ‘need to be worked on’ and b) I live in his house rent-free so I try to be nice to him at least some of the time.)

Besides that, there’s everyone’s obsession with where you’re going on your holidays.

Hairdresser/nail technician/ random person on street: So, do you have any nice plans for the summer? Any holidays booked?

Me: No, I haven’t gone on an actual holiday in over two years because I work seven days a week and I don’t have time to take a break because I am drowning in deadlines but it’s fine, it’s totally fine! I’m FINE.

Cue awkward silence.

At this time of year, the magazines are full of articles about how to get a ‘beach body’ (pro-tip = take your body to the beach. There you go. You now have a beach body) and the perfect bikini to buy for ‘your shape’, which all reinforce the idea that no matter what ‘your shape’ is, it’s inherently wrong. Thin? Here’s a bikini to make you look more curvy! Curvy? Here’s a bikini to make you look thinner! Small chest? This swimsuit will make you look like you’ve had a boob job! Big chest? Buy this swimsuit and people will think you’ve had a breast reduction!

And when you do find the bikini that will make you look like an entirely different person because the ‘real you’ is so abhorrent, you had better go get yourself waxed of all your unsightly hair.

The appropriate look to go for here is someone who has alopecia from the neck down, and to choose a bikini wax that will make you look a prepubescent girl-child.

But the thing I hate most of all about summer, dear reader, is the sun. Sometimes I feel guilty admitting that because I can see how all of you peasants seem to enjoy it so, but when I am Queen of the World, the sun is going to be the first thing against the wall.

Generally in Ireland, it doesn’t prove to be too much of an issue — although I hate the rain as well. The ideal weather situation for me is somewhere between 16 and 18 degrees, overcast and dry with minimal wind — but this recent heatwave has proved almost unbearable. Waking up in the morning in a pool of sweat, being forced to wash my hair every day (how DARE you, sunshine), having to slather on layers of Factor 5000 before I can leave my house — it is has been a trying time.

I’m the person at barbecues dressed in what basically amounts to a bee-keeper’s uniform and I still have to cower in a patch of shade in the corner for fear that a single ray of sunshine might touch my face.

I am, to put it simply, a very pale person. I remember one day as I was crossing O’ Connell Bridge, a man told me that my legs were so white that he needed sunglasses just to look at them. “Did you ever hear of bleedin‘ fake tan, love?” he shouted after me.

I should have been born in the 1800s where pale skin was seen as a sign of beauty, refinement, and wealth, and tanned skin was associated with working in the farm. My milky skin brings all the boys to the yard, etc.

This isn’t the first time I’ve suspected I would have been better suited to another time, one with butlers and maids, and being dressed for dinner. It’s been terribly difficult in this lifetime without servants, I can tell you. My mother and father do their best but, as competent as they are, they’ve refused to curtsy or tie my shoelaces for quite some time now.

(Second against the wall in my new Kingdom — unruly parents.)

It wasn’t until Coco Chanel accidentally got a sunburn in the 1920s that tanning became fashionable, thus ruining my entire life.

Coco Chanel pros: The 2.55 handbag.

Coco Chanel cons: Tanning. Oh, and colluding with the Nazis.

The only positive aspect to looking like I should be the face of a Victorian beauty campaign (advertising tagline: For all your lead-based cosmetic needs!) is that people often mistake me for being younger than I am.

I reckon that’s the trick to good skin — avoid direct sunlight like you have a non-speaking role in Twilight. (And sugar. And smoking. And fun of any kind.)

Enjoy your sunshine, people. I’m planning to reap the rewards in approximately 20-30 years.


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