When the sun was hot and intense on a summer day in China, the sidewalks would be dotted with brightly colored, patterned umbrellas in green flowers, pink polka dots and blue and white stripes. I loved the sight of them, since in the States, we only see umbrellas when it's raining. And in Colorado, where it rains so infrequently, most people never even have an umbrella handy if they're caught out in a storm.
But while driving home from the grocery store today, a hot and sunny day, I saw a woman walking down the sidewalk, holding an umbrella to shield herself from the heat. It was the first time I'd ever seen a woman embrace this practice in the States.
What was funny, is that the Asian women thought my friends and I were crazy for trying to darken our skin. We'd put on our bathing suits, spread out towels on the grass behind the apartment building and bake in the sun trying to get a "healthy" glow. I tried in vain to find sunless tanning lotion in stores there; all that was available were whitening creams, since Asian women admire pale skin. Tanned skin is thought to look provincial. And while I do like how I look with a kiss of sun on my face and shoulders, I've learned to embrace the fact that I'm white, my legs even ghostly white, that tanning isn't healthy and that sunless tanning creams are my friend.
And thankfully, those creams have come a long way since the 90s - when I was 17, I emerged from my bedroom one morning as orange as an Oompa Loompa. I'd spent the evening before, unbeknownst to my mom, applying layer after layer of tanning cream, hoping to show up to school the next day looking like a beautiful, bronzed sun goddess.
Of course, I looked ridiculous. Even the palms of my hands were bright orange. And there was nothing I could do about it but go to school and endure the teasing. That night, I took a pumice stone to my skin, trying to scrub some of the color off. And if you've ever tried to pumice delicate, non-calloused skin, then you know how painful it is! Several layers of skin later, I was still orange, and the only cure would be time.
Summer's coming to an end soon, but there are still plenty of hot days left for sipping icy drinks like this Watermelon Coconut Breeze, and relaxing outside after the sun's heat lets up in the afternoon. And maybe the cute umbrella trend will catch on here, too. A sea of bright umbrellas on a hot day would sure look pretty.
Watermelon Coconut Breeze
- 4 cups chopped seedless watermelon, chilled
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut water, chilled
- juice of 3 limes
- 2 tablespoons simple syrup, or other sweetener
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 2 cups club soda, chilled
In a blender, combine everything except the club soda. Puree until smooth, then pour through a strainer into a pitcher. Add the club soda.
Serve over ice, with watermelon wedges and sprigs of mint.
Yields 1/2 gallon.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen