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But Trust Me On The Sunscreen…

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Remember those What Would Jesus Do? bracelets that were popular a few years ago? The rubber ones that came in different colours for every cause, and looked a bit like cheap, Made in China, knock-off anti-nausea bands? Lance Armstrong had a yellow one before Lance Armstrong turned out to be the poster boy for sociopaths everywhere, and for a time they seemed to be on every wrist in the first world. At first they proclaimed our devotion to different charities, and then, later, reminded us in stamped technicolour to ask ourselves what Jesus would do in any given situation.

I mean to start with, I doubt Jesus would have bought a rubber wristband that takes at least 50 years to decompose, but I digress…

I never really fell into this fad – mostly because I have tiny wrists and the rubber bands only ever seemed to come in one size (HUGE) – so I didn’t own a WWJD bracelet, but in my life, whenever I reach crossroads of intent, I often ask myself something that boils down to more or less the same thing:

What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?

There are few problems in life that aren’t addressed by The Sunscreen Song. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, in 1999 Baz Luhrmann – yes, the film director – took a hypothetical commencement speech written by Mary Schmich, found a voice actor (Lee Perry) to narrate it, and set it to mellow background music. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll add the lyrics at the bottom of the post so that you too can have a song as a role model.

The other day a friend asked me if I would be interested in running an 8km with her later in the year. Naturally my instinctive, gut reaction was to say, ‘Hell no!’ and do the usual full-body shudder that tends to accompany any thought of running on purpose for no good reason.* After all, I can’t even run to the bottom of my road without wanting to vomit, so 8km seems like an impossible distance. You might as well ask me to climb K2 in my unicorn slippers with nothing but a Capri Sun for sustenance.

Before the immediate no left my lips however, I thought, ‘What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?’

If you are familiar with the song at all, then the answer is obviously:

‘Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.’

If my body is an instrument, it is an out-of-tune cello, but I have to say Sunscreen has a point. My body in its current configuration exists solely to propel me from place to place, from the armchair, to the fridge, to the desk, to the nearest pet-able animal… This instrument doesn’t really play. This instrument is the guitar lying forgotten under the bed ever since dreams of being in a band faded with adolescence. This instrument needs a tune-up; it’s long overdue some attention.

There is nothing wrong with my body. It does what I ask it to do without complaint, mainly because I never ask it to do anything too strenuous. It fits into my clothes. It is perfectly capable of having a solo dance party in the kitchen. I have no aches or pains, no ailments or diseases, nothing that would impede movement or limit my activity. I have never broken bones, or undergone surgery, or had stitches put in. I can’t burp, which limits my consumption of fizzy drinks, but other than that it works pretty much the way it’s supposed to.

So I thought it over, and I warily, tentatively, somewhat reluctantly said yes; I said yes to the 8km. If this is the greatest instrument I will ever own, I might as well learn to play a tune on it, even if the tune is the physical equivalent of Three Blind Mice. I’ve downloaded C25k to get me started, and have lost myself in a sea of runner recommendations, so if anybody has any suggestions for a good pair of running shoes, please let me know.

Also, if there’s a way to stop the feeling of getting sick at the slightest hint of exercise, I would love to hear it!

*Good reasons are limited to situations in which I am escaping an axe-murderer or trying to outrun a pack of wolves.

Sunscreen

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97,

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind, you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you, and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future… Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees; you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40.
Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

75 thoughts on “But Trust Me On The Sunscreen…

    1. This reminded me of Twilight’s parody scene in which Bella tries to hurt and harm herself, riding a heavy bike (because that’s how you get someone’s attention who’s not with you) because Edward left her and went away and while riding fast, the parody Edward appears by magic, running with her, with Bella riding the bike with a guitar in her hands, singing in taylor swift’s voice. It is a very deep scene and better than the original

      1. Ok, I’m embarassed to admit this, but I haven’t seen Twilight. Awful, right? I will look it up on youtube and check out this scene. Thank you!

  1. Great post! I discovered Sunscreen because it’s mentioned in the film About Time. Does that make me a terrible person? Probably, but there we are. I feel my body might be a triangle, but that’s okay because I like the sound of a triangle.

    1. Triangles are underrated.

      And About Time was a lovely movie! Unfortunate that it was marketed as a romcom when the focus of the plot was clearly the father-son storyline.

      1. They are indeed! It was, it actually rekindled my love for father & son stories started many moons ago with Danny the Champion of the World. I wish you well on your run, I’ve started treadmilling and my shins always complain (they’re fans of my body’s primary function of sitting).

        1. I feel like our shins will be friends and spend many evenings grumbling over glasses of whisky.

          Wait, shins don’t have mouths. Never mind.

  2. My graduation guest speaker told us that we are the earth’s only hope for survival. That previous generations have ruined it for the rust of us, and that it was our destiny to fix the world’s problems…. I would have preferred the sunscreen tip.

    As someone who suffers from a shifted knee cap and shin splints, my only advice is to listen to your body. Sure, the app will come in handy at encouraging you and being a good resource, but only you know when too much is too much.

    Other than that, good on you for saying yes!

      1. Right!? It was a very doom and gloom kind of speech. It kind of ruined the experience, but hey, I got my degree. That’s all that matters, right??

        1. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my university life is that getting out of there with the piece of paper is the only thing that matters. How you get to that point is… largely irrelevant.

          1. Agreed. It’s the most expensive piece of paper I have in my repertoire, and as such, it hangs in my office as proof; I borrowed a lot of money and now I have a decent job to pay off my debts. Go me!

          2. No debt here but it lies in The Filing Cabinet of Important Things where I know it’s there but never have to look at it.

            I hope your debt gets cleared quickly! Go you!

  3. This was on the radio last week, an interview with Luhrmann talking about recording this and how he has no idea why Vonnegut became the rumored writer. It was very interesting to view it as an actual music and production piece, outside of the usual ‘inspirational’. Still very important and relevant though, and good luck with that run. I learn to fight because I know if it came to flight, I’d be a predator’s dream. Hahah.

  4. You can’t…burp? My god – it’s gotta come out somewhere. Your instrument must smell awful! You may want to see if there’s a wrist band for that….

    1. Ha! Apparently there are dozens of us! I’m fine as long as I don’t drink fizzy drinks. If I drink too much Coke I feel like my lungs are about to burst from the pressure in my chest…

  5. I love Sunscreen and actively make all of the classes I ever teach watch it. However, you’ve made me realise I never ask myself this question and I need to start! Good luck with the 8km 🙂

  6. This is fantastic.
    I don’t know what you are talking about re ‘Sunscreen’ but will check it out.
    And I always wear SPF 50.
    And I also know that once you get off the couch and do something energetic it is so fucking good that you want to do it again and again, so hey, shout out to you and your 8 kms and next we’ll be hearing about your half marathon!

  7. Find a decent running shop – one where they put you on a treadmill and watch how you run. Buy the pair they recommend, not the cheapest ones (or at least make a note of what brand they are and get them off amazon later!)

    1. Oooh good advice! I’m pretty sure they do that in one of the shops in Dublin… I’ll have to check it out… 🤔 Thanks!

      1. Oh, and don’t set yourself “I will run this far” goals. Set yourself “I will run for this time period” goals. Otherwise, you start off with piddling distances, struggling to achieve them, and it gets a bit demoralising; you end up thinking “I can barely run 500m, how can I do a 5k/10k/half/marathon/marathon des sables/etc…?” Instead, say “I will run for this period of time” on a linear route. When you reach the halfway time (say, 15 minutes down the road for a 30 min run), note the point you get to, turn around and go home. Next time, run for the same 15 mins, aim to go just go a little further than last time in your 15 mins. Once you stop seeing an improvement in the distance you can run in a set time, increase the time (say, from a 15 min leg to a 20 min leg). It works because you pass pervious landmarks and you know that you’re beating the Quinn from last time, and the time before that, and so on.

        Another trick if you’re really flagging is to tell yourself “right, I have to stop. It hurts. But first, I’m going to get to that tree/lamp post/ice cream van/whatever.” Once you get there, you know you’ve still got to stop… “Just as soon as I get to that next lamp post/tree/ pet shop/etc…” Keep doing that, and suddenly you’ve run an extra 400m from the point where you were going to give up originally. It’s a silly mind game, but it works. Never just give up, always get a little more out of yourself first. You’ll be surprised in what you can achieve, and its a great way of building confidence. Good luck!

        1. This seems like a really good way to do this. I might try this first and see how I get on because you’re right, the distance thing is freaking me out. Time though… I can stick on a podcast and listen to it in the time it takes me to get as far as I can and back! Thanks!

  8. I think setting a goal, even a tentative, reluctant, long term goal is a great idea. I really have no advice about running though. I don’t do it. I could pedal 100 kms on a bicycle, but wouldn’t want to run it.
    I am sure you will get lots of help. If you were in Canada, I would say go to the running room and take one of their clinics. My Neighbour did that and he just recently completed the Boston Marathon.
    Good luck and I look forward to reading about your progress.

      1. I don’t know if he is really fit, but he definitely has a runner’s physique–tall and almost no body fat.
        He said that it all comes down to training. So, if you want to run a marathon, you can. Why anyone would want to is beyond me, but each to their own.

  9. I think you’ll be able to do it with the couch to 5k. My husband had never run for more than a minute, and I have developed asthma in the last year, but we did it together and were both surprised by how we could actually do it!
    Baz will be proud of you.

      1. You have to choose a voice for the app. We chose Sarah Millican, which is awesome because her voice is kind of squeaky, so you can hear her above the traffic. Plus when she shouts “goo” you can mimic it for giggles!

  10. My advice is… just pretend that you ARE running from an axe murderer or a pack of wolves and you’ll do great!! I won’t lie my 3 mile runs can be as much of a struggle not to vomit as 20mile ones, running is hard but wait till you feel the runners high…you won’t regret it!
    Those Jesus bracelets though?! I never understood that trend and I’m with you on the tiny wrists! I remember the Sunscreen song well though… how is your Mexican sunburn doing?
    Yeah, I’d advise getting a gait analysis done at a proper running shop too, good running shoes can be pricey, but worth it.

    1. Thanks for the advice! My Mexican sunburn has turned into a stylishly snake-like shedding of the skin. Very attractive. I’m investing in body scrubs as we speak.

  11. I can’t get his voice out of my head now. I love that speech though, always have.

    Asics are the best, hands down. I used to work in a shoe store and they won overall all in my opinion, for running or walking, they are extremely comfortable and good for your feet. Just my two cents.

    I don’t have any advice for you, just have fun. Walk that sucker, that’s what I would do.

  12. Ha, I have the same as Kristen. Bazz’s voice in my head forever. And I’m exactly the same as you when it comes to exercising, I get so grumpy when I have to do something like running, ugh! Love the way you write!

  13. Loved the piece so much that I taught it in my English Class and Speech Comm almost ten years ago or so… Thank you!
    This is also one of the many pegs I got when I started writing for uglywriters.com ❤

  14. I am your soul sista when it comes to moving my body on purpose. I am hella lazy and hate moving when I don’t need to. This makes having six packs very difficult. I also love food too much to diet. I once did a diet and lasted a day and a half. It was a three day diet. So good on you for attempting the 8k. I’ll be there in spirit, cheering you on, with a sandwich in hand.

  15. Oh my heck gal, yours is the first blog I stumbled onto and boy howdy am I grateful to have done so! Brillant writting…with wit and charm oozing forth.
    Can not wait to read on…

    Big hugs,

    Krista

  16. Go you on saying ‘yes’ to the run! No advice to give I’m afraid as struggling with the old getting out to exercise myself…I find it best if I don’t start questioning whether I want to go out for run, I just plan it in as though it is as part of my morning as brushing my teeth. Seems to work..sometimes…
    Our friends had ‘Sunscreen’ as one of their readings at their wedding <3

    1. That’s a great idea! I’m going to try laying out my running clothes tonight, see if I can just throw them on and get myself out the door tomorrow morning before my brain realises IT’S AN AMBUSH!

  17. I was just waylaid the entire day by a brutal headache and bout of consequent angst.. I thought I was going to have to mail today in, heat up some leftovers, watch Netflix, and linger on the couch until way too late because I’m too tired to get up and go to bed.

    Then I looked at Hank being so patient in spite of his minimal activity today and thought about how little I like feeling that way and how much I love ‘runner’s high’ and all similar variations. I got up and ran about 7k with him. Sitting here still in my running shoes drinking a smoothie. Physical activity is great for the depressive brain, the writer’s blocked mind, the weary soul. Running, biking, kayaking… sounds like the best “worst” time ever! Train early sometimes, mid-day or late others, with tunes, in silence, in the city, or in the countryside. You’ll prefer some to others, but variety is the spice of life. I’m stoked you signed up for it and know you’ll crush it!

    I have a sneaking suspicion as you trade the desire to vomit for more accomplishments as time passes, you may even begrudgingly find yourself a bit hooked. It seems like you’ve got a seriously badass streak somewhere inside of you. Run away from things if you must, but run over things no matter what. Remember, it won’t feel like it’s getting easier, but you’ll notice you can go further or faster or smile a little more when you’re done. And if that’s not a gloriously low-hanging metaphor, I don’t know what is.

    1. I for one enjoy low-hanging metaphors. I’m short, so low-hanging is perfect; doesn’t make me exert myself too much! Also thanks for these tips. They actually make a lot of sense and gave me a glimmer of … well I wouldn’t go so far as to say excitement, but interest maybe? I CAN DO THIS!

      Maybe.

  18. Oh THANK you for that. I’d forgotten about the Sunscreen song. What a fabulous nugget of truths that need to be heard over and over again.

    “Do one thing every day that scares you”; thats the part I struggle with the most. My instrument is mostly well taken care of bc I am fairly vain. But I am lazy, so that stops my vanity from spiralling out of control. Convenient.

    How’s the training going?

    1. That’s actually very handy! I like the balance!

      Training is going terribly. I’ve discovered my right knee likes to go on strike at random if I’ve been running. So anytime I go jogging I then have to worry about my knee just… dropping out from under me on the street or, more often, going up stairs…

      Not really sure what that’s about!

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