Angry sun

I have discovered over the past several years that the splendid and blazing sun is NOT my friend. And I go out of my way to stay far far away from it or use serious protective measures when forced to interact with it.

As a personal choice, and I admit that perhaps I have taken things to excess, I try to avoid going out in the sun when at all possible—especially in the summer. It’s hot, bright, and downright dangerous.

Now I realize that the sun is the star at the center of the solar system. And it is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth, but I am no longer prepared to toast myself under it. Energy splenergy.

In the good ole days, I would varnish myself up with a mixture of Johnson’s baby oil and the dark red tincture of iodine, or Mercurochrome. Like a mad chemist, I would create a murky orange mixture, adding 1/8 cup or 1 fluid ounce of the topical antiseptic to 1/2 cup of oil. Then I would shake it up vigorously and often because the iodine would tend to separate and sink to the bottom.

I’d rub that orange glop all over my hair and body, creating a yellowish brown tint to my skin. Then I would “lay out” for an hour and a half on each side, turning every once in a while like a chicken on a spit, basting myself with the oil compound as needed. Shake and bake. Oh, and because I bit my nails, the antibacterial concoction was fairly painful to apply. And if I had any open cuts they stung like hell.

As if that wasn’t enough, I would use a sun reflector on my face, or create a DIY by wrapping a record album cover with sheets of aluminum foil. I would also check my tan line regularly to make sure I was getting the full Monty. The darker and/or more sunburned I got, the deeper the satisfaction.

Something about Mary

My best friend Robin is convinced that I am a vampire since I don’t usually make my outdoor debut until it’s dark out. That’s not entirely correct. I happily come out around 6ish, although I still wear sunblock.

While my husband lounges around on our magnificent, ridiculously pricey to install, and useless-to-me Trex deck, I am ensconced in our basement/lower level. I like it there. It’s muggy, dark and dank. I can catch a glimpse of the sun from my basement windows, which is good enough for me. But should the sun’s reflection hit my skin, all bets are off, and I make sure that the curtains hermetically seal all light trying to reach out to me via the windows.

Trips to the beach? A major  undertaking, involving a plethora of clothing, sunglasses, lotions, umbrellas, sun hats, and other paraphernalia. Invitations to pool parties, boat excursions, outdoor barbecues, and the like? Ditto.

I can’t exactly pinpoint when my fear of basking in the sun began to maniacally manifest itself. Nor can I recall any particularly harrowing event that caused me to first mildly dodge, and then completely avoid its rays. But it was a gradual process, and now my unwillingness to absorb vitamin D via sunlight has me wondering if I have developed some sort of sun phobia. Whatever my avoidance behavior means, I have an obvious hang-up, and it is unlikely that I will ever enjoy a spattering of fun in the sun again.

Whenever I have a pressing question or issue, my usual modus operandi is to fire up my computer and Google it. This never seems to work out that well for me. While my Internet searches can sometimes lead to the right answers, they have oftentimes led to the wrong answers. This by the way, (according to one of my innumerable searches) is called Cyberchondria: the unfounded concern over common symptoms based on online literature and research.

Anyway, back to my search. I found that Heliophobia is the fear of sun or sunlight. According to the many online entries I studied, people develop this phobia because they are afraid that if they are in the sun too long it might give them cancer. To be clear, my angst has zero to do with cancer.

If anything, I’m afraid if I stay in the sun too long, my skin is going to morph into leather. Is there a phobia for fear of leather bod?


I was relieved to find that no—there is no phobia connected to skin leathering. But there is a phobia for wrinkles called Rhytiphobia. Phew—I am confident that I do not have Rhytiphobia, because wrinkles don’t bother me, and since I have plenty of them, that’s a good thing, right?

Google says it is generally assumed that phobias arise from a traumatic event. Not so with me. The most traumatic event I have ever experienced with regard to sun issues is eyeballing the wrinkly and leathery masses who have exposed themselves to way  too much sun. It’s their weather-beaten scraggy neck and face skin that skeeve me out the most, and make me fairly squeamish and a tad on edge. Why and how anyone with skin like that would think it’s attractive is beyond my comprehension.

So now that I’ve thankfully ruled out Rhytiphobia, I am thinking maybe Google is right, and I lean toward Heliophobia. According to my Internet “sources,” bright sunlight can significantly limit the time, and ultimately prevent a heliophobe from venturing outside during the day. Apparently, the experience is so nerve-wracking that a sun phobic person may go to great lengths to avoid it—inconveniencing themselves or even changing their lifestyle. Now this sounds more like me! (And I’m happy about this because?)

Googs says that a typical phobic reaction would include dread, panic, anxiety, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, nausea, excessive sweating, cotton mouth, a loss for words, and shaking. I don’t feel any of that, although I definitely require a plan of action several hours ahead of any type of sun exposure.

Googs also says that sufferers of Heliophobia often cover themselves with long, protective clothing when going out during the day. They may also avoid going outdoors any old time the sun is bright, including incidental exposure like driving in the car or working near a window. I am sensing a familiarity with moi here.

I do have an unlimited supply of sun resistant rash guards, swim tops, sun-protective leggings, swim pants, UPF 50+ sun hats, sunglasses, zinc oxide, and titanium laced sunscreens. Even I will admit that my obsession with a sun-free life is no way to spend my summer days.

That being said, I am still going to be walking around with a white pasty cast to my skin anytime I venture out during the day. I love love pale skin. When my friends alarmingly tell me I look pale, I consider it a compliment. Sorry people, but a tan does not mean healthy.

I did uncover an alarming tidbit on Long, long ago in a faraway land, Heliophobia was considered a telltale sign of vampires. For those of you who are wondering, NO, I am not a vampire—despite my Draculess nickname. But am I a heliophobe?

My favorite kind of day is cloudy, gloomy, rainy, and stormy. I’ve been known to hotfoot it out to my fab Trex deck on a thunderous, menacing day—and wash my hair.

And so that you don’t think this blog entry is entirely centered around my selfish, myopic and phobic self, I have put together some sun info I’ve discovered post baby oil and iodine to help you all out.

Call it sun protective tips from the Draculess:

Number one thing I have learned is that all sunblock products are not the same. Ingredients matter. A lot.

UV picks up at midday, so I plan around the sun. When running errands, I try to get outdoors in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. UV rays from the sun can nab you on cloudy and hazy days as well as bright and sunny days, so beware between 9am and 4pm.

Sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory for me—they are a necessity. UV radiation can cause cataracts and other serious eye issues. And never rely on sunglasses alone.

Men seem to think they are immune to the sun’s negative rays. Hey you guys: DO NOT ignore sun safety. You do so at your own peril. According to’s online guide to sunscreens, in 2012, twice as many American men died from melanoma than women.

Stay away from vitamin A when choosing a sunscreen. Too much pre-formed vitamin A in anything, including retinol, retinyl, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, can cause a variety of serious health issues. And it’s in a whopping 20 percent of all sunscreens. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is added to skin products because manufacturers believe it slows skin aging. And perhaps it does help to make skin look more youthful in night creams and lotions—when used at night and indoors.

Government data show that creams laced with vitamin A can actually speed up the growth of cancerous tumors and lesions when used on skin exposed to sunlight.

Avoid Oxybenzone, when picking a sunscreen—especially for children because it can disrupt the hormone system. It penetrates the skin, and gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body.

Look for products with zinc oxide, that toothpaste-like lotion that lifeguards smear all over their nose and cheeks. This powerful mineral is also known for its sun-deflecting ability as well as its nonirritating and non-allergenic properties and recommended for those who have sensitive skin, acne or rosacea.

And don’t fall for high SPF labels. Any SPF value above 50, trick you into believing they will prevent sun damage. It’s a load of bull and gives people a false sense of security. SPF protection tops out at 30 to 50. The FDA is considering banning any SPF claim above 50 and rightly so.

And aerosol sprays may be convenient, but they can harm lungs, especially young lungs and can pose serious inhalation risks. Aerosol sprays are a definite no no for children.

And speaking of children, it is very  important to keep babies out of the sun. Infants lack the tanning pigments known as melanin to protect their skin, so keep them in the shade at all times.

If you insist on sunning, here are some good sunscreens and sunblock lotions I’ve discovered along the way:

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen, Fragrance Free, SPF 30+

Babyhampton beach*bum Sunscreen, SPF 30

Babyhampton beach*bum Sunstick, SPF 30

Badger All-Season Face Stick, Unscented, SPF 35

Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen, SPF 30

Block Island Organics Baby Block Non-Toxic Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby, SPF 30+

derma e Antioxidant Natural Oil-Free Sunscreen, Face, SPF 30

The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30

Solar Defense by Body Therapeutics SPF 35

True Natural Ultra Protect 50 Antioxidant Sunscreen, Natural Coconut, SPF 50

And here are some of my tried and true moisturizers:

BeYOUtiful Girl Daily Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

DeVita Natural Skin Care Solar Body Moisturizer, SPF 30+

SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose Organic Rose And Coconut Healing Day Cream, SPF 30 COOLA

Suncare Face Plant UV Sunscreen Moisturizer, Unscented, SPF 30

And call me neurotic, but the best way to protect oneself from the sun? It’s called shade.

Girl living in dark


A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that between 8.7% and 18.1% of all Americans suffer from some sort of phobia.

Phobias are like opinions: Everybody has at least one. From the fear of clowns to the fear of polka dots, millions of phobia sufferers are tormented by the most inane things, and I am no exception.

Since nearly 19.2 million Americans suffer from phobias of some sort, I’m okay with admitting that I have a few. My anxiety levels are heightened by germs, disorder, clutter, ventriloquist’s dummies, the dark, tunnels, sharks, and the Statue of Liberty.  The reasons for being anxious about the items listed above will have to be addressed in another blog entry at another time. This post is already too long according to the blogging experts out there.

You might think that being afraid of Lady Liberty is a bit over the top, but there are some fairly strange phobias out there, so I don’t feel that any of my “issues” are that abnormal. But below are some phobias I discovered via my research, which could pose some serious difficulties.

Consecotaleophobia: Fear of chopsticks. These folks have actually been known to run out of Chinese restaurants screaming.

Zemmiphobia: Fear of the great mole rat. This phobia is puzzling in that there’s technically no such thing as the great mole rat. There are many other types of mole rats, such as the naked mole rat, and the blind mole rat, but I found nothing online at all to convince me of the existence of the great mole rat. Although when I found this photo of the naked mole rat, I can see why mere mortals would be afraid.

Naked Mole Rat

Getting back to phobias…

Anatidaephobia: Fear of being watched by a duck. Characters with this phobia have a real fear that no matter where they are or what they’re doing, a duck is watching them.

Phronemophobia: Fear of thinking. I know a few people with this one. I thought they were just stupid.

Nomophobia: Fear of being without mobile phone coverage. This phobia can cause a serious meltdown over losing signal, running low and/or out of battery and losing sight of the phone for just one second. I know a few people with this one too.

Optophobia: Fear of opening one’s eyes. Having to open their eyes is just too stressful for some individuals, thus they stay mostly at home.

Papaphobia: Fear of the Pope. Papaphobes refuse to go to Italy for fear of running into him. And the mere sighting of His Holiness in a photo or on television, cause these poor souls major heebie-jeebies.

Pentheraphobia: Fear of one’s mother-in-law. This one is a lot more common than you would think. I know people that have this one too. A lot of people.

Turophobia: Fear of cheese. These panic stricken citizens flee if they see so much as a slice.

Bagpipaphobia: Fear of Bagpipes. People with this phobia say there’s something petrifying about the way bagpipes just lie there, lumpy and furry with tubes sticking out of them.

Hylophobia: Fear of trees. Many in this phobic group can’t even think about wood without running for the hills—preferably hills with no trees.

Omphalophobia: Fear of belly buttons. These individuals are both repulsed and frightened by seeing or thinking about a belly button. And they jump through hoops not to look at their own. And the “button” never gets touched.

Alektorophobia: Fear of chickens. These odd birds (no pun intended) display extreme anxiety when thinking about farms. For most, even the mental image of a feathered bird is enough to cause a panic attack.

Asymmetriphobia: Fear of mismatched things. Socks that don’t match will send members of this phobic club into another time zone. Additionally, persons with this phobia can’t handle any two sides that don’t match, are uneven or out of whack.

Geniophobia: Fear of chins. For these peeps, chins are legitimately terrifying, and they tend to avoid face time.

Coprastasophobia: Fear of constipation. Many in this group are manically afraid of becoming constipated. Call me stupid, but this fear doesn’t seem that far of a stretch.

What causes me the most anxiety? It’s the fear of water, better known as Aquaphobia.

I’m not a 100% certifiable aquaphobe—I recognize that tubs and pools pose no imminent threat.  However, you would be hard pressed to find me anywhere near a pool at night.

And I might possibly have Antlophobia, which is the fear of floods, and/or Limnophobia, the fear of lakes. Oh and then there’s heliophobia, which is fear of the sun.

And this might be off topic, but in all likelihood, I also have cockroachaphobia.

But my real terror comes from any large body of water, including images of water on television, in paintings, photos, and movies.

I get the willies any time I watch the part in Disney’s Frozen, when Elsa and Anna’s parents drown when a massive storm overtakes their ship. I don’t know how young kids can watch that part. It scares the bejesus out of me.

While sunning on the beach in Jamaica a few years ago, my husband explained to me that exposure therapy was the first line of treatment for treating phobias.

I should point out that my husband was sunning. I was under an umbrella, clothed in a close-fitting, sun resistant body rash turtle neck top and long pants used for scuba diving, slathered with 60+ sun block and zinc oxide.

According to him, I needed to expose myself to the fearful environment and learn to “unlearn” my fear of water. He went on to suggest that I might want to consider exposing my body parts to the sun once in a while as well.

Exposing my body to the sun was not going to happen, since it took me forever to don my deep sea exploration gear. So I decided since the ocean was so incredibly blue and tranquil, and so clear that I could see everything that was happening in it, that I would give a try to floating around on it.

First, I put on my aqua shoes so I wouldn’t have to feel the bottom of the ocean. But really, the shoes were a complete waste of time and money, because I had zero intention of touching the ocean’s floor.

I plopped myself down on the float at the water’s edge, and my husband shoved me and the float into the water. I started to panic and hyperventilate a little, but I calmed down once my husband joined me on his own float. I still had dry mouth though.

I was kind of, sort of, settling down. That was until I noticed a fairly large sting ray swimming near my float. I screamed bloody murder, and vigorously and vehemently paddle whacked my way back to shore. Once I hit ground, I catapulted myself off the float, and dove head first into the sand.  Every single person within a fifty yard radius was staring at me.

As I crawled around on the beach, still screaming and flailing about, I looked down and noticed that my wet suit pants were askew and hovering below my thighs, with my whole front and back “package” hanging out. As I squirmed around on the sand, I wrenched the pants up so high they were almost to my chest. Then I slowly stood up, and brushed the sand off of my body, trying to compose and redeem myself. As I looked around I noticed a few people covering their mouths to keep from laughing.

When my husband got out the water he walked right past me like he didn’t know me, and later scolded me for causing such a humiliating scene.

It didn’t surprise either one of us when we didn’t make a single friend on that trip.

But at least I didn’t think a duck was stalking me.