Last Monday I spent the day with my new Welsh friend, who is actually just Taffy on a technicality. She's really a Liverpudlian, but if she were a boy she could play football for Wales and that's good enough for me.
We decide on a trip as it's what Brits would call May Day bank holiday. In the U.S. it's called Memorial Day, which is when soldiers who have died are remembered. I deduce they'd appreciate women getting bikinis on in their honour, so the beach it is.
We head to Penn station where we buy two tickets to Long Beach. Welsh friend says there is some kind of package you can buy that admits you onto the beach as well.
"Admits me? What do they do? Charge to get on the sand?"
As it turns out, that's exactly what they do. As much as this annoys me, I don't stress. How much can it be? It'll be like the car park at Porthcawl-just a nominal fee that funds the picking up of crisp packets and seagull poo.
Turns out it costs 12 bucks to get onto Long Beach and it isn't the paradise you might imagine considering. It's certainly no Fire Island, although it's not quite Barry Island either. However, there's sand and water and enough Jersey Shore Guido-a-likes to keep me entertained.
Long Beach is true to it's name, it's just really long. A straight strip of beach next to a seemingly endless line of grey Monolithic apartment buildings that look like they were built by depressed Russians in the 60's and are now being touted as 'Luxury Rentals'.
I am just glad The American didn't come along, being as he's from California and therefore ranks East Coast beaches somewhere between sewers and the bins at the back of our local Chinese takeaway.
After a few hours of tanning in the breezy sunshine, Welsh friend's Australian mate comes to meet us. She is covered from head to toe in clothes to avoid the sun and donning a floppy straw hat and sunglasses. Pah! Aussies and their sun overreaction. It's not Melbourne here ya' know. I continue spraying my factor 10 with a flourish and slowly cook my pale skin. At one point Oz girl warns me my side boob is burning, my response to which is to tuck it back into my bikini top and turn over.
At 4.30 p.m. we head back to the station and when we're on the train Welsh friend says:
"Woaaaah girl, you got some sun!"
I check out my face in a hand mirror and it looks a bit pink, but nothing too bad. There are some worryingly white large circular areas on my upper arm though. Maybe I should have actually rubbed the suncream in rather than just spraying it?
When we get back to Manhattan it is dull and overcast and my skin suddenly seems a lot pinker in contrast. I say goodbye to Welsh friend and pop into the local supermarket. I am trying to find Feta when I catch the man on the cheese counter staring at me.
"Hey!" He shouts across the shop, "Someone went to the beach today!"
"Yes. I did."
I try to slink away into the bread aisle.
"Listen, I'm the same as you," he says, while slicing into a giant wheel of Gouda, "Always gotta go through the Lobster stage before I go brown."
I hurry to the checkout where a Mexican girl looks at my face and then sniggers at me.
When I get home the reaction is no better:
"FUCK-IN-HELL" says The American
"Hey I'm back!"
"Or...badger is back?" he says and starts laughing.
I look in the mirror and there are two white rings where my sunglasses have been. My arms are also pink and covered in pale patches. My legs are the same too. I strip off in front of the mirror and see I look like a giant marbled strawberry cheesecake. Angry pink splodges of sunburn pepper my whole body.
"FUCK-IN-HELL" says The American again, but he's not laughing this time and goes into full on panic mode and there is mention of 'hospital' and 'sunstroke' and '1st degree burns'. He orders me into a cold shower and does an emergency run to Duane Reade. He actually runs, which he never does, so I get that he thinks this is quite serious.
After I get out of the shower he insists on slathering half a bottle of Aloe Vera gel over me that also has Menthol and Litacaine in it. I go into a crazy shivering state. Who the hell puts menthol in aftersun? That's just sadistic.
"I have never seen sunburn this bad." he says.
"Oh I have. I'm Welsh."
"Well I have never seem you burn this bad."
"That's cos you have never been on a beach holiday with me."
"You need to use sunscreen."
"I used sunscreen! Factor 10!"
"Factor 10? Factor 10? That might be enough in you Wales, that is not enough here. This is American sun Emma."
So even the sun here is different apparently.
I'll add that to the list.