Sunbathing June

When I went to the beach a few months ago, I bought a sunscreen lip balm. The fact that I did this, along with buying SPF 942 sunscreen for the rest of me, is an indication of my newfound maturity. From birth to age 45, I applied zero sunscreen, thinking it was for pussies, and that is why I am 53 and look like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.

My point is, after said beach trip I brought the sunscreen lip balm to work because I like to have something on my lips or it feels weird (#fucknatural). Whenever I’d put on any lipstick or lip gloss it would inevitably smear onto whatever paper I was copy editing and it annoyed. The sunscreen lip balm is clear but it gives me that “You have something on our lips feeling” I have to have or I lose my mind.

And every time I put it on, it smells and tastes exactly like summer. It’s like “tanning lotion,” which is what they used to sell us to encourage our tans, and no, I do not know how to cool squirrel and serve it over by the see-ment pond, Jeb.

I put that lip gloss on and I’m transformed to summers in the yard, lying on a blanket my mother would probably not approve of me dragging out, with AM radio playing You’re 16, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine (hello, Child Protective Services? I need you to check out a Beatle) and “tanning lotion” slathered on all 95 pounds of me.

The sun in our yard shone on the front during the afternoon, so I’d gladly head out there and wait for boys yell, “WOOOOO!” as they drove past. Mmmm-hmmm. Drink you in these A-cups in m’purple one-piece. That’s right.

Anyway. I have to go in. Prime tanning hours are over and General Hospital’s getting ready to go on. But what smells or flavors do that to you? What reminds you of another place or time? There were also these binders where I used to work, in Seattle in the ’90s. They were large plastic binders and they smelled just like when you’d get a new doll at Christmas. I was always so excited to get a new doll in theory, but then I’d ignore it for the stuffed animals, and there describes my whole life. Human? Animal? Oh, let me decide which I prefer.

Okay, talk to you guys later. Is my tan even?

75 thoughts on “Sunbathing June

  1. My grandparents owned a photography studio in the upstairs of an old building in Flint. It smelled of developing chemicals, cosmetics, and old wood floors. But mixed in was the amazing smell wafting from the store downstairs – an odd combo of a health food store and a KarmelKorn shop (I remember it that way but they may have been separate). The buttery, burnt sugar smell was so amazing!

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  2. I had the hardest time learning to like the taste of pina coladas as an adult because I thought they tasted exactly the way Coppertone tanning oil smelled. I loved the smell, but it felt like I was drinking Coppertone. My love of alcohol eventually won, thank god.

    We used to cover ourselves in baby oil and lay out on my friend’s roof, listening to Poison and Def Leppard all afternoon, hoping and praying that our A-cups would bring all the boys to the yard. They did not.

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  3. The smell of dry cleaning fluid takes me back to being a kid. My family owned a dry cleaner. They sold it 30 years ago. Now, every time I walk into a dry cleaner I feel like it’s my dry cleaner. I remember the cool, concrete floors, running through the plastic bagged clothes, pushing the button to make the rack circle around, the sound of change in the coin drawer (no credit cards then), and the feel of the big, soft lazy boy chair hidden behind the counter where my grandad would sit between customers.

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  4. “Whenever I’d put on any lipstick or lip gloss it would inevitably smear onto whatever paper I was copy editing and it annoyed.”

    That’s quite a trick. What am I missing here about the art of copy editing?

    Puzzled, or Maybe Just Tired

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  5. The smell of papers straight off the mimeograph machine when I first started teaching made me feel like a fifth grader all over again. Cigars remind me of being all cozy in my Uncle Barney’s fluffy, chubby lap; felt so safe. I buy the original scent Jergens so I can be a kid at my cousin’s house again. Pond’s cold cream smells like every woman I knew when I was growing up.

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  6. Also, talc: my grandmother.
    And pond scum (ick)/algae: part of my Miami childhood. The tiny frogs hopping everywhere after a rain is a smell and visual memory.

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  7. Smells trigger memories unbidden because they literally don’t go through the “normal” pathways of thinking or analyzing. They just go BOOM straight to the memory center.
    For me, the smell of my Holly Hobbie (sp? #toolazytogoogle) doll. I wish I could smell that again. Ditto these little rubber dolls from Germany called Ari. I even found them vintage (I’m old) online and got some but it turns out that after about 40 years, neither the smell nor the texture (they were nicely squishy soft) is the same anymore. Though I still adore how they look.
    Hard water–that mineral smell–reminds me in a bad way of my childhood farmhouse bathroom (bathtub, maybe) in Michigan.

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  8. They do say that the sense of smell is the closest linked to memory. I guess we’re all proving that! A few years ago, I found a candle at Bath and Body Works that I swear smelled like the Polo cologne all the cute boys at summer camp would wear when they “dressed up.” I am still kicking myself for not buying it.

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  9. The smell of decaying leaves in the fall always takes me back to 2nd thru 4th grade in Anchorage when I could walk thru the woods (probably 3 blocks of trees next to our subdivision, but, hey, it was thick with trees) in the fall.
    And I agree with the new doll smell. My Chatty Cathy had that at one time, and oh, I loved her.

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  10. The smell of cigars places me in the back seat of our childhood car sitting between my two older sisters on our summer vacation as my dad drove with the windows down, smoking his cigar. That was before air conditioned cars, thank goodness. The smell of Old Spice also reminds me of my dad.

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  11. Honeysuckle reminds me of my maternal grandmother because she had some huge bushes in her yard and I would go out and garden with her. My paternal grandmother always smelled of talcum powder and food. Seems like she was always in the kitchen cooking.

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  12. Sun In hair spray smelled liked lemons for my hair and coppertone oil in brown bottle reminds me of summer and any pipe reminds me of my grandfather. And aussie sprunch spray for hair – it was a big deal for summer hair

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  13. Let’s see…there’s a hand soap that reminds me of my first visit to London so that’s a nice one.

    I know there’s more but my memory is failing me right now.

    But here’s a very strange one. I used to drive school buses. I was assigned a totally new bus on my route. It smelled like Stove Top stuffing inside. I assumed it was the seat vinyl but it could’ve been anything.

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  14. Lilacs in our dining room when I was young and coming home from Sunday School to the smell of my mom’s spaghetti sauce on the stove.

    Aunt Kathy

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  15. ahh Evening in Paris cologne in small blue bottles at Woolworth’s! But favs – really fresh cut grass is one. And the smell of rain – just before it starts…
    And so many.
    And the sadness – that my sister has never been able smell in her lifetime due to a faulty olfactory nerve connection… So many memories are triggered by smells…. old spice – white shoulders – Mimi’s noodles cooking….. sigh

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  16. My father used to do a lot of carpentry, car repair and other hands-on work when he got home at night and on the weekends. He used this tub of pink gooey stuff to clean his hands that I think was called “Scatta-Grime,” but Google is not being terribly helpful. That stuff had a distinctive smell, plus the smell of grease or wood shavings would remind me of my dad. It’s been years since I’ve smelled that.

    For my whole dating life, any boy who couldn’t take a car apart and put it back together, or fix or build something had absolutely no chance with me.

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    • My grandfather was a cabinet builder. He always smelled of sawdust. My dad became a woodworker after he retired and now he smells just like his dad. So may memories.

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    • My dad was a mechanic, the smell of certain car fluids (I think it might be transmission fluid) reminds me of him.

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      • GOOP ! Yes, that stuff was used by the tub by my dad, but his hands and nails were always clean. No sign of grease, ever.

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  17. The smell of popcorn popping in oil takes me back to the lobby of the Capitol Theater in my small town’s one theater. We got those long tall bags with the freshly popped corn drizzled with extra “butter” for 10 cents. Oh my gosh I loved going to the movies.

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  18. Bain de Soleil in the metal tube, zero SPF, and it was just really nice smelling orange grease. A mix of coyote brush, sage, wild anise and ocean on a warm afternoon. Leaves burning takes me back to my grandparents’ house. Thanks for the incentive to recollect.

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  19. I live in Denver and this whole damn city smells like weed these days. It takes me back to relatively sketchy nights in college with my relatively sketchy boyfriend and his definitely sketchy roommates. And any time I smell petrichor (no, spell check, I do *not* mean psychometric), I’m ten or eleven, jumping out of the pool to lay on the sizzling concrete to get warm and then jumping back in the pool. Rinse. Repeat.

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    • Not exactly on the topic but I’m from Denver and was recently visiting. I went to a Taco Bell where I’m pretty damn sure all the workers were high as a kite. I stood in front of the guy to take my order and he just stared back at me like… dumbfounded as to where I came from and what I wanted.

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      • Remember back in the day when you could smell a skunk and know it really was a skunk? Now we question whether is was a skunk or just some of the skunk weed that gets smoked around here.

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        • It’s so annoying that the first question out of people’s mouths when I say I’m from Colorado is something about weed. Like we all just sit around smoking it all day and night. Which, obviously some (everyone who works at Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s, and Voodoo Doughnuts) do, but the vast majority of us are grownups who are just living our lives. We have mountains skiing and hiking and amazing food and the best craft beer.

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  20. That brand new vinyl smell reminds me of new dolls on Christmas morning and birthdays of my childhood also. New shower curtain liners used to smell exactly like that, now there is some healthier version without that lovely smell. When I worked retail in the Shoportunistic store I loved the bath aisle for that new doll scent. I mentioned it to a younger, male coworker once and he looked at me like I belonged in the loony bin. Different generations, different memories.
    My grandmother used ivory snow flakes in a wringer washing machine, hung and ironed everything. Those smells and Ivory soap remind me of her and her house. The scent of home made split pea soup , my favorite and I can make it now, is her as well.

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  21. The smell of wood fires remind me of a tiny beach cabin we had when I was a kid, where dinners were always cooked over the open fire. Diesel fuel reminds me of the marina where we kept the tiny boat that took us to the tiny island where we had a tiny cabin. This was the most influential part of my childhood. Also, tanning lotion! I was right there with you, even using baby oil for that first good sunburn base of the season. Onions cooking remind of coming in from playing in the neighborhood in the evening. Smells are great, thanks for reminding me.

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  22. There’s a little Italian restaurant in my town. It smells like Italian restaurants normally do, except in the little entryway. There is a door with a tiny hallway and then another door. In between those doors it smells like my elementary school cafeteria. I’ve tried so hard to figure out what that even means, but I can’t explain!

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    • I had this exact experience when on a road trip, walking down an unfamiliar street. I had to go back and smell again. It smelled like my elementary school! I still have no idea what it was coming from..

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  23. Oil of olay reminds me of my mom. Coppertone or some other sun tan oil my mom used reminds me of summer. She kept it in a sandwich baggie for drips and spills. We never wore sunscreen and we’re Irish. My paternal grandmother is from Hungry and I think I have her skin. I STILL love to tan despit granny from Beverly Hillbillies resemblance. I do slather my kids in sunscreen though. Like other commenters I stress while laying out nowadays thinking of everytjing I need to do, but I snooze in the sun often and I feel like that is productive.

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  24. Wonderful post! Smell are such powerful trigger for memories.

    Ponds face cream, sheets dried on a clothesline and cotton clothes being ironed take me right back to my grandmother’s house.

    The smell of freshly cut grass and sprinkling rain takes me to my childhood home. All of us kids on my street loved it when it would rain and we could drag out the umbrellas.
    Tee

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  25. When I worked for this large, international company near Grand Rapids, MI, we had to park in the back 40 and walk through a manufacturing area to get to our offices. The first time I made that walk and came through the door into the office hallway…BOOM! I was back in the lobby of the Miramar Beach Motel in Daytona Beach Shores where our family vacationed. The lobby always smelled like summer, room AC breeze and the faint cologne of the owner’s cute son!! No other spot in the company had that fragrance. I looked forward to walking into that office hallway every day for 20+ years!!

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  26. For years it was Neutrogena hand creme in the stubby tube that reminded me of my mom, but they changed the formula a few years ago and it doesn’t smell exactly the same. I have one original tube around my house somewhere and I keep it just for smells. She also used Jovan musk in a tiny, short glass tube and that reminds me of her too.

    And #fucknatural gave me a chuckle.

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  27. Summer is:
    Ban de Soleil for the San Trope tan
    Avon Skin So Soft
    The fizz smell wafting wisping off fresh opened cold pop in a glass bottle

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  28. Sebastian Shpritz – when it was time to get ready for the mall both my hair and my bathroom got a good coating.

    New Nike shoes had a VERY distinct smell. Probably chemicals killing brain cells, but I loved it. Loved having new uber clean white shoes with that swoosh 🙂

    I could never decide if I liked the smell of Finesse or Jhirmack shampoo/conditioner better.

    One of my favorite smells as a child, also probably entirely awful for ones pet, was the gravy train patty I’d unwrap for my faithful basset hound, Cleo. I’m sure it had to be horrible for him, in retrospect.

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  29. When the boy started using deodorant I got him Old Spice. It reminds me of my Dad every day. Also, I remember laying out in the sun as a teenager. I had a cat named Daisy Mae who would lay with me. The birds would dive at us because he (Yes, Daisy Mae was a boy) was quite the hunter and they didn’t like him much. I still hate birds to this day. Cat hair mixed with suntan oil – Ah, those were the good ol’ days!

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  30. Smells must trigger some part of the brain, as it just feels automatic. For me, it’s Shalimar perfume, which my mother wore. I can get just a whiff of it, and then I turn to see if she is in the room. I still have her last bottle sitting on my dresser.

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  31. The toner I use smells so incredibly much like some kind of skincare product my mom had when I was growing up, but I cannot remember what it was for the life of me.

    Lemon or strawberry shampoo = youth trips to the beach at Fort Caswell, NC

    Green tea or freshly cut grass = baling hay on the farm

    Cow manure = all the time spent at the family farm, crawling in hayloft

    Our Pyr, Finn = childhood dog, Missy, who was also a Pyr

    Every now and then, I get a whiff of something that takes me right back to the Avon tooth fairy perfume – Delicate Daisy?? I LOVED that stuff

    I found a soap at a craft fair described as “Tinsel Tree” scent. I bought two soaps just so I could keep one by the bed and smell it and carry the other around and smell it. Something about the scent combination is childhood and Christmas and being in the woods and snow, all rolled up into one. I cannot get enough of it, even eight months later.

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  32. Smell memories are the best! Old lady powder takes me back to my maiden great aunt, who used to keep me for weeks in the summer and spoil me rotten with food and “adventures.” She never drove, so we would take a bus to the mall and I thought that was high living right there. She had some kind of face powder and Oil of Olay. When I smell that kind of powder now I’m 7 and in her house. Best days ever.

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  33. Safeguard soap reminds me of my grandmother’s house. I have a specific memory of climbing the stairs and the bathroom was at the top of the stairs and the safeguard smell wafting toward me.

    Also Coppertone and Sea and Ski – summers as a fair haired kid, burning in the sun anyway. In college we’d go to the roof of our dorm to lay out in the sun – I had a friend who used that jheri curl stuff to encourage the tan!

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  34. Fresh mowed grass reminds me of summer days as a kid. We were always outside (if you stayed inside your mom would put you to work on chores).

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  35. Whole black walnuts right off the tree or crushed in the street takes me right back to the house I grew up in and my friends across the street. There were several black walnut trees in our yards and it was a small town so we were in the street where they were crushed more often than we should have been. And we had to pick up the walnuts in the back yard. Honestly I just have to see the walnuts now and the smell and memories come to me.

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  36. My maternal grandfather smoked cigars. Anytime I smell one I’m 6 or 7 years old sitting in my Mam-ma’s lap in her green leather recliner, with Poppie next to us in his matching chair smoking away, while watching Lawrence Welk or an Atlanta Braves game down in Vidalia, Ga.

    And yes, there were Vidalia onions everywhere because Poppie worked for the Department of Agriculture and got them for family, friends and neighbors. There were sheets of newspapers on the tile floors in almost every room of the house covered with onions. Oddly, I never remember their house smelling like onions though.

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  37. Oh yes – nothing smells like summer quite like Coppertone suntan lotion did. It doesn’t smell like that now. Of course, we used it when I was a kid and I still burned to a crisp. It’s a wonder I don’t have all kinds of skin cancer.

    The old Jergen’s hand lotion that smelled like almonds reminds me of my grandmothers.

    Joy dishwashing liquid used to remind me of my grandmother, but then they went and changed the formula. Thanks a lot, Proctor and Gamble!

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  38. Sheets and towels fresh from the dryer remind me of my Gamma. I’m fortunate enough to live in her old house, and dusk in the summertime is the best. I immediately feel content and peaceful like an eight year old.

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  39. I smell donuts frying and go back to summer weekends with my grandfather at the Cape. He took us to the local general store and got us fresh from the oil donuts. Yum!

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  40. Tanning with Coppertone oil, holding a vinyl album cover wrapped in tin foil for directing maximum rays at my face and neck. Now, I invest in No.7 neck serum and rue (rue!) the days of yore!

    I love the Sun Bum chapstick-stuff. I eat it off my lips at an amazing rate.

    Like LNTL above, though, I can’t sit still in the sun any more bc of all the things I think I need to be doing, instead. Sigh.

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  41. Lovely post, Coot.

    Cocoa butter. Cocoa butter or to be specific Queen Helene Cocoa butter makes me think of being 16, slathering it on after a day water skiing, tan skin packed into cut off shorts and a halter top. Although I am sure I didn’t look as hot as you in your purple one piece, I thought I was sex on a stick. All 70 pounds of arms and legs and frizzy hair.

    Strawberry Jolly Ranchers make me think of the shampoo I used in high school. I think it was Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.
    The lady who used to massage me would use some type of oil which smelled just like the old Vick’s vapor rub. It opened up my sinuses and made me feel like I was 5 with the croup and my mom slathering it on my back.
    So many smells, so many memories.

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  42. Smell memories are my favorite thing. I have my grandma’s sewing machine and she kept all the accessories in one of my grandpa’s old cigar boxes – I open that thing up and sniff and I’m 8 years old again.

    I was right with you with the laying in the yard. HOURS I could lay there, slathered in baby oil, listening to my transistor radio. John Denver was my jam. Now I try to sit in a chair and soak up the sun for 5 minutes and my mind is full of the 9384388475 things I should be doing.

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  43. The smell of Palmolive takes me back to being 6 years old in the kitchen of my Aunt Iva in Cedar Lake, In.

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