As a minimum, keep your pants on

I always know summer is in full swing when restaurants and coffee shops start putting up their signs that read: “No Shoes No Shirts No Service”. You don’t see the signs around the rest of the year.

I always know summer is in full swing when restaurants and coffee shops start putting up their signs that read: “No Shoes No Shirts No Service”. You don’t see the signs around the rest of the year.

I guess it just seems too cruel or something. Living as far north as we do, anyone wearing no shoes or no shirt in the winter would freeze to death long before they ever got to the doors of any restaurant.

Personally I have always been a bit disturbed by the sign, even in the summer. If I go for coffee to someone’s house and they refill my cup while walking around in bare feet, I’m not the least offended. If I go to a barbecue and the guy in charge of the grill chooses not to wear a shirt under his “Kiss the Chef” apron, I’m okay with that too.

What disturbs me is while everyone is so deeply concerned about shirts and shoes; they don’t seem to care about pants.

I care about pants. I want people to wear them. If I’m standing in line at Tim Hortons and the person ahead of me is wearing their shirt and shoes but no pants, I’m going to have a hard time ordering my mocha. Bare feet, bare chest is one thing, but a bare bum is quite another.

All this talk of exposed skin makes me think of the obvious. Sunscreen. You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but I’m a redhead. Or I used to be before gray hair and salon foils streaked me into a blonde. But in days gone by there was no mistaking my true hair colour and I have the schoolyard scars to prove it.

“Hey! Did you mother leave you out in the rain too long? Your head’s all rusted!”

“Quick! Someone grab a bucket of water, Shannon’s head is on fire!”

Ketchup Head, Cheezie Hair and Tomato Top were also bandied about. I used to like it best when someone called me carrot top, because then I could look at them with great disdain and say, “Carrot top! Carrot tops are green stupid.”

But then they would just reply, “I’d rather be stupid than have red hair” and there wasn’t a lot to say to that. Except that I could dye my hair, but there was no changing stupid.

However, giving back as good as I got only made people wonder why red heads had such vicious tempers. The same thinking behind poking a dog with a stick and then when he finally bites wondering what makes him so mean.

Despite the teasing, I never really minded having red hair, but I did hate having red skin. Even when tanning was in fashion and all my friends were dunking themselves in cooking oil and lying in the sun to fry their skin to a rich mahogany, all I ever did was burn scarlet and peel. I started wearing sunscreen long before it was the right thing to do, simply as an alternative to the lobster look.

I should feel good about that now, but I bet there were chemicals in those old sunscreens that were far worse than soaking up the sun. There are still some pretty scary ingredients in the sunscreens we use today. I hate how we have to worry about this stuff. If it isn’t safe we shouldn’t be able to buy it.

From what I’ve been able to glean the thing you definitely do not want to see in the ingredient list is oxybenzone. This just happens to be the key ingredient in the kid safe sensitive skin sun block I have been using for the last 20 years. Sigh. The fact that it is marketed for kids’ was one of the reasons I assumed it was safe. And it’s also what makes it even more disturbing to find out that it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think a safe sunscreen is important for those pieces and parts you can’t help but expose to the sun, but for the rest of your body maybe the best sun screen of all is floppy hats, long sleeved shirts, socks, shoes and oh my goodness – pants! Don’t leave home without them.

Shannon McKinnon is a Canadian humour columnist. You can check out past columns by visiting