Brianna Parkins: You can always spot Irish men on a sun holiday

Ireland will humble even the most genetically blessed by making them look a bit dorky by the seaside

“Name one Irish man who looks naturally sexy and comfortable on a beach. Go on, it’s harder than you think,” I challenged my partner and our friends.

This was quite a risky question, considering my partner is a) Irish, b) a man and c) happened to be at that moment stretched out on a sunbed on an Italian beach next to me.

“Hmmmm,” he said, thinking about it instead of pouring sand down my bikini bottoms, which would have been a fair response to this kind of insulting question.

“Cillian Murphy!” he came up with triumphantly.


A quick Google search of Cillian “by the sea” or “on the beach”, however, only revealed pictures of him in an odd-looking diving suit, in ye olde timey clothes from movie roles and a publicity shot where he was inexplicably wearing jeans coupled with boots on the sand.

We decided that photos taken on movie sets where stars where given wardrobe direction didn’t count, which ruled out Pierce Brosnan as Bond.

“Paul Mescal then!” someone shouted.

“Oh no, he would definitely wear GAA shorts on the beach,” countered someone else.

Another search revealed a photo of Paul paddling in Dublin Bay with his trousers yanked up into capri pants, baring telltale white ankles but also a big happy head on him. It was easier to imagine the country’s favourite crush treating all his pals to a 99 after his paddle than being all swarthy surfer and possibly punching a shark.

After some deliberation, we decided we much preferred this anyway. Ireland will humble even the most genetically blessed by making them look a bit dorky by the seaside.

Look at what we did to Matt Damon. In his few short few months here, we sucked the Californian, bronze bare-chestedness right out of the star. Our greatest achievement as a nation was getting People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive” down to the water wearing a grey tracksuit, schlepping his bits around in a sensible Supervalu bag.

“One of us, One of us!” we chanted gleefully at our adopted son.

Many of us are scouring booking sites at the moment, trying to book “sun holidays” for summer. (I’ve always found the “sun” bit before “holiday” a bit useless because it’s not a holiday without the sun – just a cold walk-about somewhere new.)

Holidays and beaches can be fraught with expectation. We have spent all this money, we have come so far and this might be our only chance of getting a tan. We lose the run of ourselves trying to become sexy, summer versions we think exist under the usual layers of cardigans.

Whenever I go on holiday, I find myself packing for an entirely different person. Someone who will iron (linen dresses). Someone who doesn’t mind the feeling of their bum cheeks sticking to seats with sweat (short shorts). Someone who’s rich husband died in an untimely accident (large black straw hat, flowy silk robe for lounging in). Someone who will go to the hotel gym (running shoes).

I am holiday Brianna. I am tanned and worldly. The locals think I am one of them. I get invited on a yacht.

There is entire section of Penneys aimed at this “holiday persona” market with bright scarves, delicate sandals and matching cover ups, as if we all live on the Riviera. .

Just before I had made the comment about unsexy Irish men on the beach, I had spent a good 20 minutes putting sunscreen on my partner. Despite growing up with constant messages about skin cancer and a great big f-off hole in the ozone layer, I do not cover every inch of my body with SPF50.

I cover most of it, then go “she’ll be right” and just hope for the best. I am olive skinned, however, and my partner is not.

I fear the question, “Can you just do my back?” because he will get burned if I don’t do it right. If he goes bright red, it is my fault because I missed a spot. It’s too much responsibility to bear.

I started to imagine my future if we had kids together. I would have to make sure they didn’t get sunburned but what if I kept missing spots? This would be my life, just continuously rubbing sunscreen into my pale little sun-allergic freaks.

I got so worried about how my future family would look on the beach that I didn’t reapply sunscreen. I received a rare, and in my belief entirely karmic, sunburn.

“That’s because you didn’t respect the sun,” said my partner, under his umbrella with his legs covered by a towel.

“Now, would you like a 99 ice cream?”

“Yes, please,” I bleated gratefully back.