It was never my intention to be born before the invention of sunscreen. And, in fact, if I had it to do over again, I would do things differently.
We had back then, of course, "Suntan Lotion". Our mommas shook it out of the Coppertone bottle and slathered us - and themselves, while they were at it - with the stuff, so that we would be as cute and berry-brown as the little girl on the label. The topless one, with the dog pulling her bottoms off. I think today that would be classified as child porn.
"Suntan Lotion" was some combination of sunbeam intensifier and cooking oil; which kept us nice and moist as we baked. The theory was that we would "tan", not "burn". That worked OK for my Italian and Greek girlfriends; but this freckled, reddish-headed, baby-blue-eyed, white-as-a-marshmallow body of mine, like a defective chameleon, turned only one color. Red. Very, very red.
Luckily, we didn't spend a great deal of time in the great outdoors while I was small. And when we went to the beach, my cousin and I were so scared of the legendary "undertoe" (gads!!! loose feet parts in the water that would haul you out to sea?) we usually stayed indoors gluing shells to tissue boxes and shopping at the 5&10.
However. My "sun-days" became numerous as I approached my teen years; thanks to an earthshattering new product which Changed the Course of Humanity. At least in the 12-year-old world. The introduction of Sun-In. Spray it on, sit outside for hoursandhoursandhoursandhours; wash your hair, wait for it to dry, and LIKE MAGIC! It would be at least a half a shade lighter! Repeat as necessary, until your mom decided your hair looked like vermin-infested straw and forbade you to buy another bottle (Which, of course, you did, when you went to the movies at the mall the next weekend. And we know now, Mom knew exactly what we were doing.)
On a side note, by the time my children were preteens, Sun-In came in a super-strength version. You could pretty much sit under a light bulb and end up with peroxide blond hair. A giant leap for boy- and girlkind, in terms of sun exposure.
But, once again, I digress.
Fast-forward to present:
NOW they tell us, because Sanjay Gupta and all his TV doc friends and Surgeon Generals and Oprah and, I think, Billy Graham, have read Very Important Studies About Teens Who Sat Outside Trying to get Their Hair Blond, we shouldn't have done that! Well, where were all those Einsteins when we needed them? Someone should have passed an Anti Sun-In Resolution ages ago.
And here is why.
Yeah, I spent most of the summers of 1969 and 1970 in the sun; buttered up, smelling like coconut and bleaching my head. But, as soon as it was cool, I was on the Sunscreen Wagon. I slathered. I didn't bake between the hours of 10AM and 4PM, and I didn't "work on my tan", which I never would have achieved anyway.
And yet, I am now in the middle of 21 days of hell, Carac treatment for facial skin cancer. My face burns/itches/hurts/burns. I have sores in my mouth, nausea, and a throbbing headache. I look like I fell headfirst into a fire ant hill. People at the grocery store stare. Every half hour I put an ice pack on my face.
And I am supremely grateful to my dermatologist; who, during a "skin scan" discovered my face full of "micro-lesions"; each one of which could have grown into a world-class problem. And will now be an EX lesion. Eventually...
Moral of the story: Get checked now. Get checked later. Do the time. You might look like this for a while:
And you might, like me, want to cry. But don't - it stings. And you'll be able to cry, and laugh, and live and love for years to come.
7 months ago