Go ahead. Call me pasty. See if I care.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our cultures obsession with having a “healthy tan”. Maybe it’s because it’s been so dull and rainy around here and I’m eager for some sunshine. Maybe it’s because summer is just around the corner and everywhere I look I see fashion magazines and store displays with models that have that golden hue. But I have to be honest…the obsession perplexes me. What the heck is a heathy tan anyway? I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t exist. (Go and google “Healthy Tan”. See what comes up). When I was younger, my mother instilled a sunburn fear into me. I am *obviously* very fair (bordering translucent?), and so the sun and I don’t always agree. But over time it’s just become one of those things…you know…always have sunscreen on…sit in the shade…wear a hat (which I don’t do often enough).
I can’t help but think, however, that these are not things that should just be reserved for us translucent people. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper…I do love sunshine. But this tanning fixation (especially with young girls) freaks me out. Here’s what our beloved Wikipedia says about tanning:
“Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer, make skin age and wrinkle faster, mutate DNA, and reduce the immune system. Frequent tanning bed use triples the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The US Public Health Service states that UV radiation, including the use of sun lamps and sun beds are “known to be a human carcinogen.” It further states that the risk of developing cancer in the years after exposure is greatest in people under 30 years old. However, recently released FDA data suggests that indoor tanning beds emit 12x more UVA radiation than the sun and has been categorized in the “highest cancer risk” group along with smoking tobacco.”
That’s nice, right?
The other day I was in the drugstore and I overheard the saleslady talk to a mother and daughter about sunscreen. At first she seemed a little pushy. She was adamant that these ladies knew exactly how, and how often then needed to apply sunscreen and that even then they shouldn’t be spending too much time in the sun anyway. A little bit outspoken for a perfect stranger at a drugstore if you ask me. But then she went on to tell the ladies that 5 years ago she had a large portion of her skin removed and grafted due to skin cancer. I thought it was rather amazing that she put herself out there (at the risk of coming off as an irritating saleslady) and told these ladies straight up that if they didn’t take care of themselves they could risk the same thing.
It’s funny (in an ironic kind of way), because we are so wrapped up in having healthy bodies and lifestyles. Eating organic this, and using chemical free that. But for whatever reason sun tanning doesn’t fall into the unhealthy category. Then we try and tell ourselves that it’s all for the sake of vitamin D. Right.
I’m no expert…but all I know is that when I’m 50, I’d rather not have skin that looks like leather…and I’d like to skip that whole skin cancer thing altogether. And for those reasons, I have no problem when people laugh at my pale legs when I wear dresses.
Okay, I’m done now. Rant over.