Here comes the sun…

You know what I would like to see? I’m sure you are aware of the anti-smoking commercials which featured the woman with a voice box regretting that last smoke, or the man with lung cancer who will not live to see his children’s next birthday. These commercials are horrifying, upsetting, and I think: holy cats, I used to smoke; thank god I quit. Well, I would like to see a similar campaign against sunbathing. And before you stop reading in protest at the ridiculousness of what I’ve just said, please understand, I adore the sun. The coast, the beaches, the surf were practically my backyard as a kid, the heat of the sun like a second mom. It was a comfort, and its warmth and light have always been a symbol of comfort and familiarity for me. And as I got older I would soak in its rays for hours. There are few things more satisfying that playing in the surf on a hot day, then immediately falling prone onto your towel and feeling the water tingle on your skin as the glorious sun dries you from head to toe. And then you do it all over again. Aaahhhh…..summer….

…and skin cancer. I had a few scares. And now I have a few scars instead. I used to have beautiful unblemished pale Scotch-Irish skin. Now I look like a cheetah. The brown spots on my arms, legs, and hands are not cute like freckles. The permanent capillary damage and crepe-like wrinkling on my chest are not attractive. And I’m an esthetician for crying out loud – I should know better, right? Well NOW I do. And since becoming an esthetician I have learned valuable information and have taken preventative and corrective steps. Unfortunately, I don’t think the young girls and guys walking around with their deep dark tans have such information. And if they do, they don’t care. I wouldn’t have in my early 20′s. I just wanted to look good and meet boys. And everyone knows a tan is prettier, right? Well this is what I want the anti-sunbathing commercial to say: If you have a pretty tan now, you will have ugly skin later. Or this: In twenty years those smooth, coppertoned abs will be tainted by two long pale scars from having cancerous lesions removed.

Or this from the American Academy of Dermatology:

One American dies of melanoma almost every hour. In 2011, it is estimated that 8,790 deaths will be attributed to melanoma — 5,750 men and 3,040 women.2
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 65,161 people a year worldwide die from too much sun, mostly from malignant skin cancer.10
Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women aged 45 years or younger.11
Alas, I don’t think there will ever be an anti-sunbathing commercial. Although the campaign would be to promote skin cancer awareness and prevention, people would take it as an attack on the sun. Although like cigarettes the sun could be considered carcinogenic and life-threatening. But unlike cigarette manufacturers the sun is not an evil corporate identity we can blame for lack of full disclosure. The sun is also, of course, life-sustaining. It is so many things to our very existence, physically and symbolically that any campaign could backfire and end up sounding apocalyptic rather than informative.

I do still enjoy the comfort of the sun, I am addicted and can’t give him up completely. Like any love affair, my tryst with the glorious orb is hot and steamy. I just do it in a hat and lather up with lotions of a different sort…

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