What I've Learned: Sometimes Ignorance Really Is Bliss
Posted 01/18/12 at 01:23PM by Audrey Fine
One of my earliest memories is of my mom lying in the sun. No, not at the beach or at a pool or, heck, even a park. Nope, in my mind's eye, my mom is lying on my little girl bed, the sun streaming into the window beside it. Oh, and it's the dead of winter in New York City.
Yes, my mom was a sun junky. She grew up in Florida and was always, always tan. We're talking Bain de Soleil, iodine-in-the-baby-oil tan. So, naturally, I grew up with the message -- subliminal though it may have been -- that tan was beautiful.
Then, when she was around 40, my mother had a brush with skin cancer that scared her straight -- and pale. Suddenly, it was "put sunblock on" and "don't sit in the sun" and we went from vacationing in the Caribbean to freezing our butts off on ski slopes. To this day she's as alabaster as can be. (Give or take a couple hundred sunspots.)
But, though she was able to go cold turkey, it was too late for me. I was already bitten by the "I look better when I'm brown as a berry" bug and had a mantra that I was going to be "ugly when I'm old anyway, I might as well look as good as I can now." So I fried myself again and again. I even went to work for Club Med where part of my job, if you can believe it, was to lie on the beach with guests.
Years passed and more research surfaced about the dangers of the sun. It was bad for you. It could maybe kill you. It would definitely ruin your skin. Talk about a bummer.
Yet, I persisted in going for the bronze. Not only did I like how I looked when I was savagely tan, I liked how it felt getting that way. To lie in the sun and soak it up -- ahhhh.
Then, the inevitable happened. I started getting brown spots. And wrinkles. And broken capillaries. And myriad other unattractive skin things. Even when I was totally tan, you could see the damage peeking through. I knew that I had to make a change. So, sigh, I did the responsible, grown-up thing and started wearing sunscreen. And hats. And even took to sitting in the freaking shade.
My newfound self-restraint hasn't vastly improved my skin, but I like to think that at least it's not getting any worse. And maybe, with lots of luck, I'll be able to sidestep any disastrous health repercussions.
Don't get me wrong, none of that means that I'm happy about being pale. As I said at the start, I miss being tan and I miss the feeling of the sun baking me brown. Then again, I also miss the '90s, eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, and Jagermeister, which just serves to further underline that the things we like are often the things that are most hazardous to our health. Why is that?
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