Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Public Service Announcement

It's summertime and, with everyone at the beach or pool, we could all use a reminder to take care of our skin.  As a public service announcement on sun safety for the young people, I thought I'd share an account of my recent dermatology appointment:

I'm in my late 40's and, like most people my age, I spent the first half of my life trying to achieve the perfect tan.  I know it's hard to believe and I really don't like to brag but there was a time when I could roast myself to the most beautiful shade of brown.  I'd say the hue could fall anywhere between Cinnamon Toast Crunch brown and Werther's Caramel brown depending on weather patterns and my commitment.  It was pretty impressive, I must say. 

Now, color like this didn't come without some sweat equity.  It required dedication and the readiness to suffer for the cause.  You had to be willing to put in the hours.  A boom box, a bottle of baby oil, and a good pair of aviators were essential.  And if you had something big coming up, like a dance or graduation, well, you'd need to pull out the big guns.....maybe the vegetable oil or iodine. 
I specifically remember several of us climbing up on a friend's black shingle roof, one day, armed with very little sense, a bottle of Wesson Oil, beach towels, and a desire to alter our skin tones in a most extreme way.  I'm sure that smell we thought was someone frying chicken was simply our own pan-fried epidermis.  I look back and wonder.......Where were our parents?  But, I guess they were watching the Guiding Light with a cup of Postum and couldn't be concerned with us.  No, I really don't think we knew much about the sun back then except that it could cause wrinkles. 

A beach trip was always good way to jump start your summer tan.  We had a senior beach trip the week before our graduation.  When you went to the beach, you felt compelled to make the most of your time because, well, the sun's potential to char you was so much greater there and you had to take advantage of every second of its destructive potential.  We'd get up and hit the beach by 10.  Yeah, I know they tell you now to avoid the sun at its peak hours of 10-2 but that was the exact time we aimed to be sprawled out across the sand.  And sunscreen?  Pshhhhh.  Its only purpose was to salvage the rest of your beach trip in the event of a nasty burn on day one.  If you applied sunscreen to the scorched areas, you could go back out and scorch the un-scorched areas the next day.  I mean, an even tan was the goal here, after all.  All areas had to be equally scorched so that after your skin had blistered, peeled, and healed itself, it would turn an even and glorious, long-awaited bronze.  And let me tell you, when I walked across the stage at my high school graduation, I was as brown as a biscuit.  That diploma wasn't the only thing that I'd earned.     
Oh, if you really worked hard and stayed with it, you could maintain the color of 3 Musketeers nougat for the duration of shorts season and the resulting self-confidence that brought along with it was nothing short of empowering. 

Fast forward 28 years and you're at the dermatologist's office for your bi-annual mole, freckle, and strange skin growth check.   Well, kids, first, they put you in this room and tell you that they're going to step out a minute while you strip down to your granny panties and cover yourself with this paper sheet.  Just so you get an idea, the term sheet is quite misleading and the coverage it provides is only slightly more than one of those paper bibs you get at the dentist.......but I digress.   

So, anyway, I know you're thinking that's no big deal but stay with me.  So, the doctor comes in and brings a nurse because, well, you're naked and witnesses are needed, I suppose.  Really, if the truth be known, it's probably more of a distraction for the doctor knowing that if he makes eye contact with the nurse, they will both bust out laughing at you and won't be able to get themselves back together. 

Anyway, the doctor will tell you to lie down while your "sheet" is pulled back to get a look at all of your sunspots and moles and strange, new crops of only the Lord knows what.  You see, kids, the beautiful tan you work so hard for will, one day, turn into these brown, old people spots all over your body. You know.....just like your grandmother has on her arms that you think you'll never get.  When you get my age, they'll be like the countless stars in the sky except they don't twinkle and no one wants to lie on a blanket and gaze at them.  Yes, your brown spots will be as numerous as the descendants of Abraham.   

So, then, as if two people weren't enough of an audience, the doctor may see a spot that needs a fresh set of eyes and another doctor may be called in to look.  You're instructed to roll over on your stomach.  Let's stop here.  Have you ever tried to roll over gracefully while naked on a 4 foot table all while 3 people are watching you try to keep your paper sheet in the places where it's most needed?  You haven't?  Well, let me tell you......it's not an easy thing to do that while maintaining any amount of dignity.  I dare say that even Ginger Rogers would've had trouble making that maneuver look graceful so you can imagine how I must have looked.  To give you a reference which you can understand, it's like when you attempt to get on a pool float, stomach first, in front of a group of people at a party, while trying to oversee that your bikini components stay where they need to be.

So, after your awkward flip is complete and the staff regains their composure, they'll pull back that paper sheet, which looks more like a crumpled piece of Bounty, at this point, and they'll inspect you like a rump roast at the USDA.  I know you're thinking that doesn't sound too bad as you sit there with your flat abdomen, muscular thighs, and toned arms but your body will have likely made some changes by then.  You'll notice, when laying on your back, that your boobs part like the Red Sea.  And with nothing to hold it in, your muffin top will spread out across that table like you're in your second trimester.  And you'll have plenty of time to take an inventory of these things and ponder them in your heart while they check your many constellations of brown spots under the fluorescent lighting. 

After you've been inspected, they'll freeze, burn, shave, snip, cut, and whatever else they feel like doing to anything that is shaped weird or is the wrong color or is growing in size......or maybe they're just in the mood to play with their freezy spray thingy that day.  Either way, you'll leave there with some little, round band-aids like they put on top of your grandpa's head.  Oh, and very little dignity.  Let's not forget that.

So, happy tanning, kids. 

Don't say I didn't warn you. 


Hope it's a good Monday!                

  




10 comments:

  1. joni, so sad & so true. in later years i even had the good sense to say "i'll regret this when i'm OLD" as i slathered on crisco or straight up butter & stretched out on the foil tanning blanket to make sure my "sides" were even. & no worries if i didn't lose that last 10 lbs before summer b/c a tan covers over a multitude of sins! bless my heart. :)
    so last summer - at 52 & after a 2-inch incision to remove skin cancer (squamous) on my tummy - I went cold turkey & gave it up. it's an adjustment for sure! i mean, questions like self-tanner or nah? what will i do with all this TIME? not to mention the hardship of having to wear MAKEUP year round. rough times.
    it's still shocking to me but i can bear witness that it's possible to be happy & love life without a savage tan. :) happy monday, joni!

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    1. Oh, I hate to hear you had a scare, Tracey. I have to go back and have a pre-cancerous area removed in a couple of weeks. We were just dumb back then.....but we sure looked good :) I gave it up many, many years ago and, I agree, it was an adjustment but it's just not worth the risk. Hope you're having a great summer, Tracey.

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  2. OMG Joni, this is so true but hilarious! I totally relate to the table and sheet situation....and the turning over request? Who in their right mind thinks anyone can turn over gracefully on a "bed" no wider than the aforementioned pool float....speaking of which I had to have my son hold mine this weekend at his pool while I "gracefully" tried getting on it....my 5 year old grandson got a good laugh out of that one. I got tickled and when I started to laugh my son said "mom you better not pee in my pool, and i'll know if you do because the water around you will turn blue"! My chicken husband who was sitting on outside on the patio got up and hurried in the house he was laughing so hard.....thanks honey!

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    1. Hahahaha.....there's no attractive way to get on those things, Judy. I wish I'd been there to see you try though. :) I know your grandson enjoyed the spectacle. Hahaha

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  3. THAT PICTURE! We actually stayed in Jetty East in the spring for a girls' trip and oh, the memories of Senior trip. Those were the days, Joan, and yes, my derm appointment is coming up in just a few weeks.

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    1. Yes! Jetty East....I'd forgotten! I have a lot of pictures from that trip. Good times. Good years. Good memories......which our skin is now paying for :)

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  4. I think that was the last time I was in a bathing suit! Fantastic story, Joni and oh so true.

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    1. Hahahaha....this was nearing the end of my swimsuit career, as well, Melinda! I have so many pictures from that trip, Good times, good times. :)

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  5. I have a picture of my mom laying out baking with oil on her.
    Good public announcement Joni,
    Kathleen in Az

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    1. Yes....oil just accelerated the process! We thought we were so smart....

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