alt=a woman has memories and regrets about sun tanning in her youth

Torn Between Good Memories and Good Health

The other day I saw a meme on Facebook. It brought back some amazing memories, but if I’m being honest, it’s not the healthiest of memes. What do you do when you’re torn between good memories and good health?

The meme

The best nap is the one you take after being in the sun and the pool all day and you've showered off all the sunscreen and you don't need a blanket cause your sunburn is keeping ya warm and ya know you're gonna wake up just before it's time to go to dinner. That is THE nap.

Bad grammar and run-on sentences aside, the meme brings back fond memories of growing up in Florida. Yes, things sometimes happened exactly that way. I’d “lay out” in the sun (not always by a pool), and sometimes get a sunburn. I’d take a nap after, and just like it says - there was no blanket needed because you had burn chills. Then it’s dinner time after your nap.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

It reminds me of a simpler time when I’d enjoy the feeling of the warm sun on my skin, getting a tan, and listening to the top 40 countdowns on my radio.

Memories can be deceiving

I didn’t know that in the past, tanning was considered a must. According to "Baby, What a Tan" in Envisioning the American Dream, it was a must; Dr Spock encouraged it:

“In summer you can begin exposing the baby’s body to the sun as soon as the weather is warm enough and as soon as he weighs 10 pounds. This means he is plump enough, so he won’t get chilled when he is partially undressed outdoors.”

Some children were exposed from infancy, because the sun was good for them - or so we were told. And yes, we get vitamin D from the sun, but there are plenty of other ways to get your vitamins without burning your skin.1

We remember the good parts, not the mistakes

Sometimes though, our memories are altered. We remember the good parts, not the repercussions. Yes, I loved it, but I didn’t love getting burned. The pain lasted for days, and I’d sometimes even blister - and those are the worst.

And that whole “no blanket” thing? Sunburn chills aren’t as fun as it sounds. You’re cold because your skin is sunburned and holding heat. You can’t get comfortable because every area that touches your skin hurts.

Then there’s the peeling skin. After the sunburn doesn’t hurt so bad, it eventually starts to peel. As a kid, I enjoyed peeling the skin, but you do get an uneven look when you’re done.

The consequences come later

Of course, there are consequences. I’ve had skin cancer twice on my face. All that burning as a kid and teenager cost me two surgeries and two scars. Back then we knew to wear sunscreen, but there wasn’t as much information out there about the dangers of tanning like there is now.

And the meme isn’t that accurate. It mentions sunscreen, but it talks about getting burned. So apparently the sunscreen wasn’t applied as often as needed, or wasn’t a higher enough SPF.

Torn between good memories and good health

If I had to do it over knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t lie out in the sun and get roasted to a crisp. If I wanted to recreate those memories, I’d know to wear a high SPF sunscreen, not be out in the worst times of day, and take care of my skin better.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.