I Abused My Skin But Will I Ever Understand Why?
Comedian George Wallace has a hilarious bit in which he gives audiences a long list of things he just cannot understand. He covers everything from the inaccuracy of weather forecasters to how those who snore always seem to have the luxury of falling asleep first. I have been on a comedy radio kick over the last year, and Wallace’s skit really got me thinking. It doesn’t take much for my train of thinking to derail, and I was led quickly to considering my own list of things I just don’t understand. Topping my list? Me. Yes, me. I am baffled at some of the choices I made over the years related to my skin.
I was a young tanning fanatic
Looking back, I remember the way I looked at my skin when I was in junior high school. I was completely grossed out at the way my skin looked pale and spotty, especially when I was cold. Laying out in the sun made so much sense to me then. It would cure all my ills. Surely, I would look better, feel better, and be an upgraded version of myself.
It made sense to me then
Twelve seems so young to have been worried about tan skin, and I guess it was. I didn’t play sports, so the extent of my outdoor activity during those years was band practice and laying out on a towel or lounge chair in my backyard. Where other girls got tans at pools and playing tennis or softball, I got what little color I could by tanning. I got it then, but I don’t know that I understand it now.
Tanning beds were the be-all, end-all
When I say that, I mean it with all my heart. My free time after work and on weekends revolved around how often I could fit in a tanning salon visit. In my twenties and, sadly, my early thirties, I made it a point to tan practically year around. I understand now that tanning is an addiction and part of my desire to be tan was to get the physical rush of having the heat on my skin. What I don’t understand is how I wasn’t able to see how much damage I was doing. I burned almost as much as I tanned. Not smart. Not a bit.
Sunscreen was for everyone except me
In the early 2000s, I read the warnings, heard the doctors, and watched everyone around me slather sunscreen on their kids. I took the warnings seriously for my young children, but I was somehow different, immune if you will. I can’t make sense of the fact that an educated adult who spent all day teaching and trying to be an example to elementary students would then drive straight home and do yard work in the blazing sun without the slightest hint of sunscreen.
The year 2007 was the year I began paying the price for my choices. My precancers, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma have done a lot talking and paved the way to help me understand how desperately wrong I was. I have changed my ways and haven’t tanned since the early spring of 2007. My kids see me religiously use sunscreen, both my own and my students. I don't have to understand everything I guess. I just have to know enough to change it for the better.
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