I am terrible about wearing sunscreen. Terrible. I have sun damage all over my body to show for the years of abuse I put my skin through when I thought, “There’s plenty of time…I’m young…I am invincible…”
I wasn’t allowed to use suntan oil as a child. We had a pool, and I had SPF 15 sunscreen. All my friends had gorgeous tans, and my wicked mother insisted I be protected when I laid out. I really did think that was wicked of her.
What’s a teenage girl to do when she’s being denied the glorious, oily, tropical smell of Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, or St Tropez? She snuck into the kitchen and slathered on the Wesson Oil before heading out to the pool, that’s what she did!
Insert horrified face here.
I got away with it for years. I became a master. I could time it so I never got too burnt (I’m lily white, I burn!) I worked on that “base tan” all summer. I looked GOOD when school started! All the while, the mother was impressed with my tan, thinking I was safely slathered in SPF 15, saying things like, “See how good sunscreen works?” and wondering why her tan wasn’t as good. In fact, when SPF 30 was invented, thought she would wet her pants with excitement.
My senior year, I did a LOT of tanning. I skipped sunscreen as often as I could. I was stupid. Yes, I said stupid. I sustained several severe sunburns that year. 1984 was the year I learned the joys of Noxema and White Vinegar, and how they took the sting out of a sunburn. God bless my Home Ec teacher for the vinegar trick! I kept white vinegar in the house for years for just that reason.
Spring break 1984 was spent at Pismo Beach. A week at one of my favorite beaches with the family. I was in heaven. I laid out every day, and every day the weather was kinda yucky. No tan was developing. I began to panic. The day before we left, I used the Wesson Oil. It was overcast. Do you know what happens to a lily white girl slathered in Wesson Oil at the beach on an overcast day?
She burns. Badly. So badly that she can’t take her swim suite off. So badly that the seams of her t-shirt cause excruciating pain upon her shoulders.
I got in trouble for not using the sunscreen. She never knew about the Wesson Oil.
We left Pismo and took a side trip to Yuma Arizona to visit the grandparents. From there we drove to a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert to watch the space shuttle land. It was pretty dang hot in that dry lake bed in the middle of the desert. Too hot for clothing. Ya, I wore the swimsuit and shorts. After-all, I felt better, and the tan was building.
Oops. Burn on burn, not a good thing. Apparently the desert is just as bad as the beach on an overcast day. Eventually it was necessary to cut the swimsuit of me. The burn was that bad.
I blistered and peeled like I never had before. It was at that time that I noticed…freckles. Not a lot, but a few, on my shoulders and on my chest. Hmm, they kinda looked like a tan, so I didn’t care. Freckles were cute as long as they were minimal.
Soon it was graduation week. We went water-skiing the weekend before graduation. Now, no matter how much sunscreen one slathers on, it washes off every time you fall down on the skis. Boy did I fall down a lot. I am not meant to stand on water-skis. I’m not mean to be in the same body of water with water-skis. I spent a lot of time in the water that day. I also burned again. Really, really bad.
I clearly recall a trip to the doctor who declared a first degree burn. I remember my mother placing huge gauze pads on my shoulders under the straps of my dress which I wore under my graduation gown. I remember my boyfriend being both fascinated and grossed out at my shoulders. When the pealing and healing was done, my shoulders were covered in freckles and a lot of damage. They still are.
Do you think I learned my lesson? Heck no! I tanned all through my 20’s and a good chunk of my 30’s. Then, a trip to the salon changed my wayward tanning ways. More on that tomorrow…