The other day I was drifting around in a pool on an inflatable float, by the ocean. A bunch of seagulls chatted back and forth as they glided overhead. The sound of the waves and the smell of suntan lotion were heavenly. I was just about to drop into a sweet contented sleep when reality, in the form of a tiny female dermatologist, knocked on the door and asked me how I was doing. I wanted to tell her she messed up a really good daydream, but I realized she was just doing her job. Sweet imagination.
I grew up before the sunscreen generation. I spent summer weekends on the lake baking in the sun, always in pursuit of a golden tan. Of course, I never accomplished anything more than sunburn, peel, repeat. All summer long, weekend after weekend my daddy would drive us home on Sunday afternoon shaking his head and telling me I had gotten “cooked.”
He knew that wasn’t good, even before his first diagnosis of skin cancer. He was almost 40 when I was born, and by the time I was a teenager, he was making regular visits to his doctor to have lesions removed. It became part of life. That’s when he really started getting his dander up when I got “cooked.”
In high school, I was a cheerleader for a couple of years. It was not cool to have pasty white legs while all the other girls stayed tan well into basketball season. I tried what every other red-headed freckled-face girl my age tried: QT, which I believe stood for “quick tan” but for all practical purposes should have stood for QUIT TRYING! It turned us orange. It was pitiful … our cheerleading uniforms were red and gray. You can imagine how pretty my slightly thick thighs looked peaking out like the sun. Those were not glory days for me.
I tried to come to terms with my paleness as a young adult. Then the tanning bed came along. I had to give it one more shot. I tanned, little by little. There are a few pictures of me with that “healthy glow” people seem to think tans produce. I loved it, until I got that little bump beside my mouth that just would not go away.
By the time I saw Dr. Robert Brown, it had spread to the size of a quarter, all under the skin, out of eye view, but lurking quietly waiting to take a good portion of my face. I had 12 surgeries on that one spot. I lost count of the other places, but there were two under my left eye that required surgery in a hospital (along with some of the ones beside my mouth). Skin cancer is no joke. I don’t mess around with the sun or tanning beds anymore.
I have discovered a happy substitute! It’s called sunless tanning, and I highly recommend it! From lotions to mousse, sunless tanning is all the rage!
In fact, I got a spray tan yesterday, and just for kicks I wrapped an old cheerleading skirt around the one thigh it would fit.
Pack the sunscreen, hats and coverups – I’m going to the lake!
Angie Brown is a humorist who loves being a wife, mother and grandmother. She lives in Opelika with her husband of 31 years and four of their seven children.