Stayin' Pasty - 08.30.99

The summer is finally starting to wind down, and even though it's still fairly hot out during the day, nights are getting cooler and before I know it, the leaves will officially start changing color and falling from the trees. As I look in the mirror after spending numerous hours in the sun, I see one thing that has definitely changed from summers past; I'm still not tan.

While I've known about the effects of the sun and the damage it can do for quite some time now, I'd never really given it a ton of thought until this summer. When I was a kid, I was out almost all the time during the middle months, most of the time with my shirt off. By the time that the beginning of August rolled around, I had a nice brown hue from never putting on lotion or creme and not giving much of a care about it at all. I'd swim hours at the pool, ride my bike and play in the yard without even thinking that I was getting burnt. Even when I'd get a particularly vicious burn, I wouldn't take that knowledge with me and eventually I'd go right out and do it again.

As I got older, the scientific data came more to the forefront about the dangers of tanning and I went through a period where I was actually out in the sun a lot less and therefore didn't really have to worry about it. During my last couple years of high-school and my college years, I worked a job all day during the most brutal hours of heat during the summers and really only got out at night or early evening. By then, the suns rays had lost most of there power and I'd be safe. Even during those summers, though, I'd inevitably end up going out into the sun on some random weekend and get burnt severly because I'd again forgotten to protect myself.

Then finally, last summer I told myself that I was actually going to do something about it. I worked during the days again, so most of the times that I got out were at night, but again I had a couple slip-ups on weekends where I didn't remember sunscreen and ended up getting burnt despite my good intentions. By the end of the summer, my arms from the mid-bicep down and the back of my neck and face were a noticibly darker shade than the rest of my body and it again made me mad that I hadn't really done anything to stop it.

This year, however, I finally got really serious. Around the end of March, when we first started having some sunny days (it even snowed here right about the beginning of April), I went out and purchased some 35 SPF (from that point lovingly referred to as yogurt) ultra sunblock, and set it in a central location in my apartment, just so I would see it whenever I was going out and further engrain that I would be wearing it all summer.

As soon as it started getting warm in April, I'd slather on a layer whenever I knew I would be outside for more than 30 minutes continuously between 9am and 7pm. A couple times, I headed out on a bike ride or rollerblading without any lotion on, but within 3 blocks or so of leaving my apartment, the sun hitting my unprotected skin set off sort of a buzzer in my head and I'd turn around and go for home again, not turning around until I'd given myself a shiny coating. With only one full day left in August, I can actually say that I didn't forget sunscreen at any point during the summer.

One good thing about this of course is that I didn't peel even once this summer. It's probably only the 3 or 4th time since the age of 7 or so that I didn't lose a layer of skin somewhere on my body due to becoming burnt and shedding it. Another good thing is that I didn't get hardly any color to my skin this summer. Although I naturally have a little darker complexion than most people, there is very little difference in the color between my lower and upper arm, and that's a good thing by me. Like most people, I used to think that a good tan looked cool, but in the past couple of years especially, my opinion has shifted completely the other direction. Instead of seeing really tan people and wishing I looked like them, I look on them more as if they're unhealthy. It's not an elitist attitude, it's just one that's come from being burnt and peeling one too many times for my liking and seeing the repeated effects of tanning on people that I know. Cancerous cells just don't do it for me.

One bad thing is that although I remembered to wear sunscreen every time that I went out in the sun for extended periods of time, I didn't always remember to wash it off when I came back inside. Every once in awhile, I'd just plop down in front of my computer upon arriving home without bothering to wash my face before the nightly shower. In the morning, I'd be greeted by a rather large zit of some sort, reminding me of the pore-clogging abilities of 35 SPF. Still, I'd rather have a zit than a malignant melanoma.