It’s true. I do not use sunblock. I do not own sunblock, and if I were to disregard the fact that my mother would slather up my sister and I on beach days when were wee ones, we can say I’ve never used sunblock. Why? Because I’m an idiot.
Thanks to my French, Irish and Swedish heritage, I spend the majority of the year pale. Being pale in January is fine, but once the spring hits, I want to be less pale; I want to be tan. However, my complexion does not allow for insta-tan as it would if I were of Italian or Spanish decent, so instead I burn, baby, burn (disco inferno). In my life I have had so many burns that have resulted in severe blistering that I’ve lost track. The worst one was in high school when I thought it appropriate to lay out on a warm March day, in the middle of the snow that remained on the lawn, so as to get a “jump-start” on the summer ahead. What followed was a blister on my left cheek so severe that the doctor said it would result in massive scarring once it finally healed. But days and weeks later, there was no “massive scarring,” so I continued about with my usual stupid behavior.
A few years later while in Punta Cana, my sister and I decided to cover ourselves in the coconut oil we bought from the locals, then take to the beach. By the end of the day we were both so severely burned and blistering, that the resort’s doctor told us to stay out of the fucking sun for the rest of the trip. We spent the next several days fighting over what to watch on TV and ordering enough room service for a small army of very large people who cannot survive unless their intake is upward of 10,000 calories a day. Again, we both recovered and my love affair with the sun continued.
I’m well aware of the damage that can come with too much sun exposure, not only because of my own history, but I have loved ones who have had run-ins with melanoma. I’ve also taken into consideration the wrinkle factor every time I lay out, but since I actually don’t have any wrinkles (yet!), it’s hard for me to take this concern seriously as well. When I tell my mother I’m headed to the beach or a friend’s roof deck, she always asks if I have sunblock. I lie and say, “Yes,” to which she responds, “I know you’re lying, but it’s your life — skin cancer isn’t going to be pretty.”
The thing is that because of my complexion, I don’t even get tan — if we’re to compare me to those who actually tan. I get tan for me, which is roughly two or three shades darker, but I don’t get brown, nor would I want to like crazy, obsessed tanning woman. I think what it comes down to is that I love the sun, I need the sun to be happy, to keep my emotions in check and for some reason, I have it in my head that sunblock will stand in the way of fully soaking in all that goodness. I’m also a beach bum at heart. As a New Englander, I’ve always gone running to the beach the first warm day of the year, even if it’s as early as March, and I don’t fully abandon it until late September. Without even a slight exaggeration, it is indeed a love affair.
As I sit here, once again lobster-red from laying out on a friend’s deck this past weekend, I’m finally starting to contemplate just how irresponsible I’m being. Eventually the wrinkles will catch up with me and I fear that skin cancer is pretty much a guarantee; it’s not only the most common cancer in the U.S. but with statistics like “one in five Americans will develop some form of the disease in their lifetime” and “nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma and 13 million are living with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, typically diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma,” it truly does seem inevitable.
So as a gift to myself and a promise I made to my mother yesterday on Mother’s Day, I plan to use sunblock for every outdoor event going forward. It will be tricky, mostly because I’ve seen my friends look weird and streaky because they didn’t apply it correctly, but I will absolutely make a valiant effort.
Any tips on how to avoid the streaky sunblock look? And am I really the last one to not use sunblock or is everyone lying to me?