Fat-shaming and bullying are phrases that we hear a lot lately. But for all the flack people get- and rightfully so- about calling people fat- somehow it still seems perfectly okay for some to continue pale-shaming. That is- trying to convince, or bully, pale-skinned people into getting a tan.
I grew up in the late seventies, early eighties. In the Malibu Barbie era. The greatest summertime hobby of most of my friends was slathering their bodies with baby oil and tanning under the hot sun for a good majority of every sunny day.
I admit I did try it- once. But it was the all-time epic fail of tanning.
We were on vacation in Florida. My older sister always “tanned well,” but I was the one my parents would make wear a t-shirt, hat and gobs of sunscreen- or whatever it was we used at the time.
I was the one, complete strangers would approach on the Florida beaches to warn about the sun. “Better be careful,” they would say.
Well being a teenager, and allowed several hours of – apparently undeserved – freedom, I slathered the baby oil on and let myself fry in the Florida sun. That night, I actually passed out in the bathroom, and the next morning, I could barely move I was burned so bad.
About seventeen years later, at the age of 29, I would be diagnosed with Melanoma- the most deadly type of skin cancer.
But that would come after many more years of being teased into tanning.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be tan, because that is what the style was then. It’s only natural to want to look like whatever is considered the beauty norm at the time.
But I also was teased for being “so white.” I would dread summer when I had to show my legs and get teased by everyone to “get some sun.” I was told over and over by my girlfriends and some boyfriends that if I just allowed myself to burn, it would “turn into a tan”. That flawed concept might have worked for every other person who tried it- but not me. After I burned, my skin would peel off and the only result seemed to be more freckles.
My ex-husband even went so far as to tell me, that I looked better with a sunburn than normal pale skin.
So, with Spring-break almost here, I want to remind people that it is not cool to shame people for having pale-white skin. Tanned skin is actually damaged skin.
We now know about the harmful effects of the sun. We know that the sun causes skin cancer and that skin cancer kills.
And I know that covering my face up, and learning to limit my time in the sun, earned me less wrinkles than my tanning friends. I look younger than many of them.
But I also have a jagged four inch scar on my left forearm where a surgeon had to dig and cut out my Melanoma.
The only reason I found my Melanoma when I did, was because I had just read an article about the signs of Skin Cancer.
The only reason I’m alive, is because- knowing I was at-risk, I took it seriously and I went to a Dermatologist.
The only reason I didn’t need any chemotherapy at all, was because I went to the doctor as soon as I could.
What you need to look for are called the ABCDEs.
A stands for Asymmetry- Is one side a different shape than the other side?
B stands for Border- Are the edges irregular?
C stands for Color- Are there different shades of color within the one sore, or mole?
D stand for Diameter- Is it larger than an eraser head?
E stands for Evolution- Have any of these ABCD aspects changed, or have they always been that way?
When I had my Melanoma, they only had ABC guidelines. They’ve added the rest since then, but I do remember the part about the eraser head. I waited until mine got to that size, and that’s when I felt it was reasonable to be concerned.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, Melanoma kills an estimated 8,790 people a year.
Last year, Texas became the fifth state to ban tanning beds for minors. California, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont also have those bans in place.
That means that the rest of the states don’t ban minors from using tanning beds, even though they were found to increase the risk of Melanoma by 75%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
With those types of statistics, why wouldn’t tanning beds be banned altogether?
Education is the best defense. Know your skin, check for moles, check for moles that change over time.
Stay out of the sun during the peak afternoon hours. Cover up, wear sunscreen, wear a hat, wear UVA/UVB sunglasses.
And don’t let other people bully you into risking your life. Hollywood has taken notice, and most actresses have gone back to pale skin. Do you want to know why?
They know that aside from Melanoma, scars and death – they are also reducing their risk of wrinkles. And that is something that requires decades of common sense.
To learn more about Melanoma, go to Melanoma.org.