In my teen years I worshipped the sun!! In March with the snow just beginning to melt I'd strip down as far as circumstance would allow and bask in the glorious warmth of the sun. I missed the sun during those long cold winter months. Though sometimes like a cat, I would stretch out in the golden rectangle on the red shag carpet of the living room floor only to wake shivering with the sun's long shadows stretching out the horizon.
In the 80's all the flesh in magazines had that healthy bronze glow. Unless you were Boy George or Madonna. After a while even Micheal Jackson was more pale than most magazine covers. But I digress. Everyone thought tanned looked healthier, fitter, better and more "in".
So every year I would "work" on my tan religiously. And though I am of mostly Nordric heritage (5/8th Norwegian, 1/8th Swedish, 1/8th English and 1/8th Irish/Scottish) I could actually successfully tan. Somehow I really believed I could win the tanning contests I had with my friends.
My favourite tanning story happened just before Junior High graduation. White dresses were all the rage and my best friend Holly and I thought a tan "bod" would really look really "hot" in contrast against the glistening snow white fabric. So I was over at their country home on Black Sturgeon Lake for a sleep over. It must have been a PD Day or something because we had the whole house to ourselves. It was a hot and sunny day and we wanted to tan.
We carefully planned our strategy. Discussed pro and cons of tanning on something white or black. Trying to devise the perfect set up to insta-tan. Give us a head start over all our winter pale friends. Somewhere in the brainstorming session, perhaps thinking of old MASH episodes, we had a stroke of genius! Holly's dad had some sheets of corrugated metal along the side of the shed! Perfect. Now tanning oil. What could we do for tanning oil? This is in the 80's mind, there was no SPF anything. It was Coppertone oil, best with coconut scent. Holly scanned the cupboards for last year left overs, but that was many snowflakes ago and no proper tanning oil could be found. We could use cooking oil couldn't we? It's basically the same thing right? Now these crucial elements decided, we were on to deciding bathing suits, topless or not, etc. Once outside we decide to lay the shinny metal sheeting on the hill around the corner of the house and out of sight from any rare boaters that may pass by. Laying the sheets down we squinted against the sun's reflection and learned how those battle sheilds of ancient times could come in so handy in war.
With the angles just right so we would have no shadows casting uneven rays, we were set. We oiled up and giggled at ourselves as we carefully eased down and sprawled out on the now slick metal. In a short while we were hot and wishing we had a spray bottle to spritz down with. You know, so we could tan faster and stay out longer. Always the creative improvisers,we decided to use the garden hose to cool down and while we were at it hose down the metal. Sun reflects off water too right? Shiny silver metal just wasnt enough of an accelerant. Now slick with oil and water the 15 minute turn for evenness took on new challenges. We giggled how we were roasting ourselves just like turkeys. Yup, we were turkeys alright.
We spent a long night continuing to roast in our lobster red skin. We couldn't wear our own clothes. The pain was just too great. Holly's mum leant us a couple of her flowered cotton moo moos. We slept a top the covers, grateful we were at least in the cool basement.
I treated with noxema and my blistering peel gave way to a decent tan in time to make that white dress really pop!
That was the worst burn I have ever had. Honestly though I think every year I get a burn some place or another. Increasingly I wonder if I will ever,ever learn and remember that I am beyond Haole white and embrace my Nordic Heritage. Maybe when I'm forty? Will I get it then?
As health conscious and aware of skin cancer as I was you'd think I would have taken precautions, but I would glibly dismiss it saying, "Old people get skin cancer. By the time I'm old they'll have a cure." No worries. Until as a 24 year old I sat in my American Cancer Society office of my first post university job and wrote out the receipt for a donation made by a fresh faced college girl in memory of her young roommate who had died. As I consoled and heard her sad journey, I learned that skin cancer had been her killer. It was a wake up call for sure. I changed my ways, still I'd burn accidentally every now and again and I'd hope that my past wouldn't get me.
Sometime right around age 24 a perfect, rich beauty mark appeared on my back. Someone once told me I had a sexy back. It was one of my vanities for years. I thought this addition looked like an artist had dripped a perfect drop of chocolate brown paint on my back. I loved it.
Ten years ago a demotologist at a skin cancer screening told me to keep my eye on that one because I wasn't born with it and it was largish. As a new mum I took this seriously and have been watching it ever since. I noticed some changes, but chalked up to my fat expansion stretching it. Three years ago my doctor and I had decided to remove it, just for my peace of mind. But I found myself newly pregnant as the day got closer so I cancelled, seeing as it wasn't really necessary.
About two weeks ago I scratched my back and felt something that wasn't there before. My mole had morphed. So tomorrow morning I will be having a wedge of skin cut off. Being flayed is an unsettling thought. We don't know or even think it is cancer, could just be hormones making it change. Good thing the lab gets it! What would I do with it? Bury it? Keep it in a formaldehyde jar? Better safe than sorry. Better cut than cancer.
Hey! Whatever happened to noxema?