For years my daughter, now a lovely 20, has teased me about my lack of interest in tanning. She considers the sun her great friend and thinks she looks best when she is suitably tanned.
Having grown up in Utah, I have had my share of the sun and of sunburns. In recent years my increasingly unprotected head has probably received far too many ultraviolet rays. When people noticed my head and face showing too much of a tan, I considered it a symbol of health and respectability.But I never felt that same deep affinity for the sun that Kelly feels. On cloudy days, she can become morose, and when the sun comes out her spirits brighten as if there were some tangible connection.
Suddenly, tanning has lost its respectability. The pale look is "in." Since numerous experts have decreed that any tanning of the skin constitutes actual damage, there has been a marked movement away from the sun. Worse than that are "tanning booths" where people maintain an even tan from artificial light when clouds persist overhead.
Such tanning can be a prelude to skin cancer, probably several years down the road. Such news is devastating to the sun worshipper, and Kelly is having trouble with it. She really has no desire to come to grips with the pale look. She thinks she needs the sun and prefers to tuck all of the unpleasant advice from me and the experts in the deeper recesses of her brain. Like Scarlett, she will worry about it tomorrow.
As for me, I have been converted to sunblock number 15, affording maximum protection not only against cancer, but the long term effects of the sun such as aging and wrinkling. Although my skin tends to be naturally oily, I spread more of it on before I mow the lawn or work in the yard.
Sunblock does work, and it is easier to take than wearing a ridiculous hat with a visor or a floppy hat with a wide brim. My head seems to be shaped strangely enough that I look funny in all hats and I perspire so much that I quickly feel the uncomfortable urge to rip it off my head.
So sunblock it is. Yet I have probably done whatever damage I did through the sun years ago, when I was Kelly's age. So when I wear the sunblock or the funny hat, maybe I am really trying to extend protection to her.
Maybe this new fastidiousness toward the sun represents a psychological attempt to act out what I wish Kelly would do. When she went to the beach the other day I asked her, "Got sunblock 15?"
She said, "Dad, this is a GREAT day. I have to take advantage of the real sun!"
Parents, of course, have limited influence by the time a child reaches the age of 20. At a much earlier age, I could have insisted on sunblock. Now I just hope that subtleties will sink in.
She and I are amazingly alike in many ways. When she had a sore throat recently and the doctor prescribed Erythromycin, I remembered that it upset my stomach badly. She said, "Oh, oh, Dad. I will probably have the same trouble. I inherit everything from you - except your baldness!"
I said, "How do you know you haven't inherited THAT one, too?"
She laughed it off. Two days later she had to change her prescription to Amoxicillin because of an upset stomach.
We have similar senses of humor and invariably laugh at the same things, no matter how outrageous. In spite of her mother's brilliant sense of direction, Kelly inherits my marked inability to interpret maps. She does very well in history. And, dare I say it? I think she even looks a little like me. (Although she is MUCH more attractive than I ever thought of being!)
On the other hand - at the sun we part company.
I continue to spread number 15 even across my baldpate and I'm cultivating an interest in the floppy hat with the wide brim. Kelly continues to bask in the sun with all its brightness, looking bronze and beautiful.
But I still hope that someday soon she will realize that "pale is in."