May 25, 2011 at 11:00 am , by Julie Bain
After a cool, rainy spring in New York City, the clouds part, the sidewalks steam and suddenly it’s hot. And sunny. My love-hate relationship with the sun kicks in and I can’t decide if I want to turn my face up and bask in it—or shield myself and run.
All winter long my black tights, leather boots and long-sleeve sweaters were like armor. But now it’s time to reveal, once again, who I really am: a pale woman of northern European descent who doesn’t tan but burns—and gets skin cancer.
When I was young I desperately wanted to be tan and sexy like my friends who rubbed on baby oil and turned a lovely shade of mahogany. Instead, I became porcine pink, which often peeled and even blistered a few times.
When I was diagnosed with my first basal-cell carcinoma in my 20s (the first of several skin cancers to come), I had to change my thinking. I thought of Scarlett O’Hara and other literary heroines who were deemed beautiful for their creamy white skin (well, mine was more freckled and blotchy, but whatever). And I started wearing high SPF sunscreen, shopping for cute hats and directing my feet to the shady side of the street.
I’ve made peace with my whiteness, although it’s still a bit of a struggle every spring to peel off the tights and strut those alabaster legs with confidence. Or to mingle among the bronzed and sleek set (that’s me in the photo, above, last Christmas, perhaps the whitest person in Florida). But hey, I love the hat!
Seriously, though—skin cancer is on the rise, especially among younger folks. So as we head into Memorial Day weekend, think about embracing your whiteness (you know who you are!) and making sunscreens and hats a habit.
Of course, people with any color of skin can (and do) get skin cancer and need protection, too. This Friday has been deemed Don’t Fry Day by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Lots of other organizations, such as the Skin Cancer Foundation and even the Environmental Protection Agency, are supporting this day of awareness with useful info on how to protect yourself. And our story “Screen Test” in the June issue of LHJ has helpful advice on how to choose, and apply, a sunscreen that’ll work for you. Have a great summer—and save your skin!
Oh, and here’s Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” from 1967–one of the best songs ever!