Now that I’m well into my 60’s I’ve learned a few things. I know that eating 400 calories of Dove dark chocolate every day does not contribute to a healthy lifestyle. I eat a well-balanced diet, most of the time, but there are times when I fall off the veggie cart and jump on the fatty wagon. The ride can last for months, and 10 pounds later I’m crying in front of the mirror.

I love to be tan too. UV light is beneficial to human health because of its mediating natural synthesis of vitamin D and endorphins in the skin. To me, that says it makes my skin feel good. Unfortunately I might have gone overboard. I’ve learned that as a child living at the pool, life-guarding most of my teenage years (while bathing my body in Crisco shortening), and scorching like a burger on a grill in the tanning bed would take its toll on my skin.

Right after my birthday I underwent my first surgery to excavate a basal cell cancer from my face. I knew then my past had caught up with me. I’m lucky. I have a friend that’s had five removed from her face. Modern technology and fabulous surgeons have minimized our scars, but there still there.

For years I’ve watched and ignored the breakdown of the layer that holds everything in place. All I have to do is look at the inside of my crinkled thighs and the troughs assembling at the edges of my eyes to see the damage. Some call those mini trenches around the eyes laugh lines. That’s all nice but lets get real. They’re fissures made from too much sunlight.

Sun exposure, UVA and UVB, and its best friend, tanning beds are obviously one of the major culprits behind skin cancer. According to skincancer.org, unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects, or mutations, that can lead to skin cancer (as well as premature aging), hence the crinkled thighs. These rays can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancers. Yet, I yearn for the healthy glow of a tanned face. But that all changed after my last visit with my dermatologist. She chastised me and basically ordered me to put a towel around my face if that’s what it takes.

There are people who continue to deny this danger and cook themselves to the color of a burnt hotdog. I want to smack them up against the head but that’s their business so I’ll stay in my lane. My second daughter has porcelain skin. She isn’t happy about it but she understands in the long-term she will dance into the 50s, 60s and beyond with an unscathed cladding. Kinda wish I was born pale.

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