I’ve always been a little bit shady.
That’s why you’d be likely to find me on the dark side of the street, shrinking away from daylight, my face obscured by a broad-brimmed hat. On the rarest of days, if you managed to see a flash of my exposed skin, bare to the elements, you might wonder, “Vampire?”
And, yes, I am a night creature by nature.
And, yes, I spent years of my childhood protecting my neck with a sheet against the inevitable bite of the vampire who slept beneath my bed.
And, yes, also, I have played a vampire on T.V….actually the stage… in high school, but that’s all grist for a whole other post having to do with my parallel appetites for unattainable men as well as public performance. Like I said, grist.
Tonight, I want to tell you about my skin. My skin, which tends toward freckles, suspicious moles, and cancer.
My skin, which, despite hard work, dedication, and good role models, failed to tan even during long summers spent outdoors at the Community Pool in my childhood Southern town.
My skin, which, reluctantly revealed below short cheerleading skirts caused high school classmates to wonder if I was, in fact, wearing white tights?
No, the answer was no.
Also, I did not offer fries with that shake.
I gave up all efforts to achieve a healthy glow upon learning about my mother’s skin cancer, which resulted from her far more successful tanning work conducted with the following efficient tools: baby oil, tin foil, and, of course, good role models.
But they weren’t such good role models. The first chunk of skin was removed from my mother’s adorable nose when I was still in high school, which puts her younger than 40.
And which also explains her outburst of rage and disappointment at my last, and only, teenage attempt at a tan (conducted with the not so effective tools of a good book and a glass of iced peach tea while lounging on the backyard trampoline).
She scared me… pale?
Since then, I’ve been a fanatical user of sunblock and white reflective clothing. The higher the SPF the better. And hats! And sunglasses with full spectrum UV protection!! And when I go on walks, I seek the shady side of the street.
At the risk of sounding overly worried, let me be clear about the freckles and cancer situation: even my EYEBALL has a freckle, people!
The freckle is on my retina, and my eye doctor has to check its growth to make sure it hasn’t metastasized. Yet. Someday, hopefully in the far, far, far future, I will be blind in that eye.
Health. It is golden. My skin. It is not.
You’ve gotta take care of your health! And I have been. Or so I thought. Because, while I was successfully warding off the Big C, I seemed to have developed this Vitamin D deficiency situation.
My doctor had been after me for years to supplement, which I sort of lied about, reassuring her with vague comments about “pills from Trader Joes” that I knew we kept in the house somewhere. But I was cocky. My milk and cereal were D-fortified, and I figured we don’t need a lot of Vitamin D, because it’s something that our skin makes. And sure, I live in the Pacific Northwest where a lot of people are deficient in D, but hey, we also have especially high rates of melanoma, so there!
But then I took a blood test, and low and behold, my levels were way, way, way below normal.
Huh. Maybe that’s why I hurt all over and am tired all the time?
So I’ve been supplementing. Every. Day. I even have a pill organizer with days of the week and time of day.
And now I go on walks for my health, just fifteen minutes without sunblock.
And you know what, I’m feeling all together brighter, lighter, and just a teensy more freckled.
I’ll see you on the sunny side of the street, okay?