By now you’ve probably heard the news. Tanning beds are dangerous. That’s right. The WHO … (World Health Organization) … not the English rock band is advising that tanning beds can increase your risk of cancer by 75 percent and are as dangerous as cigarettes and arsenic.
Now, tanning beds have been around for a while. They were a pretty big deal when I was in college, which was closer to twenty years ago than I’d like to admit. I will however admit to a short period of time during those years when I was a frequenter of the coffin of enlightenment. But all that changed when my mother told me they could fry your ovaries. I didn’t know much back then, but I did know I’d like to reproduce at some point in the future. So I quit, cold turkey. I had paid for a certain number of tanning sessions and didn’t even use them all. I was done … all on my mother’s unscientific and unproven claims of internal organ damage that she probably read about in the grocery story check-out lane.
That decision was backed up one day as I was renting a movie. I was about to check out, when I saw an old woman standing at the counter. Her skin looked like an ill-fitting, leather body suit and all I could think was that she needed to spend a little less time in the sun. Just then she turned around and said hello. It was a girl I knew … a girl my age, who used to come over to my apartment to hang out with my roommate and me and lay out at our pool … for hours and hours. She’d stay out long after we were done and was a lover of the tanning bed as well. I’m not a doctor, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this girl was addicted to tanning. Nothing could have prepared me for how my cute, sweet friend looked that day. It had been at least a year since I had seen her and I barely recognized her. She looked like Magda from There’s Something About Mary.
That encounter changed my relationship with the sun and all its artificial cohorts. Oh, I dabbled in tans in a bottle, only to be disappointed by the orange streaks and discolored palms. Nope. It’s not for me. My people are fair-skinned. My mother is a red-head, who has been covered in freckles since childhood. While I should probably wear sunscreen more often, I make sure to wear it when I know I’ll be in the sun a lot. I’m also a fan of the big, floppy gardening hat. Yep, I may be turning into an old lady but at least you can’t tell it from my skin.