Suntan: A Partial Grief Observed

Do you remember when you first heard that suntan was bad for your skin?

I was in my early twenties. I remember such sadness. Oh no!  No more tans?  No more baby oil?  No more covering record albums with aluminum foil to catch the rays in early spring?  No returning from the beach in August to praises of “You’re so tan!”

I tanned for a few more years. When I had my first patch of pre-skin cancer removed from my face, I got more vigilant with the sunscreen.

But I’m still sad. I miss those days of being pleased in the evening when the day’s latest tanning emerged on the skin. I miss putting out my forearm with a buddy to see who is tanner. I miss “Where you at the beach? You’re so tan.”

Or am I that sad? Remember how the sunburns felt?  Horrible.

Remember when the peeling started up on your nose?

Remember when a cloudy day at the beach was devastating news? My friend Mari Fran Miller said it to me thirty years ago: “You know, I’ve started to enjoy my vacations more now that I don’t worry about getting a tan. I can relax.”  She’s right!

I’m happy for the next generation. Those who are careful, as my girls  are, will probably look younger than I do as I approach sixty. At the moment, that sounds pretty cool to me.

What about you?  Do you miss the fun of getting a tan? Do you allow yourself a light one (as I do on legs and arms)? Any favorite sunscreens?

Sunbonnet Sue: And don’t you wish we could go back to the Sunbonnet Sue generation to see how those ladies looked at sixty?

My friend Marilyn Chinis gave me Sunbonnet Sue, above, a sachet that once belonged to her mom. Thanks, Marilyn!

 The lady below, Bertha Corbett Melcher, is known for her Sunbonnet Sue designs. She began by illustrating, The Sunbonnet Babies, published in 1900. The character was soon picked up for a primer series, and Sue began to appear on postcards, china, and quilts.

12 thoughts on “Suntan: A Partial Grief Observed”

  1. Same thing I preach to all my friends. I am a melanoma survivor and now as of yesterday battling again. I created my blog on so people like you and many others can follow along on my journey for a cure of melanoma. My main goal is to inspire others either battling or that knows someone that is battling. Positive Energy Activates Constant Elevation.


    1. I just started scrolling through your website. Thank you for the good work. Even after my Mom died (only weeks after her stage 4 melanoma diagnosis) I STILL wasn’t being watchful enough. My doctor discovered an abnormal shaped and colored mole during my yearly exam. It was biopsied and was indeed the pre-cancerous aplastic nevi. How long would it have gone undetected by me if she hadn’t seen it? Who knows. Maybe too long. I credit her for saving my life. I could have seen it if I would have been looking. It’s not enough just to casually look in the bathroom mirror. Take a magnifying glass or a magnifying mirror ESPECIALLY if you need reading glasses, like me. Three years after my Mom died, I was NOT checking my moles properly. Thank you for reminding people to get smart.


      1. And thanks for your comment Patti. I’m sorry about your mom. I need to get to the dermatologist soon, especially for those moles that are hard to see (cause they’re on your back.)


    2. Thanks so much for the link to your excellent blog. You’re doing a great service both in reminding us to be mindful of melanoma and providing support for those with melanoma. PEACE to you as you undergo more treatments.


      1. Thank you very much. If you don’t mind, spread the word to your friends & family. I am trying my best to give inspiration to others as much as possible. Thank you and God bless.


  2. I used to tan b/c I thought I looked better although I hated to lay out in the sun & get hot and sweaty. I gave it up early but the damage to my skin had already been done. I’ve encouraged my girls to love their fairness and, luckily, they do! Sure hate to see some of their friends heading to the tanning booth – instant skin cancer!


  3. I always freckled and burned and envied my friends who tanned. Now I’m a sunscreen addict, mostly Neutrogena products, but leave it off my legs so I can absorb the Vitamin D that is inhibited by sunscreen. I pretty much hide at the beach under a hat and long sleeves.


    1. Isn’t it more relaxing in a way? And now you don’t need to feel envious of your friends! I like Neutrogena too.


  4. As a teenager, I used to lay out with all the girls with our baby oil and iodine concoction. My siblings and I had many opportunities to peel skin off our sunburned backs. Not good. Also did the tin foil under the neck thing. REALLY smart, eh? The thinnest skin and the fastest to age. Sheesh. I am a blond/green-eyed person who should, in the words of my dermatologist, “live in a bog.”

    Fast forward. We moved to Florida about 10 years ago. My Hubby and I spent many happy days on the Gulf. We set up an umbrella and used the super-sunscreen Bull Frog. I never burned, but did tan. I shocked my family on my first trip back to Wisconsin after living in Florida for one summer. My legs were tan. To put it in my brother in law’s words, “no more fluorescent legs!” He actually used to call me “White.” I liked the way my legs looked.

    Then my sister had three bouts with basil and squamous, successfully removed. My Mom wasn’t as fortunate. She died within weeks of the stage 4 melanoma diagnoses she received in 2006. Then… (yes, there’s more) I had an aplastic nevi – bad mole – removed a few years ago. My chances of developing melanoma (or other skin cancers) just jumped by 75%. Now I have a yearly full-body check at my dermatologist office.

    I wear a hat, sun-protective clothing, stay out of the sun, and use Dermalogica skin lotion with spf in it daily, even if I don’t go out in the sun. HOWEVER, there is also a great deal to be said for the Vitamin D I’m missing. (I read Dr. Mercola and try to follow his lead.) SO… I try to sit out with just my legs exposed in the sun at noon for about 15 minutes. I then scurry back in and that’s it. I also take Vitamin D supplements. You wouldn’t think I’d need it in Florida, eh? But, because I actually get LESS sun exposure in Florida now than I would in Wisconsin, I have to.

    That’s my story. Do I miss my tan? Yup. But, I have had people tell me my skin is really nice (compared to other women in Florida my age.) They will usually add; “You don’t go out in the sun, do you.”

    My Mom always told me (when I was young) that my skin was ‘translucent’ and that I should stay out of the sun, like Scarlet O’Hara. I should have listened to her, but it’s not too late.

    And, yes, Barbara, I do need to blog about this again, especially since the whole Vitamin D thing has been so hotly debated recently. Dr. Mercola claims lack of Vitamin D is just as detrimental to us as overexposure to sun. There is a happy medium, I’m sure. Just have to be smart.

    Thanks for bringing up this fabulous topic.


  5. You would think as a cancer surviver I would be more careful, but I am not. On the other hand, I am not a tan-fanatic. Quite honestly, I get too bored just laying on the beach or by the pool. However, I heed the wisdom of you all and doctors too when it comes to my babies. Today happens to be “spalsh day” for my daughter at daycare and I spent 15 minute lathering her up good before taking her in. And they are great about reapplying sunscreen during the day. But I digress. Thanks to you, Barbara, and this blog and this post I think it is time that I practice what I preach – and suntan be darned ;-).

    PS – I swear by Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 for my daughter. Since I already have a ton of it I might as well use it myself!


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