Friday, January 14, 2011

My Rant About Tanning Beds

It's a good thing that I don't have cable TV or satellite anymore; I would use up far too much time.  I spend enough time as it is with our limited Netflix selection, library movies, and TV shows on the internet.  On our recent getaway to the city, our condo had cable TV, and I took advantage of watching all the TLC my husband could put up with when we weren't walking around the city.  I love "Say Yes to the Dress," and, generally, all the wedding and baby shows.  I caught a couple of episodes of "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" and I still can't fathom how somebody could not realize that they are pregnant at 8 or 9 months along!  I know I've probably written this before, but I would have thought I was suffering from some cruel disease if I didn't know I was pregnant with all of my pregnancies!  And with my baby bellies, there is no doubt that I'm pregnant from about three months on.  I was in maternity clothes in the single digit weeks this time!  It actually sounds fabulous to have a baby without, in a sense, being pregnant.  Although knowing that you're pregnant serves a very useful purpose of preparing yourself mentally, and eating healthy.  I write this after eating two peanut butter chocolate chip muffins.
Another show I watched for the first time was "My Strange Addiction."  Strange, indeed.  The show is actually very sad, and, like many TLC shows, verges on capitalizing on people's struggles for TV ratings.  I hope that such shows at least help their subjects and other people deal with similar situations.  One young woman on the show was interviewed for her addiction to tanning.  She visited three different tanning salons DAILY, and had done so for several years.  This  just confirmed in me my wish to see tanning banned for minors.   This sounds harsh, but I really think that many teenagers are not equipped to make educated decisions about their bodies that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Isn't this the same reason why we don't allow the sale of cigarettes to minors?  It seems pretty simple, actually.  UV radiation is a proven carcinogen, just like cigarettes.
The pressure to "look good" is so overpowering in the teen years, and the pressure comes from all angles.  The young woman on the show started tanning when her father bought her a tanning gift certificate as a gift.  The pressure to look tanned outweighs any fleeting thoughts of future health for most people this age.  I know that most girls are more concerned about how they will look for prom or grad than if they will be diagnosed with melanoma in five years.  If the average teenager is anything like I was, she can't imagine something like cancer actually happening to her or somebody her own age in the near future.  I never imagined that my husband would get cancer at 24 years old.  And no, he's never been to a tanning bed!  I'm always astounded when otherwise intelligent adults even visit tanning beds.  Especially when they use the "I'm just going to get a base coat before my tropical vacation" reasoning.  Isn't it better just to avoid getting too much sun on your vacation?  I wish I could turn back time to undo the few bad sunburns that I had in my teens after visiting the Philippines and Hawaii, especially now that I know that it's possible to go to such places and not get sunburned if you are diligent.  I've been to Mexico twice since then, and never got a sunburn.
Thus ends my rail against tanning beds.  For now.  I know I get a little worked up about these things, and that it's a result of my experiences.  I respect the fact that adults have the freedom to make choices about their bodies and their health.  There's definitely a balance between being smart about not harming your body, and venturing into paranoia about the unavoidable risks of everyday life.  I just believe that tanning, like smoking, is one of those things that is clearly harmful to your body, and totally avoidable.  I remember when my husband was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, some young teenaged boys stopped me on my way into the drugstore to ask me if I would buy some cigarettes for them.  I wish I had the emotional wherewithal at that moment to explain to them that I was going into the drugstore to pick up a prescription for my husband (an insanely expensive prescription, nonetheless, which I had to inject into his arm) who was sick at home with cancer.  I wish I could show them that they could be us in ten years, newly married and excited about life but, instead, dealing with the prospect of death.  So, no, I can't buy you cigarettes to get you there faster!  And I won't buy you a gift certificate to the tanning bed either.  Okay, rant is really done now.

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