I'm going to do some catching up, so if you're a devoted reader you probably will figure out where you are in space and time. Otherwise? You may be clueless. If so, I apologize, but then… it IS my blog, right?

Awhile back I asked you to respond to a pop quiz on your sun and/or tanning habits. Thank you to everyone who responded. Where did this come from? (Besides the fact it is summer and we're all exposed to more sun?) I am a ghost. I am, and have always been very pale. Although I am a red-head now, I am not a "natural" red-head. I have not tried to hide that fact from anyone, it is just the way it is. I have the red-head complexion, however. I have whiter than white skin and, yes, freckles. Everywhere. Because of the sunscreen in my makeup and the makeup I wear, the ones on my face stay pretty much "under cover", but on the rest of my body? Thick. My mom has freckles, too, although she tans… and she used to say if her freckles would just all run together she'd have a pretty good tan. Me too. If it wasn't for the freckles, I would have even less color, if that's possible.

Growing up I wanted to tan in the worst way. I had a gorgeous cousin (think dark-haired Angolina. Yeah. What gawky teen needs to compete with THAT?) who would naturally tan a deep, dark, golden brown. She'd share her "tips" with me. Not content to broil in baby oil, she would slather Crisco on herself. She reasoned if it fried chicken to a golden brown, it would do the same for her. It did. We won't mention the smell, but hey! The things we do for Beauty, right?

I tried it all. All it got me were sunburns that, even if you couldn't see the red would make me violently ill. I think it was radiation poisoning, really. I would get the shivers and shakes and my very bones would ache for two or three days. Not to mention the pain of touching any part of my body with… anything. I could cry to put on a shirt or a bra if the straps didn't line up exactly with the swim suit straps (and woe to me if I pulled the straps down because I didn't want tan lines! Uh huh… you know what I'm talking about…) I would slather this stinky lotion on that had some cooling ingredient (can't even think what it is called now, but it stunk to high heaven!) and would put on aloe, but to no avail. Then, for all my torture, it would develop blisters a few days later and I would go through the molting phase. Big sheets of skin and yuck would come off, to be followed by the worst of all… the itching. Oh.My.God. The itching. Especially bad when it was on your back. In the middle. You know, where you can't reach? Just thinking of it gives me the willies.

I would try and help my tan along by the use of Coppertone Sunless Tanning Lotion. Here comes the "old folks" line… "Back in MY day"… yeah, well, I don't know how much they've improved the sunless tanning products, but back then it was stinky and you had to be particularily careful on your knees and elbows and um… palms of your hands… yeah. I went through half the summer with a carrot-orange body and even brighter orange palms. Who was I fooling? No one. If the smell didn't give me away, the color sure as heck did. Still? It was the thing to do, you know.

Finally I got a little smarter and just said "I'm a white girl who is very, very, white"… and started slathering on the 40+ sunblock and calling it life.

What reminded me of this so vividly was a woman I saw in the grocery store the other day. It was someone I knew, more as an aquaintance. She didn't see me and in my anti-social avoidance mode, I didn't approach her. What shocked me was that at first I didn't recognize her because she looked so OLD. I mean, really, really old. Wrinkled, prune-face, lips all bunched like a smoker (she doesn't)… I took more than one look to make sure it was really her. It was. You know where I'm going with this… yes, she was tan. Yes, she always tanned. Yes, she is one of those women who gets deep, dark, gorgeous tan in the summer and works at getting there. In our younger days she was beautiful and I was envious. Now? She could have been my older sister… and she is at LEAST ten years younger than I am. Seriously.

Yes, I'm concerned about skin cancer. After my youthful indescretion flirting with the sun I've had one spot taken off my back and have a couple others I'm watching. I worry about my children and their sometime flirtations with the sun. At this point? I'm really glad that I never was one of those people who "tanned", as I may have continued frying myself in Crisco until I became a piece of overcooked leather. Remember, sun damage doesn't usually show up for several years as it gets into the deeper layers of your skin and it is only when it finally is uncovered that you see what you actually did. I'm hoping I've gotten past those stages by now…

If you are one of those people who "tan" or are out in the sun a lot – please use your sunscreen. I can't impress upon you enough how important it is. Not only for your health, but to honestly look better… further down the road.