Biff America column: Repercussions of dalliances with ultraviolet rays
It has been said that the ’60s were the era of free love, hope and promise, while the ’70s were the decade of excess. (Say what you will about free love, but you can’t argue with the price.)
But after all that excess and free love, the chickens came home to roost in the ’80s. That was when America learned that those good times came with a tariff. In the ’80s, much to my surprise, I learned that both sex and sun could kill me. Being one to not take my health for granted, I immediately began wearing protection (sunscreen).
I can’t remember exactly when, but I recall two consecutive front covers of Time or Newsweek that alerted America to the health risks of both casual sex and sun exposure. More concerning was the fact that even if you heeded the warnings immediately, your past behavior could come back to haunt you.
There was an ad featured in the print and electric media that stated, “When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone that person has ever had sex with.” To me, that sounded like a bargain, but then I came to realize that perhaps I was missing the message.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
I’ve always been high strung and a bit of a worrier. But luckily, I have two lifelong friends, Keith and Clete, who did not worry about anything. When we weren’t getting in trouble or arrested due to their lack of concern for rules, laws or repercussions, their counsel was exactly what I needed to put things in perspective.
For some reason, I was not as concerned about the “wages of sin” as I was of the recompense of sun. It was just after reading the scary skin cancer issue of Time when Keith came by. He entered my home without knocking, and before he could say a word, I blurted out, “I’m going to die of skin cancer!” Keith grabbed my last piece of pizza, took a huge bite and between chews said, “No, you will die worrying about skin cancer.”
Again, the revelation of the dangers of sun was for me even scarier because the repercussions of past behavior could not be lessened by future conduct. I was in my early 30s, single and with a complexion like a bottle of milk before I learned that all those cool suntans I had during my summers of working and recreating outside could come back to bite me.
Thus far, I have dodged the bullet of my past sins. After 23 years of marriage fidelity, I’m out of the woods indiscretion wise, but my past sun sins are still a worry. Like most outdoor enthusiasts — skiers, bikers, hikers — I apply sunscreen before going outside. The difference is, I apply mine with a paint roller. Also, while recreating, whenever I’m not wearing a helmet, I wear one of those wide-brimmed floppy hats that block the sun. This is also a great preventive measure for keeping young gals from flirting with me, since the hat makes me look like Wilford Brimley.
So Far So Good
For the past several years, every six months I stand dressed only in my finest boxer shorts as a team of dermatologists huddle around me, like an Indy pit crew, inspecting and freezing suspect spots off my alabaster skin. Other than the fact that I come away looking like a Dalmatian, so far so good.
Recently, my doc suggested I head off future problems with a new and innovative treatment called photodynamic therapy. (The treatment was originally called “putting your head in an oven,” but that name lacked curb appeal.) This is cutting-edge stuff. The treatment goes beneath the surface skin and finds cells that could turn into something bad and kills them. Pretty much you actually do stick your head in an oven-like box full of lights for about 20 minutes and the process feels like someone is frying eggs on your forehead. The good news is it is covered by most insurance.
After the treatment, you have to remain indoors, in dimly lit rooms, put on sunscreen before you open the refrigerator, and your face looks like you are victim of a nuclear accident. My mug resembled a peeling pomegranate. And if that doesn’t make you unattractive enough, you are required to wear a floppy hat indoors and out.
Other than the preventive benefits reaped from this procedure, there are aesthetic rewards, as well. Once all the dead, red, scaly skin falls off, what remains is smoother and less splotchy. According to my mate, now that I’m healed, I look really handsome. She said this while taking her glaucoma medicine. I can’t help but think what a hit I would be were this the free-loving ’60s and I had more energy.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Mind, Body, Soul,” is available at local shops and bookstores or shop.holpublications.com.