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My edit for the day

The thing about print media is that it’s absolute. This is something that I had trouble explaining to my clients in the early days of web design. “Print is static,” I’d explain. “The web is dynamic.”

They’d want to get their website “perfect” before it “went live.” I knew they’d be shocked at how often they’d want to change it, or their customers would want them to change it. I tried to warn them. Some of them got it.

Fast forward to these days, and print is positively last century. My husband and I did a lot of soul-searching before we canceled our newspaper, a huge deal for us. We love print. We love paper and ink and having books on our shelves.

But as a writer, I’m very happily in the digital age. Every time a piece comes into print, I start thinking about how I’d change it, what I’d add, what I’d leave out. But there it is, sitting in piles outside your favorite local kids’ clothing store. I have to let go, and let go I do.

But then again, I have a blog! I can fix things!

First up, my article about sunscreen in this month’s GUISC. Right after it went to print, I realized that I forgot The Whole Point that I should have been making. Oops. Sometimes we forget things.

It has to do with what was going on in my life three weeks in June: I sent my pale, obstinate, little wonder-child off to day camp. Pale: she needs sunscreen. Obstinate: she decides when she wants to do pretty much anything. Day camp: a place where they like to have fun and not be School, which is where they Make Kids Do Things.

Thus: I’m guessing your child’s camp is like my child’s camp. As I was writing the sunscreen article, and telling the world of Santa Cruz Parents how important it is to reapply it every two hours, it occurred to me that I’m a major offender in that category. I dropped her off one day and asked, “So, do you have a sunscreen reapplication time at noon, since you’re outside so much in the afternoon?” The camp leader looked at me thoughtfully, “Now that’s a good idea,” she said. “No, we don’t.”

I didn’t get the sense that today would be the day they’d start. Let’s face it, getting one obstinate child to apply her sunscreen sometimes ends in a battle of screaming, head-tossing, and occasional nasty language. Doing 30 of them? At summer camp? Gimme a break!

So here’s what I should have said in my article: It’s a great idea to ask your child’s camp whether they have sunscreen re-application time, and remind them that all sunscreens, regardless of variety, degrade in the sun and heat and need to be reapplied every two hours.

[Yes, the cynic in me is saying, Good idea: Fat chance!]

A few days later, a homeschooling friend sent a link to this blog about the various unknowns and partial-knowns about what a good sunscreen is and the possible dangers of ingredients in the sunscreens we use, and this website with recommendations of sunscreens that don’t have these possibly dangerous ingredients.

This is something I would have taken longer to decide whether to commit it to print. As you may have noticed, I don’t jump on every single bandwagon that rolls by. A lot of those bandwagons are driven by people who just love to drive bandwagons! They hear about a new supplement and they just want to be on that bandwagon! Then they hear about a dangerous pesticide and they want to be on that bandwagon!

Like anyone, I’d be pleased to have been in the right, say, when European doctors were prescribing thalidomide to pregnant women and American doctors said, Wait a second, we’re not so sure about this. But I also know that I didn’t jump on the bandwagon that was trumpeting a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, which has now been soundly disproven. (This may be a cartoon, but this is the very best summary of the whole thing I’ve read.)

So, you may freak out when you read that an ingredient in sunscreen is suspected of encouraging certain cancers. I, the daughter of a scientist, am rather more cautious. So about that I would say: consider keeping current with the recommendations about the types of sunscreen to use. For now, the Skin Cancer Foundation knows more about it than you or I do, and they’re still saying sunscreen is safer than repeated, blistering burns.

Feels better, too.

I say this as a card-carrying member of the highest skin cancer risk group. Not only do I have pale skin that pretty much never tans, and I get freckles, and some of the freckles have become darker and raised up in recent years, but as a child I knew nothing about sunscreen. I lived in Michigan, where I felt victorious if I could get a sunburn after a whole day being outside in the sweltering heat “laying out” with my friends (who always got beautiful tans, of course!).

When I was in high school, I went on a school trip to Mexico. It was a mind-opening experience, and I loved it till our last stop: a beautiful island off the coast near Cancun. There I sat on the beach and giggled when a Mexican boy sat down next to me and said, “You and me? We kees?” and I smeared on a little of whatever cream someone in the group had brought.

That night I was in agony. The next day on the plane, I was ill. For the next week, my body was in revolt, not from Montezuma’s revenge but from the second degree burns all over my body. My mother, not usually squeamish, enlisted my older sister to peel the skin off me in sheets. I was left with a lot more freckles, and a new statistical likelihood in my future.

In other words: Protect your children. Keep a watchful eye on what comes next in sunscreen research, but until then, do what is better than letting them burn.

That’s my edit for the day.

Posted in Culture, Health.

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