Skin City
July 30th, 2016

Dermatology differs from other forms of medicine in that whenever you pay a visit to one you’ll come away looking and feeling worse than when you went in. You’ll either be smarting and blistered from being zapped by liquid nitrogen, or you’ll be in stitches and swathed in bloody bandages. Patients still in the waiting room will recoil at the sight of you. Some will gather up their things and beat a hasty exit.

post op nose

Such is the price I am now paying for having spent a great deal of my younger days in the sun, including three summers as a lifeguard. I did not wear a shirt, I did not wear a hat. I used no sun block. No, in those days I slathered my body with cocoa butter and baby oil. Teenyboppers in bikinis would gaze admiringly as I sat basted and bronzing on the lifeguard stand. My coworkers once placed me on a pedestal after I went into the water to save the life of a young boy—no matter that dozens of innocent sea birds and fish perished in the resulting oil slick.

homestead lifeguards

In time a lovely tan will fade and a sunburn will stop stinging–but alas, human skin doesn’t fully recover from prolonged exposure to sunlight. Instead, the damage accumulates, so that by the time you get to be my age, skin cancers begin to appear. So here is my advice to all you young’uns out there: Before you head out for the pool or the beach, slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, and slop on some sunscreen!

Also, if you happen to be of northern European descent—as I am—think about adding gloves and an overcoat. In days of yore, such was the custom. Here, for example, is a picture of my maternal grandmother and two of her friends, out for an afternoon stroll among the mine tailings of Eureka, Utah.

Three Sports Eureka 1918

Their husbands, meantime, didn’t have to worry about skin cancer, since they labored underground. Okay, so they all died young of silicosis or were crushed to death in cave-ins—but, still, no skin cancer. Silver linings, silver veins—it’s all good.

Some more helpful advice: Should you have a fair-skinned daughter of marriageable age, encourage her to seek out a mate from a country close to the equator. Your black or brownish grandchildren will be much better equipped to survive on a warming planet. In the meantime, until such time as Mr. Trump’s “experts” can figure out just what the hell is going on, I propose an immediate ban on all immigration from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and especially Scotland.

-Richard Menzies