Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trust me on the sunscreen.

When I was in college in the late 90s there was a speech that was all the rave. The speech was written by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

In Morgantown, West Virginia it was played on the radio with music in the background. I nearly had it memorized. It was one of those speeches that sticks with you, and even 14 years later still resonates. But now, for me, one part of message is particularly clear: wear sunscreen.

Whether you're running, playing outside or just going for a stroll - do it.If you're going to be outside, you should be wearing sunscreen. In 2001 I had a suspicious mole removed that was melanoma. Luckily it was caught early, and the doctor able to get it all. I have family of friends who were not so lucky.  Eleven years and 5 additional suspicious (but luckily not cancerous) moles removed later, and I am a sunscreen fanatic. It's in my moisturizer, my make-up, my lotion, everything. When I garden I wear a hat that contains SPF 50. When I see people tanning or bragging about not wearing sunscreen I want to scream. Because you have one set of skin your lifetime. If the cancer doesn't scare you, the wrinkles should.
Floppy SPF hat is a must in Mexico.
 When I was younger I spent hours at the pool wearing tanning oil - you know Hawaiian Tropic. The good stuff. Sometimes baby oil. Ouch. I didn't wear sunscreen even once in my entire life until I had skin cancer. Now it's almost like a religion. So seriously people, my unsolicited advice remains: wear sunscreen.

And with that, I'd like to share Mary Schmich's eloquent words:

"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '98: Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.


  1. Oh, I loved that sunscreen speech! I was just thinking about this!! How did you know? Thanks for this post!!

  2. It's pretty much the best speech ever. I wish I'd written it!