Wednesday, February 22, 2012
My own "Dear 16-year-old me"
There's a good chance you're one of the 5.4 million people who has viewed the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund's "Dear 16-year-old Me" video on YouTube. If you haven't watched it yet, you should. Every time I see this video, it makes me a little teary eyed, and trust me, I'm not the type of girl to get a little teary eyed. Like the survivors in the video, I have a scar too, and of course I have pangs or regret about tanning (indoors and out) as a teenager and young adult.
A month or so ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a woman who's compiling an anthology of short stories about prom. I jumped at the opportunity to share my story about tanning before prom. Prom was, after all, the breaking point at which my mom finally caved and let me use tanning beds for the first time. While I have no doubt that prom has changed since 2002, I'm sure that tanning is still part of the pre-prom ritual for many.
The million dollar question: How on earth do I tell a 16 year old to not use a tanning bed without sounding like my mother? Touching as this video is, especially now that I've had a run-in with skin cancer, would the 16-year-old Katie have paid attention to the things they say in the video? More importantly: would it have even impacted my behavior? Regretfully, the skeptic inside me says no. On the flip side, these days there are initiatives like the Melanoma Foundation of New England's "No Tanning Pledge Contest" (thank you for sharing Rachael!) By promising not to tan before prom, high school students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, etc. can wish cash and an assortment of other prizes. Again, would this sort of a campaign have appealed to me when I was 16? It's hard to say.
I suppose all I can do is share my story and cross my fingers that it will resonate with someone. Would I have tanned if I knew I was going to develop melanoma at age 23? Probably not. In the meantime, let's hope that more states continue to follow California's lead and pass legislation to prevent tanning for minors. If you have any suggestions on how you'd speak to a 16-year-old about tanning, I'd love to hear it. Leave a comment below.