For those of us Baby Boomers, especially those raised in the South, it was not uncommon to refer to ourselves as Coppertone babies. In the summer, we’d spend most of our time playing outside. In doing so, we’d often wear little more than a pair of shorts. Boys often were shirtless. For the girls, a swimming suit top served the purpose.
There was very little attention given to getting too much sun. Summer after summer, our bodies went through the same cycle ... burn, peal, brown, repeat. There might be a token effort to protect the skin with less than enthusiastic applications of suntan cream. But, in some cases, I can remember walking along Folly Beach and inhaling the sweet smell of baby oil. As a matter of fact, some girls took it a step further by mixing iodine with the oil to additionally enhance the tanning effect.
I still enjoy being in the sun, but we’ve come a long way in understanding the long-term damage produced by ongoing exposure. I rarely wore a cap or even a visor in early adulthood. I eventually understood the toll it was taking and, for years, I wore a baseball style cap to offer a modicum of protection to my head. That, too, has changed recently, though. In the past 12 months, or so, I’ve embraced the floppy hat. Don’t judge.
A head game
Through the years, I’ve had almost half a dozen different run-ins with skin cancer on my face. There were biopsies and a couple of skin grafts along with four or five surgical procedures to remove damaged areas that were the product of just too much sun.
So far, all of my trouble spots have been benign and doctors were successful in removing the damaged cells. Here’s the dilemma, though. If you don’t seek medical treatment for these damaged, bleeding or scaly areas, there’s a possibility those areas can become more dangerous.
If you’ve ever spent any time in a dermatologist or skin cancer doctor’s waiting room, then you understand how prevalent the problem.
When I was chasing that half-rubber ball at the beach as a teenager, the last thing on my mind was whether I had taken the time to apply the appropriate UV protection. During those days, nobody paid much attention to acronyms such as UPF or SPF to keep our skin from literally cooking under a Southern sun. We looked healthy, right?
So, all this brings me back to my floppy hat. I’ve spent untold hours on the golf course during these past few decades. I also now work, in semi-retirement, at the Seabrook Island golf course, spending eight hours a day outside.
It took a while to grow on me, but I now sport the floppy, bucket hat to give my face greater protection. It’s not so much Crocodile Dundee or Indiana Jones in nature. It has a wide brim and if an unexpected breeze catches you by surprise, it will almost get you airborne. Somewhat like Sally Field as The Flying Nun.
It does provide ample coverage for the face and ears, even though skin specialists will tell you most of the damage that we do is done during our youth. It’s the cumulative effect that ultimately takes its toll.
So, for me, it felt like it was time to make some concessions, hence — the floppy hat. It’s not the most stylish look I’ve ever attempted to pull off. I suppose it also immediately screams “old man,” to anyone paying attention.
But a lady recently complimented me on how it looks and indicated she was trying to talk her husband into wearing one. That might be the closest I’ll get to floppy hat flattery.