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Hole Lotta Love

Carcinomas for tan-crazed Caucasians

Wifey biked home from work at her usual time, in the heat of a late summer afternoon. The screen door creaked. “Hi Honey, I’m homo!”

“Hullo, mine dahlink,” I finished washing dishes and grabbed a towel.

“How ya doin’ Shweetie Pie?” Keys jingled into their basket, her daypack plopped into a chair. 

She sure looked cute all sweaty and flushed, hair bent into yet another creative rendition of helmet head. 

She stepped in for a hug and I pulled her close, forgetting, for a sec, about my back full of fresh wounds. 

The local anesthetic had worn off, our embrace reminded me. I was instantly aware of my four newly bandaged and very tender holes where just that morning the dermatologist had removed four suspicious growths. 

“Ow!”

My spirits were sore, too, having gone through this skin cancer thing only one year ago. I’d noticed a little dot on the top of my ear, small as a freckle, and sure enough, it turned out to be what I guess you’d call The Little C. Removable, but I needed a special surgical procedure, the details of which I’ll spare you.

I emerged from the surgeon’s office with a big honking gauze-and-tape bandage holding my left ear out at a jaunty angle. 

Wifey, sitting vigil in the waiting room like the loyal — if still not legal — spouse she is, greeted me. Her pity frown told me that after a couple of hours under the knife I didn’t look so good. I tried to make a joke. “Do I look like van Gogh?” “No,” my ever-truthful Domestic Partner replied, “more like Dumbo.” I was dubbed “Van Gumbo” for the rest of that summer.

I’d been looking forward to my year-later check up, confident of an all-clear verdict. I mean, come on! Hadn’t I just spent a year avoiding the sun? Worn a sun hat and long sleeves? Worked out in an indoor pool? I certainly never exposed my back to the sun. Well, not recently. 

Yeah, I came of age in the white-people-trying-to-be-brown crowd. We lived to “lay out.” Slathered in baby oil, my skin all but sizzled. As far as I knew, sunscreen hadn’t even been invented. For years, I prided myself on an all-over tan, cultivated at Southern California’s nude beaches and the privacy of friends’ poolside yards. One summer I met some other tan-crazed Caucasians who were into doing nude Yoga. Upside-down you can tan a lot of otherwise unexposed areas. I had a great tan! 

Eventually I, unlike a certain political party, came to believe science. Over-exposure to UV rays can kill you. My skin’s early-catch carcinomas are testament to that inconvenient truth. And yet tanners and the tanning industry are still at it, despite scientific proof that tanning beds are even more carcinogenic than the sun (and you can fact check that!). Some people don’t want to believe it. Just like they don’t want to believe we’re pumping too much carbon into the atmosphere and too many chemicals into our food. We can’t go on ignoring the damage. I can’t. Especially not with my holey too-sore-for-hugging back. 

“Oh, right. Sorry, Sweetie.” Wifey lowered her grasp where there’s plenty of huggable real estate. “Let’s put up the umbrella and sit in the shade.”

Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow has been alerting EW readers to life’s perils and joys since 1999.