Being a parent triggers the most unlikely rage buttons.
My stepdaughter and I had a lovely "girl's night" last weekend. As we were jabbering away about school, friends and boys I noticed a pinker than usual glow to her skin and a delicate, slim porcelain line extending from the outer corner of her eye to her temple.
I blabbed, "Looks like you got some sun Leesh." (Totally thinking how absurd that scenario might be this time of year.)
"Yeah, I've been tanning."
My heart began to palpitate. My gorgeous stepdaughter, with a flawless, fair, doll-like complexion, was compromising her health and beauty by baking in a tanning bed.
Ah, yes ... her prom is around the corner ... hence the pursuit of a bronzed glow (with the bonus of that "goggle line") even though she knows we disapprove of her using tanning beds.
Did I do the same thing? Hell, yes. Frequenting tanning salons was a ritualistic habit for me that started my sophomore year.
Those who have indulged know that reclining in the glow of fluorescent violet and azure lights can be as addictive as smoking, drinking or any other pleasurable activity.
My routine became a 30-minute daily tradition in my early 20s. I'd cap off a workout with a post-sweat sautÃ© that left me browner than Mr. Potato Head.
I'm not sure exactly when I finally wised up, but I know it coincided with the crows feet, brow furrow and laugh lines that started making themselves more pronounced around 30. As you age, people around you do too. Friends have "suspicious" growths removed and people get sick. You start realize that past actions do have ramifications. They may not be immediate. Some consequences need to marinate for a while and then suddenly attack to remind you of your historic insults in the most direct of ways.
But, just because I abused tanning beds in my more reckless years doesn't mean my stepdaughter should.
Let me make all of the mistakes for her.
If I could take back those hours spent roasting to a crispy brown, I would. The premature aging that feeds my pursuit of wrinkle creams and the fear of skin cancer at the sight of any slight new shading to a freckle is not worth the momentary increase of melanin by my melanocytes.
I'm right there with California. The land of beaches and bikinis has outlawed the use of tanning salons for minors, making one less worry for parents of teenagers in pursuit of a dangerous aesthetic practice.
(I am aware that outlawing anything won't stop an activity, but it seems to help when arguing with an intelligent teenager to say something is "illegal.")
Ya know, I originally sat down to write a manifesto on outlawing and systematically destroying tanning beds, but there's something more than anger at artificial UV light here.
This is far more about "do as I say, not as I did."
Am I a hypocrite?
But, I'm also a parent.
I want to protect Alisha from all of the danger the big, bad world presents her with. I want her to make intelligent decisions based on more than just fleeting satisfaction. I am responsible for teaching her to do the right thing, to make difficult decisions, to be a good human being, to learn to be healthy and to respect her body.
I realize she'll experiment and make plenty of mistakes.
I just don't want her to make my mistakes.
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