Recently, on a hot day in late summer, I found myself droning on to our 21-year-old babysitter about the importance of sunblock. She looked at me blankly as she carelessly rubbed more baby oil on her tanning body and shot her umber face up to the sun. Yep, baby oil. I remember when girls did that. I also remember the Sun-In and lemon juice in the hair. That was never my style, though. I was shocked to see that this sort of reckless sun worship was still in fashion. So, I forged forward in my lecture. Desperate to convince my young friend at least to do me the favor of SPF 15, it’s the least she could do. I was passionate about this because I love this girl and don’t want her to end up with skin cancer (which seems to be an epidemic these days) but also because in my old age, I’ve noticed that my skin is holding up pretty darn well… and I’m PSYCHED about it and want to spread the gospel.
So here is the secret to eternal youth, as far as I’m concerned: Go goth. Go goth as young as you can. Read every vampire, creepy, gothic, ghoul-y book you can. If you’re a mom of a young one, push silent films, Bela Lugosi, even Twilight. Get them psyched to coddle their translucent, nubile skin. Reminisce on all the old good music – Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, The Damned, Joy Division, Love and Rockets, Siouxsie and The Banshees, This Mortal Coil… So good, right? Need I go on? If you are the mom of a goth, don’t get freaked out, embrace it! Oh, how I loved it all in my sweet teens. I remember trying to find the whitest make-up out there – okay, I still do that. But at the time, there wasn’t much out there. I remember séances, deep purple lipstick, séances, velvet Betsy Johnson dresses bought on sale, black eyeliner, shunning blush, ripped fishnets… Hmm, still not really so different from today.
My favorite goth adventure took place on my 14th summer when my parents were exhausted by my shenanigans – rightfully so. My best friend and I had recently “borrowed” her fathers car, driven down the main drag in town, passed my mom on the road and ducked when our eyes locked, hers in horror, mine in fear. As if she might not realize that her 14-year-old daughter was in a car, driving, without a license. Not cool. Heads will roll if my daughter ever attempts such a thing! That was merely the cherry on top. So, in an act of genius and creative punishment, our parents sent us ghostly pale, righteously gothic, creeper-wearing teens to a YMCA camp called “Suntan Special”.
It’s rich, isn’t it? It’s so wrong, so genius. I tip my hat to their Machiavellian plot. Let me tell you about the camp. It consisted of 30 or so of us kids, in a school bus, traveling the coast of California, stopping and camping at beaches, in search of the perfect tan. Tanning, camping and Goths don’t mix. So off we went, pale and scowling into the big yellow bus. We spent the majority of our days huddled under swaths of black clothing and parasols (no goth is safe without one). The final destination of the camp was Disneyland, where I did get my parents back by getting arrested in Frontierland by an undercover cowboy, but I’ll leave that for another time.
My point is, I spent what are, to most teens, prime tanning years as white as a ghost. I truly believe that this respite from the burn has left me much better off in adulthood. So kids, get out your black maxi dresses and blood red lips. Parents, don’t be afraid of your teens turn to darkness, embrace it! Coddle it! Promote it!
Here are a few tips for a more balanced, less ghostly skin saving regime.
- Always wear sunscreen; I never leave home without it, even in the winter. I opt for 30 SPF or above, always. I especially like those new powder sunscreens. I’ve recently heard that the aerosol kinds are highly ineffective, so check it out before using. The powder ones are especially great to dust your kids with too. You can trick your daughter into thinking it’s make-up.
- Floppy hats – get the squishable kind that you can throw into a bag, suitcase, wherever, without worrying that it will get ruined.
- Sunglasses are also a must and very glamorous.
- Layering in the hot days of summer – I try to find cute bedjackets, Victorian shrugs, lace-y wraps, anything I can hide under if stuck in the blaring sun for too long.
So, my silent movie sisters of darkness, take care of yourselves! No tan is worth illness or bad skin! Besides, it’s a great look heading into the Halloween season!