Monday, June 27, 2011

Witnessing Ignorance During A Good Haircut

My family and I went to our family haircut this past Saturday morning.  Yes, despite having all different hair styles, we tend to get our locks cut during the same hour-long appointment every six weeks.  It works out, it’s convenient, and it’s a money saver.  But I had a little issue with my recent appointment.  Oh, there’s nothing wrong with our hair cuts.  The lady that cuts all our hair does an incredible job and we’re very happy with how we look when we leave.  Even my mother-in-law goes to this gal.  No, my current personal dilemma is related to the fact that the business is a hair styling…and tanning salon.
For the most part, I’ve somewhat ignored the coffin-like beds in the back rooms.  They’re there, but they seem rarely used.  We’ve been going to this establishment for a number of years and I never recall anyone using the beds, until this past Saturday.
An older lady that looked like she was in her sixties was the patron of the tanning service.  She was dressed in a sleeveless blouse and shorts…appropriate for the mid-90 degree heat of central North Carolina.  I could see that her skin was deeply freckled and she was quite tan.  Very tan in fact.  I wondered why she even wanted to use the bed…she was THAT tan.  Her appointment was short…less than 15 minutes.  As she left, she asked if she could come back on Monday.  It turns out that they were going to be closed this Monday, so she immediately made an appointment for Tuesday.
After she left, one of the hair stylists asked the other why the lady was so anxious to return for another tanning session.  It was stated that she was going to the beach for the Independence Day weekend and wanted to get a base tan.  She’d been visiting the tanning bed every day for the past week.
I kept my mouth shut.  While I don’t agree with the use of tanning beds, they ARE legal and it’s the responsibility of each person to decide whether they should use them or not.  (I’ll not get into the tanning for minors debate right now).  This lady obviously decided she “needed” that tan…it’s her choice.  It’s a stupid choice.
I wasn’t mad at the business.  They have every right to have such a business, and I can only assume they run it well within the law.  They seem like really good people, and I won’t judge them based on my personal disgust at the tanning industry.
I was mad at the woman.  Not at the personal choice to make her freckled (and I saw a couple moles) skin look more leathery…but at the example she’s making of herself.  I’m sure she has a child and possibly a grandchild (or maybe she wasn’t as old as she looked)…someone that looks up to her.  She’s setting an example that tanning is okay.  I would bet she’s had a couple pre-cancerous or basal cell carcinoma spots removed in her lifetime…and thus has solidified her opinion that skin cancer can simply be cut out.  It infuriated me to witness her disregard for what she was doing to herself, but more so to the image she was possibly portraying as acceptable to others.
I’m not a picket sign-welding activist type by any means.  My written speech is more effective and clearer than my spoken word.  I almost wish I would have said something to this lady, but I didn’t.  I have to wonder if I can keep my mouth shut during a future appointment should someone else seem to make poor decisions.  I don’t want to jeopardize my family’s acceptance into this hair salon, and I respect our stylist too much as a friend to want to do anything to affect her business, especially in this economy.  This is my dilemma.
Most likely I’ll continue to be quiet, but I’ve realized lately that the word NEEDS to get out more than I share here.  I love sharing my thoughts, and sharing information via my Facebook page.  I don’t plan on stopping for a long time.  At the same time, I wonder if I’m preaching to the choir.
I have some thoughts of how to change that…of how I can get the word out and help to educate those who need to be educated.  I won’t share just yet, but I’ll announce it soon.  (I learned after announcing I would have t-shirts available soon that there are unforeseen issues lurking about.  On which, by the way, I’m still working).  In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your stories on getting out the word…of increasing the community’s awareness of skin cancer and melanoma.
Keep spreading the word while you keep spreading the sunscreen!


  1. I understand that many people have had problems with posting comments to this particular post. I apologize for that, and I hope the glitches can be worked out soon. However, many have shared their stories on my Facebook page of either biting their tongue or speaking their mind. So I'll repost those comments in this comment section for all to read. Thanks,...Al

  2. This comment was sent by Robin...and would make an amazing post all by itself! Unfortunately, it was too lengthy to share all her comments, so I just included her closing paragraph related to whether or not to speak up. I am quite sure she'd be willing to share her story with you if you amazing woman with an amazing story.


    I have been in situations like you but have decided to SPEAK OUT. I gently say it's only because I care & I do not want you to have to go through what I've gone through. Some people might be offended, others thank me. Just two weeks ago when I was conducting an event a mother approached me & told me it was a presentation I did that her daughter attended 3 years prior as to why to this day she will never tan or use a tanning bed. So, my friend, I say to you SPEAK OUT! I wished I had known & someone would have shared with me how bad tanning beds are.

    Best always,
    Robin Lawrence

  3. Here's another comment shared by Rev Carol who posts on FB via the Melanoma Prayer Center. She always offers some great advice and stories and here's what she shared regarding my blog:

    Some people aren't going to get it until they get it. But I have learned not to assume that tanners really know what they're doing. A couple of months ago I got to speak briefly at a Relay for Life event and though I'm not a tanner, I share...d about beds and had melanoma info sheets from MRF. A woman was waiting for me when I left the stage. Her skin looked OLD, she was a tanning bed frequenter and she had no idea (she said) about the dangers and wanted a piece of every kind of info I had and then asked if that was all the info I had! Tanners listen to the tanning bed industry which gives a very different picture than us. Your salon owner friends may even be buying what the tanning bed industry tells them and not know the truth.

  4. Another comment...from Rich who runs the Hotel Melanoma (a great blog):

    Al, fine post. I'm guilty of remaining silent in such situations. (At my 40-yr high school reunion this past weekend, you could spot the leathered sun goddesses from 50 yards. One of my old friends who has been practicing safe sun for many years looks 20 years younger than the rest of her cheerleading squad.) Please keep up your good work-- I'm sure lots of folks are listening and sharing your posts.

  5. This comment came from Jill Sizemore who, along with her husband Eric who is facing a very very hard battle with melanoma, has been documenting Eric's condition on YouTube. You MUST check out their videos...but be warned, it's not easy to watch...but it's important to share:

    Great post. We've been spreading the word through our videos. There is one video that was made for Banning Sunbeds for Jay Allen in Australia. Here is a link to our videos.

  6. Finally, a comment from one of my favorite blog writers, Chelsea:

    Love the latest post. I understand the struggle of deciding whether to speak up or to mind your own business. I think sometimes you have to bite your tongue & accept that you can't save everyone. I always feel a bit ashamed of myself for not speaking up. Just know that what you are doing is AWESOME and I think you would be surprised how many people pay attention. Be proud of what you do. :-)