Knowlege is Bliss: Ignorance is Bothersome

Numbers were designed to explain; but how the hell do you explain this?

I admit; I am a shopaholic. I love shopping, I love the thrill of the hunt, especially when I find or am presented with a bargin. I’ve decided among other things that with my single status going on 9 months I’ve replaced sex with working out, shopping and various forms of education. I had been looking for a way to combine these distractions to ease an already hectic schedule of being single and fabulous (!) and luckily for me all three of my diversions appeared at the once place where I go to relax: the gym. Today’s generation of Manolo-females and us Manolo-lites are of two mindsets. We are either exercise-addicted health fiends or lazy couch-bums who gorge on all the fast food/junk food we can get our hands on. I subscribe to the fitness-trend, with a sprinkle or two of the pleasures of fast food, and as such I was at my gym yesterday, a gym that I have been a fiercely loyal client for the past 5-going-on-6 years of my life, despite the bad-rap it has gotten with its rude employees and money-hungry managers. Angelica and I were walking up the stairs after our exercises, one of the front-desk agents stopped us and asked if we would like 3 tans for 10$. What began as a seemly harmless gesture ended up being a semi-battle of wills which as a consumer I don’t think I should ever be involved in.

I said no, stating that I do not tan and also tanning is dangerous, especially in beds and besides, I’m already a good colour to start the summer season. The front-desk-agent, let’s call her “Ana”, proceeded to give both Angelica and I the sales pitch of how tanning is actually safe, how it’s the UVC rays that cause cancer from the sun but are not present in tanning beds, how you establish a base by tanning therefore reducing your risk of burning in the summer etc etc etc; all to the dismay of myself, a student of life sciences and more importantly an educated and informed consumer. I retorted with facts straight from a doctor that tanning is actually dangerous, any kind of tanning, as it causes mutations in your DNA leading to melanoma, or in other terms skin cancer. Here is where things get funny; Ana, sensing Angelica’s pull towards my point of view, decided to break out the “well we all have cancer card” to sell those 3 tans and help the gym make their quota of tans. Now, I am not a business-savvy person, and I could not sell any product if my life or my Manolo’s depended on it, but could someone please tell me what the hell kind of sales pitch is that? “We all have cancer”… I was so in shock I couldn’t even articulate myself to this kind of ignorance. I hate to break this to everyone, but we all don’t have cancer. Our healthy cells at this very moment are ensuring that we do not have cancer by either fixing the mutations that are occurring during DNA transcription, or failing that isolating and destroying the cells with the mutations that they cannot salvage. So why would I want to put that glorious mechanism through more work unnecessarily, especially after helping it out by exercising for 2 hours? And even if I do have or get cancer, I wouldn’t want to waste my immune cells in destroying a form of cancer I can easily avoid, like skin cancer. I’m of the opinion that you don’t “get” skin cancer, per say. You give yourself skin cancer by not protecting your skin either outside or inside. And to have Ana trying to convince me to PAY to give myself skin cancer? Does anyone else see the ludicrousness of this concept?

Apparently not, as the people this gym decides to employ certainly think otherwise or at least they are trained to think otherwise. I think the most aggravating part of that conversation was the fact that we were the only clients she stopped to give the special “discount” too. Was it because we were girls? Or was it because our generation is addicted to that pseudo-glow we get after spending 20 minutes in a tanning bed? Skin cancer is on the rise, especially in the 18-35 brackets of consumers with disposable income. It is a testament to our instant gratification mindset; instant tan, instant weight-loss, instant “health”? Yes you look better with a tan, but only on the outside. The damage that can be done where it counts, at a molecular level, is irreversible and dangerous and plain old stupid. I find it ironic that the gym I belong to, a home-grown success that claims to put health and wellness as a top priority for all its clients, pushes a product that is known to cause cancer and to use the excuse that well we all have it, might as well look fabulous while we can. Why don’t you just sell me cigarettes while you are at it? At least those puppies calm me down after listing to this projectile ignorance.

Now I try to make it a point not to down-talk anything I haven’t tried, with the exception of foods that everyone knows is just plain nasty, like eyeballs (don’t laugh; I’m sure they are a delicacy somewhere). I have been tanning in a bed before to see if a) I would really burn less with a base, b) I look and feel healthier and happier, and c) just to see what the big deal is. Let me tell you, I still burned when I went overseas despite the base I presumably established and SPF 50 I slathered every day, I looked tan but not happy, in fact I looked just as tired as I did before, and the tan faded within days so in order to keep up the façade I had to return multiple times, and c) … there is no big deal.. You get naked, slather cream on your body, put goggles on and lie there for 10 minutes. The lotion smells lovely but that’s about it.

An interesting thing I had noticed after going tanning for a few weeks was after a while I would feel better after I tanned, kind of like an instant pick-me-up, almost addictive, so I can understand all those tanorexics out there who simply cannot stop going to their local tanning salon. I have a friend like that, Daisy, who tans frequently and for long periods of time. She feels better afterwards and the glow is quite nice, but up close her skin looks aged despite the fact that she is younger than I am. I can only imagine that in a few years of continuous multiple tanning sessions, Daisy’s going to look 35 before she is 25, which is a shame because she is a pretty girl who got caught in the tanning-frenzy that is my generation.

Knowing all of this I eventually had to turn away once another front-desk-agent started to give Angelica the same “information” that “Ana” had just finished speaking about. Seriously, just because 2 people who work at a gym tells you something is safe doesn’t make it so, especially when a doctor, a dermatologist who also happens to be a friend of mine insists that it is not. Really, I don’t care where you work, with the exception of a hospital and I am calling you doctor or nurse, because in the end a gym and any other corporation’s main concern is with the bottom dollar. They had a quota to fill, and we fit the profile of who could do just that for the company for that month.

But in the end Angelica and I walked our pasty-pale asses home without the 3 tans for 10$, because although the inner shopahoic tells me that is a good deal I’d much rather have that 10$ and a few extra years on my life than a fake-and-bake tan, helping to display for everyone to see my gullibility and the pleasure I receive from destroying my own body. Except I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how my generation is perceived, as mindless spend-thrifts looking for the next instant fix to all our problems, whether it be darker skin or quicker weight loss. The Manolo-female has paved the way for younger versions of themselves to follow this trend; I certainly hope any Manolo-lite who is reading this now will join me in avoiding this lemming-trap and spending our hard earned money on something worthwhile… like shoes.

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~ by Carrie on July 13, 2006.

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