I should have chosen my ancestors more carefully. That was the official advice from the skin doctor at a recent check up. She spoke while wielding a can of liquid nitrogen, with which to zap the precancerous sunspots on my face, so I wasn’t in a position to argue.
These solar keratoses have a habit of turning into carcinomas, so I trot along every year to get them fried off, or to procure a cream that will turn me into Frankenstein’s monster for a week or so.
After the last zapping, my son told me I looked like an ice addict, which only didn’t hurt my feelings because I thought it was true. Also pretty funny.
What else is funny is that one day he’ll be doing the same thing.
Because we can’t escape our genes. No matter where life takes us, we carry with us a reminder of where we came from, of the environment to which our ancestors adapted, no matter how irrelevant it is to us now.
For example, my fair skin is a wiz at sucking up the vitamin D from the tiny doses of sunlight Scottish peasants caught during winter (or summer, come to think of it).
What a shame then, that I grew up in sunny Australia, while the hole in the ozone layer expanded pretty much right above us.
When I’ve been overseas, it’s been dead easy to spot others like me, the Aussie great-great-grandchildren of Celtic migrants – we are the ones with the grizzled visages, the wrinkles and, yes, the sunspots.
We scoff at 15+ sunscreen, and roll our eyes at people who plan ‘a day’ at the beach. A day? I can do two hours, tops, and that’s when I’m in the shade, wearing a hat and sunscreen.
Not that I cared in my misspent youth. I should have listened to my mum, who was one crucial generation closer to the whole Scotland thing. But I was bent on chasing the very pale beige I could turn after copious exposure to the sun, and burning and peeling a few times first.
And now I’m saying the same thing to my own kids, while watching them frolic off in the waves, sans rash vests.
As I said, it’s in the genes. I hope they find a good skin doctor one day.