Sunscreen

In the summer of 1997 a newspaper columnist named Mary Schmich wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune. Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker waiting to get out, she declared. So she wrote one – and it began: “Wear Sunscreen”

Ms Schmich was 43 years old back then. From where I’m standing that seems pretty young – but she clearly had wisdom beyond her years because her article became one of the first internet “viral sensations” (she later declared she’d been high on coffee and M&Ms when she wrote it).

Sadly for Ms Schmich she didn’t get the credit. Truth and the internet have always had a fairly “open relationship” – and the “graduation speech” was mistakenly attributed to the novelist Kurt Vonnegut  (apparently delivered to enthralled students at the Massachusetts Institute Technology).

Why? Well, if you’re a fan of Mr Vonnegut, you’ll see it’s just the kind of thing he would write. Even his wife thought he’d written it and proudly circulated it to loads of her friends and his kids. A bemused Mr Vonnegut was soon besieged by reporters. “What she wrote was funny and wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine,” he told them.

To this day, Ms Schmich is nowhere near as famous as Mr Vonnegut (though she did go on to win a Pullitzer Prize in 2012 and unlike Kurt, she is still alive).  Her poignant, witty graduation speech, however, remains as relevant as ever. Here’s a link to the original.

Why am I writing about this? Well, it’s one thing to recognise great advice but quite another to actually do something about it. Will I really dance the Funky Chicken on my 75th wedding anniversary? I think not. But one thing I can do – and Ms Schmich declared it her most important advice – is to wear sunscreen.

Like most parents, I’m great at telling the kids how to live their lives while disregarding what I’m saying when it comes to myself. “You need to protect yourself! I implore them, completely oblivious to my steadily frying shoulders. Which is crazy because I’ve got moley skin – I look like a garibaldi biscuit when I’m lying on the beach. We all need to be slapping on the Factor 50. But do you need to spend a fortune on the top brands in order to stay safe? Apparently not.

There are few things in life that delight an old skinflint like Dad Dancer so much as learning that you can get something that is good and cheap. The consumer watchdog Which? recently tested 14 high street sun products – and the only one to fail a test was one of the most expensive. According to the tests, you get better protection from the Aldi product, at a quarter of the cost.

So, with the Costa Brava holiday fast approaching, I’ve decided to road test three cheapish brands. Aldi’s own brand Lacura, Nivea – and one called Altruist. It was launched by a skin cancer surgeon from Kent who believes good sun protection should be affordable. For every tube that’s bought, 10p goes to a charity in Africa that helps children with albinism. I’ll post an update in a couple of weeks.

 

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