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Sunscreen

July 5, 2010

It’s that time of year to be putting on lots of sunscreen, and almost every time I slather myself in the stuff, I remember something I read a few years ago. I don’t remember where it was, but someone commented, “All things being equal, fat people use more sunscreen.”

I remember how annoyed I was by that when I first read it. The fact that I still remember it, and that it still rankles, shows just how much it impacted me. I understand what the person was saying, which is that fat people have more surface area because of their larger size. That much I can’t and won’t argue with.

It was the “all things being equal” bit that still gets to me. Whoever wrote that, I thought, couldn’t have ever been fat because then they’d realize that there’s no such thing as equal in that realm. Yes, fat people have more skin, but they are far less likely to expose that skin to the sun and therefore require sunscreen.

It’s not just that they’re less apt to be doing lots of physical activity, although that’s certainly true, but they’re also less likely to be venturing outside at all. For instance, I spoke recently with a man who once weighed 642 pounds, and he commented that when he weighed that much, he never went anywhere except for work and maybe the grocery store. I don’t think for him it was even a matter of being self-conscious – it was just that physically it was exhausting for him to move around much. So he wasn’t going to be using sunscreen.

Even for those who do venture out, I suspect we’re far more likely to cover up than people with more svelt physique. I was thinking of this while watching my niece put on sunscreen before going swimming in her two-piece bathing suit. At her age (14), I never would have worn a bathing suit like that. I hardly wore bathing suits at all, or shorts, or short-sleeve shorts. As a result, I never really ran into the issue of having to use sunscreen except for on my face and maybe my lower arms, and those areas are only marginally slimmer than they used to be, if at all.

So, yes, I suppose if all things were equal – if fat people could get around as easily as thin ones, and if they exposed all that extra skin to sunlight in the same amounts as other people – then yes, they would use more sunscreen. But we’re not in that world. In this one, nothing is equal, and I think I could pretty safely say that thin people, in fact, use more sunscreen.

It’s that time of year to be putting on lots of sunscreen, and almost every time I slather myself in the stuff, I remember something I read a few years ago. I don’t remember where it was, but someone commented, “All things being equal, fat people use more sunscreen.”

I remember how annoyed I was by that when I first read it. The fact that I still remember it, and that it still rankles, shows just how much it impacted me. I understand what the person was saying, which is that fat people have more surface area because of their larger size. That much I can’t and won’t argue with.

It was the “all things being equal” bit that still gets to me. Whoever wrote that, I thought, couldn’t have ever been fat because then they’d realize that there’s no such thing as equal in that realm. Yes, fat people have more skin, but they are far less likely to expose that skin to the sun and therefore require sunscreen.

It’s not just that they’re less apt to be doing lots of physical activity, although that’s certainly true, but they’re also less likely to be venturing outside at all. For instance, I spoke recently with a man who once weighed 642 pounds, and he commented that when he weighed that much, he never went anywhere except for work and maybe the grocery store. I don’t think for him it was even a matter of being self-conscious – it was just that physically it was exhausting for him to move around much. So he wasn’t going to be using sunscreen.

Even for those who do venture out, I suspect we’re far more likely to cover up than people with more svelt physique. I was thinking of this while watching my niece put on sunscreen before going swimming in her two-piece bathing suit. At her age (14), I never would have worn a bathing suit like that. I hardly wore bathing suits at all, or shorts, or short-sleeve shorts. As a result, I never really ran into the issue of having to use sunscreen except for on my face and maybe my lower arms, and those areas are only marginally slimmer than they used to be, if at all.

So, yes, I suppose if all things were equal – if fat people could get around as easily as thin ones, and if they exposed all that extra skin to sunlight in the same amounts as other people – then yes, they would use more sunscreen. But we’re not in that world. In this one, nothing is equal, and I think I could pretty safely say that thin people, in fact, use more sunscreen.

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