This summer I am going to live dangerously.
I am going get a suntan.
How can I ignore the mounting medical evidence that exposure to the sinister rays of the sun can cause skin damage? How can I bare my body to the risks of premature aging, sun poisoning and even cancer? Why do I continue to go for the golden tan when safety lies in the shadows?
Because it has become impossible to obey all of the warnings about what we eat, wear, breathe, touch, drive or inhabit--to cope with that endless parade of hazards past, hazards present and hazards future.
The ghosts of hazards past are the most difficult to exorcize.
Will the dental X-rays that we received regularly during childhood come back to haunt us, their cumulative impact more dangerous than the cavities they prevented?
Did our grandmothers, mothers or we take drugs that will cause genetic defects in our children or their children?
Was the paint we chewed off our playpens leaded or unleaded?
Worrying about whether we are walking time bombs is enough to cause some of the medical problems that themselves are the result of worry and tension.
Even the ghosts of hazards present often appear when prevention is no longer possible.
Approaching the last bite of a tuna fish sandwich while listening to the radio not long ago, I was stunned to hear a newsman report the recall of a million cans of tuna because of possible contamination. Racing to the trash can, I tried to retrieve my oily can from under the orange peels in time to match the serial numbers on the can with the 17 digits that marked the tainted tuna. I was too late: the announcer already had moved on to a story on Three Mile Island.
Food and fear now seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Danger lurks down every supermarket aisle, with additives, preservatives, diglycerides, caffeine, sugar and salt hiding in foods where you least expect them.
If food doesn't get us, something else will.
There are hidden and harmful substances in our homes: asbestos in our floor tiles and insulation, chemicals in our wall paint and water supply. Even the clothes we wear cannot be trusted: they may not be fire retardant but we can't tell because the labels faded 100 washings ago.
Even our workplaces work against us: the equipment installed in our offices today may cause headaches, dizziness and disease tomorrow.
Who knows what future hazards are waiting in the wings? Surely scientists will discover an ailment caused by overindulgence in video games--to be called Pac-Mania.
If we try to escape these many hazards, chances are that our getaway car will be recalled for faulty brakes or defective steering.
All of the evidence would seem to prove that life itself has become "unsafe at any speed."
That's why I am going to get a suntan this year.
I am going to slather on the latest sunscreen and soak up every ray in sight. If I have to do things that are bad for me, at least I can choose one that makes me look good.