I started paying attention to the character played by Miley Cyrus after her carefully choreographed and rehearsed sass of expectations at the 2013 VMA show. Weeks later, before she played for a sold-out arena in Tampa, the newspaper said she tweeted a “topless” pic of the sunburn she got after “passing out at the beach.”
When I saw the picture, I flashed back to the endless afternoons my friends and I spent on the pink concrete that paved a portion of my parent’s backyard. We devoted hours to laying out, ideally in the heat of the day. The goal was to get a burn that would bubble and peel to a golden tan. Usually, we coated our skin with baby oil; sometimes, we used Wesson — to speed the process, we reasoned.
My friend Kurt’s dad was a pharmacist and around the summer of 1978, Kurt’s dad gave him a bottle of something called sunscreen and said we should all use it. We laughed pretty hard at that stupid idea. There was zinc oxide for noses and Hawaiian Tropic (SPF 2 or 4) for everywhere else. Why would we want to block the sunburn?
It would be too easy to suggest Miley was using Wesson; I’m sure she was demure and went for the baby oil. Give her thirty years and she, too, will visit a dermatologist every six months for a “full body scan” and a lecture on sunscreen.