Ask Amy: Sister worries about danger of tanning

Tribune Media ServicesMay 21, 2013 

DEAR AMY: I am really scared for my younger sister. My mom has let her start tanning in tanning beds.

Because we have a history of skin cancer deaths in our family, I can't figure out why my mom would let my sister do this.

My sister is now addicted; she's been to the salon at least 40 times this year, and she's only a freshman in high school!

She says she plans on tanning this much for the rest of her life. She says she can't use spray tan because she has very mild eczema on her ankles, so it would look blotchy.

Is there anything I can do to stop this? I know my mom is hurting her and lacks good judgment, but what she's doing isn't illegal, so I don't know where to turn. I read that someone dies from skin cancer every minute in the United States, and I'm afraid at this rate one of them will be my sister. — A Concerned Sister

DEAR SISTER: I have read truly alarming studies showing both the prevalence of "indoor tanning" and the very real dangers of using tanning beds, especially for teens and for those with a family history of skin cancer.

There is also evidence that tanning may be addictive for some people. Theories about the reasons for this include underlying issues such as depression and a distorted body image.

The implication here is that your mother is not only an enabler (allowing your sister to hurt herself) but also possibly a pusher (providing funds, rides to the salon and encouraging this dangerous habit).

Introduce your mother and your sister to the stories and studies quoted on the Skin Cancer Foundation's informative website: skincancer.org (search word "teen"). Several states have restricted or outright banned the use of tanning salons for teens. Research the laws in your state, and if you find this salon is violating state laws, contact your state's attorney general's office and Better Business Bureau.

DEAR AMY: My parents never married, but my dad was a beloved part of my life until I was about 11. Then he moved across the country.

He barely spoke with me at all during my teen years, and we lost touch in my 20s. I felt abandoned; it still hurts. A couple of years ago I contacted him, hoping for a real relationship and an apology.

I got neither; he said he "just wasn't dad material." His longtime girlfriend, however, is interested in fostering a relationship between me and my dad. He never calls me, but she does. If I call their home, she answers, and he's never available.

She's sweet, but her efforts have become yet another reminder of how much he doesn't care. I have little interest in maintaining a relationship with her alone; it just hurts too much. I'd rather go back to little or no contact, but I don't want to hurt her. How should I handle this? — Confused Daughter

DEAR DAUGHTER: Your father's deficiency has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him.

You are not likely to receive an apology from him, so stop seeking it. Work through your own sadness with a goal to accept this reality and move on from it.

Families come in all shapes and through many different relationships. Your father's partner might be an ideal family member for you, as long as you stop viewing her as a way to connect with and get what you want from your dad.

It sounds as if she is seeking a daughter relationship with you. If you no longer want to be in touch, you are going to have to honestly let her know. When you communicate with her, thank her for her efforts and her kindness.

DEAR AMY: The letter from "A Worried Friend" described how a gay friend's "coming out" was met with denial and abuse from his mother. You suggested the gay man should continue to try to have a relationship. Really? Why? — Upset

DEAR UPSET: The father in this scenario had come around; I suggested that the son should try one more time with his mother and then accept the reality of her limitations. No one should tolerate abuse.

(Send questions via e-mail to askamytribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.) 

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