Shades of Summer
Nowadays, shades are more than cool
by M.L. Faunce
Ray Bans Aviators Wraparounds 3-D John Lennons Armani Clip-ons Polarized Harley Oakley Blublockers Elvis-style
I'm just about set for another summer on the Bay. I bought two new pairs of sunglasses at a boat show in St. Mary's County. And I have three pairs of old prescription sunglasses, two expendable enough to wear in the water while swimming. (How else can a near-sighted person check out who's walking the beach while out playing in the surf?)
While browsing for the perfect pair of reflective specs, I noticed how many people wore sunglasses. Just about everybody it seemed. Not just fishing boat captains but also babies in strollers, little kids carrying Barney, Mom, Pop, Junior, Sis, Aunt Marge and all state troopers (what are they, anyway, the fashion police?) Today, nearly everyone must be either UV sensitive or cool or both. The more mirrored the reflection, the better the image.
My mother couldn't abide sunglasses. She thought people sometimes hid behind them. She wasn't paranoid in the least; her old fashioned sensibility just said that you ought to look people in the eye when you speak to them, not have your own face reflected back all distorted and fish-eyed.
Long ago, sunglasses were a Hollywood symbol. Now, no one in the 'hood, any 'hood, would be seen outdoors or in without them. Sunglasses tell us who we are, just the way athletic shoes and a Mercedes Benz scream out, "I'm hip, I'm in" (debt mostly), "I'm cool." Back in the '70s, a friend of mine had a pair that you could switch the lenses, a color for every day of the week, like a Swatch watch. Of course, in the '70s, rose colored lenses were almost a medical necessity to help tone down the glare of the preposterous plaid polyesters everyone wore.
But like diamonds, sunglasses have no season, but they do have a reason. And this is the serious part, something my mother may not have known. Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement; they can save our sight and the health of our eyes.
Protection from the summer sun's natural ultraviolet rays is extremely important. The harm of UV light is cumulative over time and can include the long term dangers of cataract formation, cancer of the eyelids and macular degeneration. When taking photosensitizing drugs - the ones that make your skin more sensitive to light - it's a good idea to discuss precautions with your doctor. Tetracycline is just one of those medications, though there are many others.
A group of ophthalmologists studied nearly 900 Chesapeake Bay fisherman working on the water a few years back. "Fishermen who wore no eye protection had three times as many cataracts as those who wore sunglasses or a brimmed hat," the study concluded. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens; when it's removed, the eye is even more vulnerable to UV light.
So when you go outside this summer, be cool and smart. Protect your eyes (and skin) from harmful UV rays. You'll prevent wrinkles and something a lot more serious.
As part of its weather condition forecasts, the National Weather Service now lists the UV index for selected cities. 0-1 is a minimal exposure level, 3-4 low, 5-6 moderate, 7-8-9 high, 10 and greater, very high. On June 23, 1998, the level in Baltimore was 6, Anchorage, Alaska was 4 and Miami was 8. For updates visit nic.sb4.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/uv_index - and make your eye fashion statement accordingly.
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Volume VI Number 25
June 25 - July 1, 1998
New Bay Times
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