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The Sunscreen Song

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This is my second favourite piece of popular philosophy.
(Desiderata is #1).

I have edited out small portions of the lyrics in the interests of brevity.
The unexpurgated version is here.

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, by Mary Schmich:

Wear sunscreen.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

16 responses »

  1. This is excellent! (and so is Desiderata!)

    Reply
  2. “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”

    Really? LOL! Doesn’t living in Minnesota for almost 30 years count for something? I mean, sure, the wine is cheap and plentiful in Northern Cali, and the weather seldom drops below freezing, but I think my skin has been plenty toughened by all those years of snow and subzero temperatures. (And I didn’t need sunscreen much back then either!)

    This is a good one, GOF. I wish I had read this when I was young and thought I knew everything.

    Reply
    • If we had read this when we were young would we have understood? Or thought it was advice for “those old mortals”, not for us?

      30 years in Minnesota counts for everything you want, HG!

      Reply
      • All of us teenagers didn’t pay much attention to Desiderata when it was presented to us at College……. showers of wisdom are wasted on the water repellent brains of smart arse boys.

        Reply
    • I am highly unqualified to make comments about American sociology or geography HG…..I’ll leave that in your capable hands.
      This was a minor hit song maybe 20 odd years ago in Australia……..You, like me wouldn’t have needed to pay attention to the lyrics back then “because we knew it all.” 🙂

      Reply
      • Thanks for that, GOF. I was not familiar with it. That’s good advice.

        I can relate to the “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” That applies to a certain 71 year old I know.

        Reply
        • I guess that I have always known what I wanted to do in life Snowy, but to a certain extent that also means a tendency to “straitjacket” myself and not explore other avenues of life.

          The “certain 71 year old” has involved himself in a broader range of studies and activities.

          You probably also noted the similarity of philosophy The Sunscreen Song has to Desiderata…….it just uses different and more modern words.

          Reply
  3. “Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.”

    Having spent too short a time in Northern California, I can imagine I’d never, ever want to live. I kept insisting, “Everything is PERFECT here.” So goes the tourist, not the one who lives there, I suppose!

    Reply
  4. Wonderful. Was this a commencement speech? I like the one about reading the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

    Reply
    • It was made popular in a Baz Luhrmann song who introduced it;

      “Ladies and gentleman of the class of ’99”

      I’m not sure if this was the purpose of the original author.

      Reply
  5. All great advice which I’m sure most of us read, ignore and then only remember when we find our knees have gone – though I’ve kept my love letters.

    Reply
    • It’s nice that you still have the love letters……no girl was ever sufficiently short sighted or desperate enough to write any to me……but I’m glad I still have reminders of my childhood tucked away to be looked at occasionally.

      Reply
  6. Hey all, Brad here (Tina’s other). This speech has been variously attributed to other people. When in doubt, I turn to snopes.com to sift the facts from fictions of a story.

    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/vonnegut.asp

    For the link shy, it was originally penned by Mary Schmidt in the June 1 edition of the Chicago Tribune. It was claimed that Kurt Vonnegut made the speech in 1997 at MIT (and was rehahsed as a 2002 speech).
    The words became a cult classic in a song/rap/spoken word piece by Aussie actor Lee Perry in 1998. It went bigtime for a while in the states in ’99 apparently.

    However, truth and fiction do meet… Ted Turner gave a speech at a Grad ceremony in 1994 at Georgia State University. At the time he was facing an operation on his face for skin cancer. In that speech he said, “The one piece of advice I can give you is put on sunscreen and wear a hat”.

    Reply
    • Thanks Brad for clearing this up …..truth inevitably becomes distorted with time.

      Same happened with “Desiderata”……I have a copy claiming it was discovered in a church centuries ago. A total myth.

      Reply

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