Wednesday, June 4


Yesterday I went and basked in the sunshine at our community pool. There is something almost comforting about laying in the sun until it's just so hot and everything is covered in sweat, jumping in the pool and cooling off until it's almost cold, and then getting out of the water to allow the sun to dry you off and continue to warm you until you have to jump in the pool again.

In my younger years, I was a tanner. I loved the dark color that could be achieved with minimal work (let's face it- where else can you accomplish something while doing nothing but turning over every 15 minutes?). While I was in college I frequented the "cancer booths" quite often. I claimed it was because it was nice to be warm while it was snowing outside but really I liked the way I looked while tan... even if it was January. I even would joke about how I was working on my melanoma.
Since my tanning bed days, I have been pretty well disciplined about staying out of the sun for tanning purposes and wearing sunscreen. I've decided that even though a tan looks pretty now, when I'm old all my wrinkles will not look as pretty. However, as I was in the sun yesterday, and although I did wear my sunscreen, I noticed that I did develop some color. Because of this color, today I wanted to go to the pool again. I felt the urge to develop a little more color. It sure didn't take much to get me back to the point where I care about my color.

So I bring up this question... why do we feel that a tan is pretty? Back in the day, a tan was a sign of lower status because it meant that you did manual labor outside. Eventually a tan showed that you were wealthy enough to vacation somewhere warm and be idle. Why does it get to be so addictive?

Wikipedia states that tanorexia describe a condition in which a person participates in excessive outdoor sun tanning or excessive use of other skin tanning methods (such as tanning beds) to achieve a darker skin complexion because they perceive themselves as unacceptably pale. I don't know that I find myself unacceptable pale but I do know that if I thought about it enough I could easily feel that I wasn't tan enough. I have purchased countless self-tanners in an effort to be better than the sun while still achieving the pretty color. I know I'm not the only one with these thoughts. Look at all my choices of self-tanner. Look at the fact that there is a term for someone's obession with tanning.
(Charlie Crist is always super orange! He may have a slight addiction to the bottled tan.)

It's all just so strange. Did society's attitudes of tans being beautiful cultivate my own view that tans are beautiful? If so, when did this happen? How did this happen? Did seeing pictures of pretty people with darker skin cause me to think that they were pretty because of their tanned skin? I just don't understand. If I said that I didn't care about my tan, I'd be lying. Sometimes I can stiffle the care so it's not so strong but I still do care. I can pledge with Cosmo to practice safe sun but I will still think about it. I have to consciously make the decision that I don't want to work on my skin cancer. I don't want to give myself more freckles. I don't want to see my moles change color. I don't want to cause myself to age prematurely. All those things are permanent. A tan isn't.


Audrey said...

My "tans" usually came after I severaly scorched myself by being in the sun all day at one point during the summer and forgetting the sun screen.
It is an interesting idea to consider why we favor tans over protected, white skin...Derek said that in Paraguay, they favored the lightest skin. Maybe it's different from culture to culture?