It’s that season again, that infuriating time of year when days expand, clothing shrinks, and core life issues about values, health, and even death, become a daily consideration. Summer in Los Angeles. To tan, or not to tan? That is the seasonal question.
When I first arrived in LA, it was winter, so the answer was easy. But as I worked at my job, my cousin worked on her color. She had a beautiful honey tone, made possible by long hours of poolside reading and religiously timed applications of cocoa butter. “The color of unemployment,” I called it, smug in my belief that the mythical Coppertone bronze was reserved for socialites and tourists. I could indulge my natural complexion with my vanity intact. Snow White found her prince, I told my pale reflection, and so would I.
Then summer arrived, and the city showed its true colors: brown, beige, copper, and gold, with rosy cheeks and sun-kissed shoulders. While I still showed mine: lily white. But now the face in the mirror looked more like Morticia Adams than a fairy tale princess. Concerned friends asked about my health. I refused invitations to pool parties. Even my brother suggested I get some color. Actually, what he said was, “Oh, Deb, those are some white legs!”
I had discovered Sun Guilt. On one hand, beer and soda commercials promised me love, laughter – and less calories, too – if I’d don my bikini and dash to the beach. On the other hand, health experts warned me to stay in the shade. Of course I believed the experts. Trouble is, I bought the commercials. Let’s face it – it takes more than melanin to get a tan these days; it takes strength of character. Not to mention a collection of skills that I never acquired in college.
Math, for instance. I currently own sunscreen and tanning oil in variables of 30, 15, 8, 6, 4, and baste. If X is my estimated time in the sun, and Y is how fast I burn – but my face is already browning, and my bikini line hasn’t seen light since last year – what power sunscreen do I use to prevent skin cancer yet ensure that I will be a bronze beauty by Saturday night?
Then there is Abstract Problem Solving: 1) How will I explain to my children that Mommy has wrinkles from trying to impress a blonde dude on a surf board? 2) How will I ever have children if I don’t impress someone?
And finally, we have Deductive Reasoning. Fact: I know I am more attractive with a tan. Fact: Suntans are a serious health risk. Therefore, does danger make me devastating? Maybe I should take up hang-gliding!
My honey-colored cousin no longer has this problem. Today she’s pale and sun-shy, with Number 45 at the beach and a husband at home.
As for me, I’m still weighing my values against my vanity. And if this year is anything like last year, it will be October before I decide. Then I can forget about the whole mess…until next summer.