Tan Line Confessions

It began harmlessly enough. So many things do, you know.

My capri pants and remarkably pale calves (they had an alien-like glow in the sunlight) were an unsightly combination. I decided to use a little self-tanner to give them some color.

Those of you who are fair skinned can empathize. I’m so pale, my lovely French sister-in-law fondly commented on my “milky white complexion” every summer for years. In high school, (before skin cancer awareness) my friends were tanning a deep golden bronze. The only bronze I would get was from my freckles. The rest of me merely turned a light shade of pink.  Occasionally  I would burn and hope it would fade into a delicious tan, but it only peeled.

Before self-tanner

Self tanning was easy that first summer, smearing lotion on my calves so they wouldn’t blind people when I went out in public. The next summer, I decided I wanted tanned arms and neck to match the tanned calves. It looked very nice, and I got a few compliments on my “tan”. My tan plan wasn’t well thought out though, because near the end of summer, someone remarked that my face was very pale compared to the rest of me.  Huge faux pas. All this time I thought the darker shade of foundation I was using matched the tan.

Early in the spring of the following year, I did some research on self tanners:

  • For a darker tan, use the formula for darker skin
  • Rub body lotion or baby oil into palms, elbows and knees prior to applying self tanner to avoid darker spots in those areas.
  • Wait thirty minutes and reapply for a darker tan.
  • Wait twenty minutes before putting clothing over self tanned areas.

That Memorial Day, I was prepared to go all the way. I locked myself in my bedroom and got out the tanner. I took a deep breath before smearing it on my face, hoping it wouldn’t cause my sensitive skin to break-out. I emerged an hour later. Would the tan be worth it?

By that evening, I had a gorgeous tan. All the hours I spent trying to get a tan in high school couldn’t add up to this. It was like going back in time and getting it right. It was so worth it–for one day.

What did she ever do without self tanner?

The nightmare began a few days later. I had to reapply it because it was fading off in splotches. It faded in the shower, rubbed off on my clothes and bed sheets and needed to be reapplied every two or three days. Refer to the process outlined above, in case you’ve forgotten what a huge pain application is.

But I didn’t stop, because I HAD A TAN. Something I thought I’d never have and let’s be honest, I looked younger with that glowing bronze complexion. By August, I couldn’t wait for winter so I could stop tanning. But the tan needed to be babied until I could start wearing long sleeves, and it could fade off in splotches without being seen.

I know. You think that summer would have cured me. I’m sorry to let you down, but over the winter I lost that last miserable ten pounds (writing my book) and I bought a bathing suit. The first one in ten years. A two-piece, no less. I needed a tan.

Here’s where you lose all respect for me. Now, I had to tan my back and stomach in addition to what I’d been previously tanning. This was also the year of the open toe sandal, so I had to be very particular about tanning my feet.  Did I give it up? No, I was hooked.

I spent a good chunk of that summer locked in my room, waiting for the tan lotion to dry. But was it worth it?

D² and I were in a store in late August and I saw a woman with a very dark tan. I mentioned to D² that I was glad I wasn’t that dark.
“But you are,” she said.

I was shocked. I hadn’t realized that every time I applied the stuff, I got a little darker. I just saw a nice tan, not the Malibu-Barbie-Meets-Jersey Shores-Tan. Self-perception is a funny thing.

Hooked on Self Tanner

Fast forward to spring 2011. Memorial Day was fast approaching and I was faced with the daunting task of tanning. “Next week,” I kept telling myself. Then, after years of vacationing, my sanity and reason returned: I realized I didn’t need a tan.

I think I can finally be comfortable with my milky white complexion. I hope I don’t change my mind when I put on the bathing suit.

Have you ever become hooked on something that began harmlessly (like a video or computer game? Or maybe an ooey-gooey coffee drink?) If you need to get it off your chest, this is the place to do it. 😉


4 comments on “Tan Line Confessions

  1. I’m famous for avoiding a tan and even walked into the sea on the Italian coast still wearing my shirt so I would’nt have to bother with all that awful sun tan cream stuff. My partner nearly died laughing


  2. Ohhh, I have had such disasters just from trying to avoid tan lines…I actually flashed a spray plane once for just that reason! It made for an interesting blog post and a red face. Right now the tan line I have that is driving me crazy is the sock line just above my ankles…ugh.
    Great Post!! 🙂


    • I’m sure you made the spray plane pilot’s day (week maybe) 😉
      Can’t wait to read the post about that.

      My problem tan this summer is that my right arm is much darker than my left, thanks to long rides on the passenger side.


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