I’m going to Cuba in three weeks.  My skin is white.  Down in the Caribbean sun, I prefer that it be brown rather than red.  So off to Kokomo’s I went this morning.  I stood up for five minutes in the Monster bed.  I plan on doing the same every two or three days until I step on the plane.

I’m aware of the health issues but I also remember when Jody and I arrived in the Dominican Republic years ago.  Our first day, we walked a long ways on the beach, wearing shorts and T-shirts.  Jody had missed a spot near her bra strap with the sunscreen and she was in agony for the next few days.  I don’t want to go through that.

As a teenager, I didn’t like my body and certainly wouldn’t expose my virgin flesh on Toronto Island’s beach.  I was even afraid to lie out in the backyard with the neighbours’ windows looming.  So white I was, except for my forearms and lower legs.  But then there came an invitation to spend a long weekend at my friend’s cottage.

Rick had a older sister, age 17, who was gorgeous.  Oh my.  She was going to see my overall whiteness.  Something had to be done.  And the 1960s version of Instatan was my answer.  I snuck the tube home from the drugstore and gooped it on liberally in the privacy of my bedroom.  “Gosh, my feet are white.  Get those toes!”

How did I survive that weekend?  My body was orange and streaky.  Each toe had a little ridge of tan surrounded by a deep paleness.  For variety, my face was red, a condition that had nothing to do with the sun’s rays.  I can’t remember Rick’s sister ever making eye contact with me.

From the age of 20 till 27, I spent most of my summers in the Rockies.  By then the tanning lotion had worn off.  I adopted a new strategy to get the girls.  Hide your whiteness with turtleneck shirts.  It didn’t matter how hot it was.  I was up to my neck in fabric.  One time, a girl yanked down my collar to see what was underneath … the whitest of skin.  (Sigh)  I was a scared little adult who yearned for the brown beach muscles I saw in the ads.  But somehow I still had friends.

Two decades later, I was a member of the London Cycling Club.  And lo and behold, the culture there was deeply tanned faces, forearms and calves.  And I’ll leave the rest of the body to your imagination.  I was in the “in” group, finally.

Sadly (or happily) I now have returned to my roots – a longing for darkness.  And I’m going to honour that request.  Cuba will be graced with sleek brown muscles (courtesy of Kokomo’s and strength training), not to mention gaily coloured Speedos.  I tell you … I’m the whole package.  Nobody’s going to kick sand in my face!

And from Jody: “Bruce, you’re so strange.”

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