The subject is tanning. I’ve had a lot of history about the topic. A lot of angstful energy has accompanied my emerging life.
I knew the truth early: girls like guys with a tan, and I didn’t have one. In high school, a last minute invite to a friend’s cottage called for desperate measures. My friend had a gorgeous older sister (age 17) and my body was white. That just wouldn’t do. My teenaged mind knew how to fix things though, a day or two before the big weekend: buy a tube of some permatan goop and apply it liberally to all the places that should be brown. I woke up the morning after application to find that my fine motor skills weren’t optimal. My chest had gross orange streaks, as did my back. And my toes? Perfect ridges of artificial darkness framed by lily white skin. (Sigh) It was a forgettable weekend chock full of self-esteem spasms.
The need was still strong as I became a newbie adult. The backyard, hemmed in by lots of bushes and trees, would provide me the solitude necessary for unselfconscious tanning. But there was that one neighbourly window staring down in likely disapproval. During all my darking sessions, I never saw any face looking at me but I bet there were lots of them behind the glass – laughing and immediately posting photos on Instagram. (Wait a minute … there wasn’t any Instagram. Whew.)
I remember being called “Whitefoot” for years. The tan line went down from my shorts to the top of my socks. Forearms also looked good. But the rest of me? Yuck. And when inattention led to sunburn, I had the distinction of being tri-coloured. More “woe is me” doldrums.
In prep for Caribbean vacations, I’ve hung around in standing tanning booths. With lengthy periods of commitment, I emerged looking … good. Naturally brown. No doubt a man’s man. A likely recipient of womanly attention, but on the beach it didn’t seem like any lovely lasses even noticed. (Sigh again)
At the beginning of this summer, I stretched a robin’s egg blue sheet over a foam pad and toasted my bod on the back patio. “It’s only June. Imagine what I’ll look like in August!”
Well, it’s August, and a miracle has happened:
I’m still white
I don’t care
I’ve just lost interest … for the first time in my life
I didn’t grit my teeth. I didn’t spew out endless and tanless affirmations. I didn’t do anything. But the need for brown is gone. How incomprehensible.
The divine force within you is mightier than any mountain
Lailah Gifty Akita