Monday, June 3, 2013

White guys, dark tans

For years, I have had a love-hate relationship with the sun.

My friend Kenny Beavers, who is of African descent, used to say, "White people can at least tan in the sun. Black people just get blacker."

And he was right, of course, as Kenny often was during our high school years.

But there are at least two complicating factors here:
  • Tanning requires one to remove one's shirt. And I hate to take off my shirt in public. Never have been a fan of it.
  • Because I'm in an office all day, my exposure to the sun is limited. And when I am outside, I'm usually wearing a shirt (see previous bullet point). Which means I develop the time-honored farmer's tan.
So I would just as soon live in Seattle or someplace where the sun doesn't come out a lot and persons of Caucasian ancestry like me aren't expected to have deep-brown tans in the summer.

The only time in my adult life I've had a really nice tan was in 2008, and that was only because it was artificial. I bought my skin coloring that year in the form of several 15-minute sessions in a tanning booth.

We know now, of course, that tanning is stupid. You may as well take pills designed to give you skin cancer.

We also knew that fact in 2008, but I chose to ignore it because I had just lost a bunch of weight and figured I might actually be willing to walk around shirtless that summer. And the last thing I wanted was to assault other people's visual senses with the sight of my pasty white body.

You could easily tell when I had visited the tanning salon because I smelled like coconuts, a product of the tanning accelerator lotion I would slather all over myself before each session.

Now, understand that if I feel self-conscious when I take off my shirt, I felt really self-conscious whenever I walked into that tanning place. The whole thing (giving the proprietors money so they would allow me to engage in a patently unhealthy activity) just felt stupid and vain.

Of course, after a couple of weeks of doing it almost every day, I looked pretty good, which made me forget  how stupid and vain it was.

This is an unfortunate tendency of the human race: If something makes us look or feel really good (or both), we'll willingly ignore the fact that it is also likely to hasten our deaths.

Because, if we're being honest with ourselves, we'll admit that we might actually agree to die at age 50 if we were guaranteed to have fabulous, sexy bodies our entire lives.

(Right now, some of you are weighing this proposition over in your minds. Hot and dead after five decades? Or ugly and unhappy at age 90?)

I haven't been tanning this year, but I'm a lot more likely to remove my shirt this summer now that I've dropped a few pounds. And when I do, my torso will almost inevitably be bright white and contrast sharply with my golden brown arms.

I think I've resigned myself to replacing the tanning accelerator with sunscreen and drawing comments from people at the city pool along the lines of, "Good Lord, that is the whitest man I've ever seen."

Maybe Kenny Beavers will be there, too, and we can console each other as I somehow get even whiter and he gets darker.

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