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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Friday, July 01, 2005

I Wish We All Could Be California Girls

One of the hardest accessories to a perfect summer is achieving that perfect summer tan. Some people spend several, painstaking hours baking in the hot sun in the name of vanity. This is also part of the desperate need to shed their crackeresque images for at least a three month interval.

In some respects, I am no exception. I am a white girl who enjoys getting some color. Because even though sunbathing is not good for your skin, it still manages to make your skin look good. This is right up there with drinking giving someone confidence and smoking making someone look cool as examples of life's frustrating inconsistencies.

While I enjoy getting some color, I've never had an easy time of it. For one thing, I am W-H-I-T-E. I am a fair skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed gal who, no matter how I try, cannot gel with the Italian side of me when it comes to sun worshipping. This is in direct contrast to my mother who, when I was a little kid, I used to actually believe she was, as I so eloquently would put it, "chocolate".

But as a child I was outside more often and thus tanner, and so I know that somewhere in me, once you get past the painful sunburning experience, is an old school tanner, dying to come out. I proved this to myself about five summers ago when I was "down the shore" almost every weekend and faithfully dedicated to making myself at least a darker shade of white. I was still no match for my bronze statue of a friend who no doubt suffers from tanorexia, never quite realizing just how tan she really is, but still.

I have a few main problems with tanning. One is that it is very hard for me to tan, but more importantly, to tan evenly. I almost always will venture out for a few hours in the sun only to return with random body parts burned while others seemingly had no sun exposure whatsoever. I can't tell you why this is. I try to conciously lay or sit still, but for whatever the reason, my skin doesn't always cooperate. I almost always have a red nose, forehead and sometimes even scalp which makes for a lot of fun when blow drying the hair. At times I've even been convinced that my lower legs must have come equipped with some type of built in lotion that prevents me from getting color.

The other problem I have with tanning is that it is TOO. DAMN. HOT. Seriously. I am the kind of girl who almost always is cold, except for when I'm not. And when I'm not, I can be downright cranky about it. So if I'm tanning outside by a pool, all is good. I can jump in, or even stay in as the case may be, and remain cool, while still burning up. But if I'm nowhere near a pool or if I'm at the beach, this is not as easy to do. If I'm (gasp) not near a pool, I am forced to bring things like icecubes and water bottles to keep myself cooled off and more often than not, this simply doesn't do the trick. Mostly you just sit there and sweat. And at the beach it's even worse. I know so many people "dig" the beach, but give me a pool any day. You can't calmly cool off as easily at the beach. It's much harder to just go and swim a lap and come back and cool off. Plus you've got all that yucky sand to contend with once you're wet.

In the past I have considered tanning beds and even better, that spray stuff that people use, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm just a baby when it comes to paying for beauty. For instance, I don't see the point in paying for manicures when I can give one to myself for a fraction of the cost, thank you very much. Tanning is no exception. Plus are tanning beds really any safer? Not to mention the fact that I'm still a bit weary after watching that Friends episode where Ross manages to tan only one side of himself because surely, somehow, someway, that would be me.

This is why this year I decided to be different. I decided to try one of those tans in a bottle all the kids are so crazy about these days. I really picked one up on a whim. A friend of mine with similiar coloring at work had just used one and it looked surprisingly natural. But I couldn't find her kind, and so I opted for the $5.00 No-Ad brand that Walmart boasts so freely. I figured worst came to worst, I'd have a horrible tan for a week or so.

When it came time to apply the cream I first tried a small portion of my upper thigh as a test because come on now, mama didn't raise no fool! When that went ok, I decided to go ahead and do the rest of my legs. Now here's where the ironic part kicks in so keep up with me. I realized that there would be no easy way to apply this stuff evenly without running the risk of having it come off or smudge. So I put a beach towel down in my room as to not drip as I "tanned". Did you get that? I put a beach towel down in my sunless room to try to tan evenly. This is when I realized that self serve tanning, once you remove the cancer risk, isn't really all that difficult from real life tanning after all.

I applied the lotion to my legs and was quickly pleased with the results, this was until I got up and started walking around. It was then that I realized that this "fast drying formula" was neither fast, nor drying. So before long I'd start to see areas which didn't look tan or tan enough and so I started to apply more lotion in an effort to smooth things out. But herein lies both the beauty and the danger of the fake tan. Unlike real tanning, when you see an imperfection, you can attempt to fix it right away. But once you start to see imperfections, you run the risk of being there all day, trying to get it all to match up just so. I drank some water, I got a line down my leg that had to be fixed. I had a scratch, another patch needed a touch up. Before I knew it, my shortcut was turning into something not so short after all.

Once I was convinced it look good enough I went to bed. I woke up the next morning happy to report there were no smudges on my sheets and that my tan was still intact. In fact, it even held it's own after a shower. Then I went outside with my three quarter pants and saw myself in natural light. It was then that I realized that my artificial tan didn't look so natural after all. Sure my legs looked great, but there was the little problem of my ankles and feet. I guess anytime I stood up, more lotion than I realized managed to deposit. So instead of the perfect even tan I was hoping to achieve, I achieved a perfectly uneven tan, sans the painful burn I usually get in the process.

Luckily for me it wasn't that bad that I had to be overwhelming embarrassed. Here it is a few weeks later and I still have the remnants of a brown patch on my inner ankle which now just manages to make me look unwashed, not tanner. Still it was enough for me to forego any tanning in a bottle experiences in the near future. I mean this was just my legs people. Imagine how hard it would be to do this over my entire body. I'd also always need someone around to do my back. And where do you go when all of this is drying anyhow? Just stand naked in the center of your room?

This is why I've just resigned myself to one of two things happening this summer: either I'll be happily be white, pasty and healthy or I'll be uneven and in pain. Either way, it will be the way nature intended it to be.



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