May 5, 2011

Tan Lines

Self-tanner is one of my worst guilty pleasures. The phrase is nearly perfect for a product that promises beautiful (though discrete) results to be displayed in public, but almost always ends in a private scrammble to scrape off my streaky epidermis. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

The pleasure of self-tanner is in creating a sun-kissed bronze without spending hours in a bikini on your balcony or lying naked on a machine certain to give you cancer. The idea of self-tanner is that a lotion with special chemicals can temporarily alter the color of your skin. I use lotion, I like to be tan. This is a dynamite idea. I see visions of beautiful, tan, toned legs strutting around Home Depot, making everyone jealous and eager to buy lots of home improvement goods. I see a fabulous physique emerging from this miracle bottle of lotion. Not only tan, but also dimple-less, bruise-less, and at least 20 pounds lighter.

For someone who looks like she missed her flight home to Oslo; pale skin, blond hair and invisible eyelashes are a way of life. I haven't accrued the nickname "Valkyrie" from two separate sources for nothing. The blond hair is no problem, and the lashes can be fixed with a little Maybelline. But my skin is approximately the color of wax paper during winter, and it carries the same opacity, which hasn't been desireable in this country for several decades.

I've been struggling with self-tanner for years. I remember my first tragic experiment in third grade that left strange stripes of orange across my whole body and me crying. In the years that followed, nearly every spring I decided that I would try again to achieve something from Miami. And every year, a tell-tale streak would appear on my wrist, neck or other body part that isn't usually covered in clothing. Off to the shower with a washcloth and lots of shame.

For a few months of my quest to achieve tanned glory, I even went to a tanning salon. Peer pressure and transparent skin are a lethal combination. Once I had a suspicious mole removed, however, I called it quits on fake-baking.

Tanning outside gives the best results, if you don't mind tan lines. During my visits to the Phnom Penh Sport Club, my skin (save the sporty bikini spots) took on a delightful and slimming bronze. Locals stopped complimenting me on my skin.

But outdoor tanning requires so much effort. And maybe a plane ticket to Southeast Asia.

Since becomming older and wiser, I had decided that tan was only a state of mind, and that my natural skin "color" was fine.

Then the Easter Bunny left me a tube of "Sublime Bronze" next the Cadbury Eggs (another guilty pleasure). That bunny is my enabler. I ate the eggs without remorse, but I contemplated just throwing the lotion out before I even had a chance to slather it on. 

This morning, as I admired my work, all my imperfections gleeming with a fresh coat of the glittering bronze lotion, I felt the rush of addiction.

My high will undoubtedly fade as the lotion develops and I see the spots that got too much or too little. I'll be wearing a turtleneck and long pants to work when it's 80 degrees just so people don't know about my guilty pleasure.