Monday, June 15, 2009

Born to be White

*In honor of my weekend at the beach, I'd like to rerun this no-fail tanning story.*

It is bathing suit season, girls. That comment was for the ladies – but I have a feeling the guys are paying attention now too.

It's summertime – the time of year I always dread. The time when tanned beauties prance along the coastline. The time when exotic princesses soak in the sunshine. The time when white folks lay in the sand like belly-up jellyfish.

Let me explain something: I was born white. To some this is a tragedy. To me this is a character building opportunity.

When I go to the beach young children scream and hide. "What is that?" they ask as they peer from behind the forbidden sand dune (you know – the one that says Do not walk on dune – three million dollar fine). The coastguard inevitably forgives the debt when they see what the children were running from.

This creates a problem for me. I love the beach – despite screaming children. I try not to be ashamed of my God-give color (or lack thereof). I figure anyone can get a tan if they try hard enough. Man's (and woman's) skin was created to be affected by the sun, right? If we spend enough time outside, surely we'll come away a shade or two darker.

Not me.

I blame my tan-less predicament on my mother. No – not genetics. Sunscreen. I had no hope of achieving a flawless tan during my childhood.

My mother was the founder of Sunscreen
Addicts Anonymous. There wasn't a beach trip when she didn't lather me down with cold smelly cream. She was "protecting" my "beautiful" skin. This lead to my rebellion.

Most people do something drastic when they turn eighteen. They buy a pack of cigarettes or sneak into a night club.

I went to the beach without sunscreen.

It was a leap of freedom. Mother wasn't there – and I was going to experience a sun-filled world. I was going to get a tan. I sat on
Myrtle Beach for three days – sun-screenless.

Nothing happened.

I decided I was cursed at birth. It was just my luck – my rotten luck – that I was born white. But
that luck turned around recently with a new invention in the tanning world. The airbrushed tan. Sounds elegant, doesn't it?

"How'd you get that flawless tan?"

"It was airbrushed, darling."

I'm not going to lie to you. My ears perked up the first time I heard about the airbrushed tan. I saw it on TV, and it looked marvelous. Sue Skin So Fair turned into The
Amazon Woman in about 20 minutes flat. A nd it looked genuine. We all know that everything we see on television is genuine, right?

It was January when the thought first occurred to me. I could be like The
Amazon Woman. I could have the tan I'd always longed to have. I could live in peaceful residence with the children at the ocean. I could.

But it was the middle of winter – and airbrushed tans cost thirty dollars. I was a poor college student, and as far as I could tell, I was about $29.99 short of my tanning goal. But the idea kept nagging.

In the back of my mind, I didn't really believe I could do it. But that's how a sinful idea begins. It starts as a simple contemplation. Once you let the contemplation on the porch, it bangs
down the door. Before you know it, it's dragging you down the street through the front entrance of the tanning salon.

This is what happened to me one cool spring morning in 2004. I entered the tanning salon timidly.

"Excuse me, do you have spray-on tans?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Umm… I know you can't tell this… but… I need one."

"OK. We'll be right with you."

It all began with those simple words. The next thing I knew, an orange mist was spraying me in the face and goose bumps were running down my spine. I didn't look like The
Amazon Woman. I looked like The White Child who fell into The Rusty River (sounds like the title of a bad

To say I was worried about my family's response would be an understatement. I'd kept the ordeal a secret – but now there was no turning back. I was orange. They would ask questions.

I could create excuses. I'd been ill before. I could say I wasn't feeling well. That I'd eaten too many carrots.

Cast out? Disowned? I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat as I walked up to the front porch and searched for my house key. Just my luck. I'd left it inside the house. I couldn't even sneak in and wash away the evidence.

I reached for the doorbell with shaky hands. The door opened and my petite mother stood peering at me. Her mouth gaped. She stood wordless for a moment – in shock. Finally she stuttered.

"Phil… Phil… Philip… Come… come see your sister!"

My brother wandered to the front door and stopped suddenly. There I stood – as orange as the morning sunrise. He tried to contain himself. He tried with everything that was
inside of him. But he couldn't.

He laughed.

"I know – I know it's bad," I said. My head hung in shame. "It'll get better… I think… it should fade…"

It did get better. Just in time for Easter morning, the tan faded into a mellow brown. I went to church in my new Sunday dress. Everyone asked if I'd been to the beach. I smiled. I had my tan.

Then something horrible happened. Something unimaginable. Something unthinkable.
The tan began to peel. Piece by piece. My friends watched amazedly. My family smiled sympathetically. Eventually, the tan completely peeled away to reveal my ivory skin underneath. I was never happier to be white in all my life.

That was two years ago, and I still frighten the children at the beach. But I've also learned something through my airbrushed tan experience. I've learned that some of us were born to be wild. Personally, I was born to be white.
And no amount of tanning solution can lift that curse.


banderclip said...

lol I hope you got maybe a tiny bit of sun during your beach in Texas you get a tan just from playing with your baby outside. Then you have to be concerned about farmer's tans.


BJ Hamrick said...

*Sigh* Me too. But it's hard when you're immune to the sun. :)

I know all about waiting--for the right guy, for high school to end, for my boobs to come in (two out of three ain't bad).

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