Tan: The new thin?

OK, so I just got back from Cancun (oh, fresh guac, how I miss you already…) and despite slathering SPF 48 all over me like mayonnaise on a BLT, I am bronzed. Which is good and bad – good because hey, who doesn’t love the way they look tan (pale beauties Dita Von Teese and Nicole Kidman excluded) but bad because I know that a tan signifies skin damage, no matter how radiantly glow-y I may appear.

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort overrun with little kiddies and large-bellied men in unfortunately teeny Speedos. But a shiny ray of light came as I walked to the towel station on Saturday. An older woman, maybe in her 80s, was lounging alone beneath an umbrella. She stopped me by calling out, “Excuse me, how tall are you?”

“5’10”-ish” I replied. “Why?”

“Well, it just looks very good on you. You wear it well.”


Was this woman a closet NeverSayDiet/Weighting Game reader? Because she just committed one of my very favorite good deeds – complimenting another woman! She made my day and I told her so. And then I skipped off to eat Nutella for the very first time. For the past five days, I’ve been bathing in the stuff.

Anyhow, back to the tan thing. Something I'm slightly embarrassed to admit: Being tan makes me feel sexier. Prettier. Dare I say...thinner?
Why is this? Why does being just a few shades darker make me feel just few shades lighter? I know I'm not alone-the moods of women everywhere seem to improve with a lil tan: witness the popularity of the Mystic Tan and Jergens self-tanning lotion; the ritual of tanning before one gets married; the hesitancy of stepping foot on a beach in a bathing suit while still pasty white; magazines that continually explain how a smidge of bronzing lotion can improve the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks.
Of course there are women who shun the sun and their pale skin should have them looking young, smooth and healthy for decades. And I do try to keep up with my SPF. But now that the melanin has been produced, I remember those years of lifeguarding and how much more confident I'd feel in a swimsuit with that dark skin. What's up with that? Can any of you attest to the tan-thin connection? Anyone had a skin cancer scare that eradicated that link faster than I can say ''Banana Boat''?

Side note: I got a spray tan before Cancun and had to wait at the salon, located in the heart of DePaul’s campus. I could not believe how many college students tan these days – in tanning beds, It was, apparently, $5 Tan Tuesday and girls and guys alike were lining up. I had to wait because there was only one Mystic Tan, but about 30 actual beds. The convos I overheard were the most ridiculous, vapid exchanges ever. Sample:

Female customer:  “I haven’t been tanning in a few weeks. What level do you suggest?”

16-year-old Counter Girl who I'm sure does not have an advanced degree in medicine: “Oh, Level 4, for sure. Five minutes.”

FC: “Really? How is the Level 4?”

CG: “Awesome!”

FC: “Oh, good! It’s really awesome?”

CG: “Yeah, realllly awesome. Do you want to buy some sunblock?”

FC: “What’s the cheapest?”

CG: “chocolate Diamond. I just used some. It’s awesome.”

Me: Keels over in a ridiculosity-induced coma.


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