I’ll be the first to admit that I am pale. Not as in “feeling icky” pale. Rather, everyone around me has skin pigmentation at least two Crayola shades darker than mine. If you’re peach, I’m egg shell. Apricot? I’m chalk. Burnt sienna? I’m not even in the carton.
My dad is tan, but my mom is extremely fair. So I guess I have a case of “mom genes”. Thanks for the white legs, mom! (I have a feeling my kids will be saying this about me in a few years – sorry, guys!)
Let me put it this way: If I stood in front of a cream-colored wall in a cream-colored outfit, you would see nothing but my hair and eyes. I mean it. Nothing else. Just hair and eyes.
Pale or not, I have come a long way from 1980’s era of water skiing with tan accelerator slathered all over my body or laying out at the beach without using an ounce of sunscreen.
Do you remember those days? Growing up in Texas, I owe any “color” to long days at the El Lago pool or Galveston beach. The smell of sunburned skin after a long day in the sun was a sign of accomplishment. On dog-humid-days, when the driveway would reach 110 degrees and we didn’t feel like going to the pool, my best friend and I would park lounge chairs in the backyard and spray ourselves with a special “tanning recipe” made up of 50% water and 50% baby oil. The perfect combination to get your skin nice and crispy.
I don’t do that anymore. For the love of Sheryl Crow, I can’t soak up the sun like I used to. Thanks to my grandmother scaring the banana boat out of me with her warnings about skin cancer and having God-awful things lasered off of her face, I wear SPF 30, Jackie O sunglasses and a cover up. Totally lame, I know.
But I hate my white legs. I want to look sun-kissed. So I go a little OCD with sunless tanning products.
Browsing the self-tanner aisle, I’m like a weaned toddler who discovers an old binkie between the sofa cushions. I salivate, overwhelmed by the options. There are shelves of products that promise pigmentation, and like the marketer’s dream that I am… I. Want. Them. All. Whether it’s daily glow bronzing lotion or self-tanning spray with sunscreen built in, all I can say is, where’s my debit card?
Unfortunately, these products don’t always live up to the promises marked on the labels. Not because they are defective, but because sometimes, I think my body is incapable of even faking a decent tan.
On a recent trip to the pharmacy, I came across a body bronzer that gives you a preview of your glow before it dries. It’s perfect for a tan-wannabe because it gives you color that lasts three days. Or in my case, streaks that last a week and can only be scrubbed off with an S.O.S. pad.
I thought I would share my wisdom with fellow ghost legged people:
HOW TO FAIL AT APPLYING SELF-TANNER:
- When using a self-tanning lotion, always go overboard.
- Squeeze a thick glob of bronzing liquid into your palm, about the size of a silver dollar.
- Don’t rub it in to your body too much because it might even out the color.
- Don’t rinse or wash your hands.
- Rub it on your arms and legs and make sure to get the elbows and knees to look like you’ve been rolling around in a carrot patch.
- Halfway through, as soon as your hands look deeply stained, squeeze another glob and rub it above your ankles. Just the right amount to get your feet more pale looking than before.
- Before the product dries, get dressed.
- Oh and don’t forget, wear something white that can only be dry cleaned.
The last time I used heavy-duty self-tanning lotion, I washed my hands afterward, and a bit of water splashed onto my leg. I didn’t think much of it, waited three hours for the glow to show and when the oven timer went off, I felt like Malibu Barbie (with freckles, moles and baby-got-back).
Later that day, as I twirled in front of the dishwasher in a white linen skirt, my husband smiled at me. I was so proud of my fake tan.
In the same tune as “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego movie, I started singing to myself.
“My tan is awesome. I’m so tan, even though it’s so hard to believe,” I sang to myself as I put away the silverware.
Then my husband whispered to me, “Did you get bit by a bug or something?”
“No, why?” He pointed to the side of my leg. And my arm.
And there it was: A continuous orange streak across my leg, ending at my ankles and to add to my hot sexiness, there was a stain on the inside of my arm that looked like the map of South America.
Let’s just say I accidentally colored outside the lines. Plus I smelled like a giant plastic coconut.
As a result of my failed attempts to create a fake tan, part of me wants to hide under linen pants and remain lotion-less, while the other wants to own my streaks and fake it another summer. After all, if you squint hard and look beyond the cantaloupe-tinged lines, my legs aren’t white anymore. They’re almost… beige!