Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Burn then peel then burn and peel again.......

I've always been fascinated by people who tan. Growing up a county brownie, I observed the unifying ritual of burning and peeling from afar. My eyes would narrow as a seemingly normal friend peeled sheets of skin off her arm during lunch. As I sat in the cool comfort of my air conditioned house I gazed out the window at neighbors laying about for hours, oiling and turning like chicken on the grill. Fascinating! I asked annoying questions about the science of burning....I mean tanning.....well, it's really just scaring isn't it? And bizarrely I felt left out. I endured comments about how lucky I was to be born Black - yeah, if you overlook the sexualized dehumanizing racism that went with it in the early '80's it was GREAT! See, I came of age before it was cool to be Black again and everyone sans a few militant hold outs wanted to be Vanessa Williams. We county brownies were very color struck. So to see my vanilla friends seeking to get brown was confusing. I avoided the sun like a Victorian! It was weirdly odd and the first clear indication to me that cultures were different even when dealing with the same thing.

As I matured and became an Angry Black Militant (1990-1996), I became disgusted with the tanning ritual. It was insulting to me to see friends who had gained so much privilege from their skin color burn themselves in a desperate attempt to change. Shit, the least they could do was enjoy being white. I would have. But every Spring they took to bitching about how white they were and how they needed to get that first foundational burn. Nasty! Once it was revealed to me that this exposed them to cancer I fussed at my fair friends about skin cream and protection to no avail. It was the same ritual of scorch and burn followed by peel and flake year after year.

Now that I am a fully grown Angry Black Bitch, I mostly keep my thoughts about tanning to myself. Many a Sistah lays out to even her complexion and most of my vanilla friends are more careful with the sun. Watching The Today Show today brought it all back, because they featured a segment on an effort to ban teens from tanning booths. Needless to say it got me thinking and I came up with the following conclusions...
  1. The reason most women of color age with less of a visible roadmap is because we moisturize religiously (fear of the ashy look) and we don't tan as a rule. Why come folks think having a tan is a "healthy" look? A deep Tropicana tan is a red flag to future facial leather. However.......
  2. Most people know that the sun damages their skin and increases the risk of cancer, even for brown people. So this is a willful act that is Darwinian in it's clarity and refreshingly vain in the sea of healthy P.C.self denial. Therefore.....
  3. Tanning is to my vanilla friends as smoking is to me. A willful denial of health and well-being in the face of personal gratification!

See, we really are one people after all!

2 comments:

Tiger Lilly said...

I'm trying not to laugh too loud at work. You are killing me!

P/O said...

It must have been hilarious to see a segment about tanning on the Today Show with "betcha'll never guess the true color of my skin, true color of my hair, true shape of my face(s), true emotions lurking under my vapid exterior, true opinions rattling around in my empty head, my whole existence is fake, stroke me while I pander to anyone willing to write me a paycheck," Matt and Katie!