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Wednesday, May 14, 2003  

Sun Infidel

Last night I paid people to let me strip to my underwear and bombard me with toxic radiation. I got a really good deal, too.

Here’s the thing: I don’t tan. I can’t tan. I’m descended from colourless Bog People whose melanin production was severely curtailed early on in their evolution in order to equip their livers with the resources necessary to meet the heroic demands made on them. I’ve certainly benefited from the upside of the deal (if being a ridiculously expensive date can be accurately described as an “upside”), but the downside hits me every summer when it comes time to break out the shorts and airplanes start landing on the street in front of my house.

Yes, I’m fair-skinned. In the sense that Bill Gates is well-off. It would be fine if I had my people’s red hair and green eyes so people would look at me, think “Irish,” and get on with their lives. Or if I had blond hair that would allow me to pass for “Nordic.” Or jet-black hair that would prompt people to think “Colin Farrell is much taller in person” and give me giant bags of money. Instead I have brown hair and blue eyes, which in combination with my achromatic complexion creates a freakish combination of coloring that people seem to think gives them license to speculate aloud whether contact with sunlight would blind me instantly or simply reduce me to a pile of ash.

Sadly, they’re not too far off on the latter. When I was growing up and my family went on its annual summer vacation, I’d get terribly sunburned every year. In Northern Minnesota. Without ever leaving the cabin. Afterward, I’d spend a few days on my bed, swaddled in damp towels, and slowly return to my default state of pastiness. I don’t even know how old I was before I believed that a burn could turn into a tan. I mean, I’d never seen it happen. All I ever got was a week of blinding pain followed by enough peeling to keep me occupied until school started.

So I figured that what with our impending trip to sunny Hawaii, I’d better prepare. And not just by advance-shipping a drum of SPF-infinity down there from Sam’s Club. No, I wanted to reduce my vulnerability to the sun. Make it my friend. And I was going to do that by cultivating a nice, healthy-looking tan.

Or at least a nice, healthy-looking off-white. I mean, let’s be realistic here.

So I grabbed some sunscreen and went to the local tanning salon. It feels kind of counterintuitive to bring sunscreen to a place where I’m deliberately exposing myself to UV rays; seems like they could just turn the baking temp down instead. Or perhaps strobe it at me. Or I could just stay home. But somehow I have the idea that the stuff stops the “burning” rays and lets the “tanning” rays through. Which may well be true. If there’s any such distinction, the tanning rays have no effect on me whatsoever, so there’s no way to tell whether they penetrated the Coppertone™ or not. Most of me I still seems to be the color of the underside of a mushroom. I can say that the burning rays are fully functional, however. The area of my back that I couldn’t quite reach with the sunscreen is now a large red patch, as if I got nailed between the shoulder blades with a couple of paintball rounds (complete with corresponding sting for verisimilitude!). Same with my calves, which I could reach, but they apparently were resting directly on the bulbs for the duration of my nap in the human microwave. For what these people charge us, you’d think they could mount us on a turntable or a rotating spit to make sure we get evenly cooked.

I shouldn’t complain about what I paid, actually. I got four sessions for fifteen dollars, and if I maxed out my time on each one that would work out to less than a quarter a minute. Which is a lower money-to-time ratio than I’ve spent on arcade games, so it’s not such a bad deal.

What would be a bad deal for me would be the “Ultra-Bronze™.” Have you heard about this? Supposedly I can pay thirty-some dollars, step into some unholy combination of a nuclear reactor and a time machine, and come out ten minutes later looking like the next-door neighbor in There’s Something About Mary. What a bargain. Given my natural skin tone, I think it’s more likely that I’d come out looking like a Horta.

So I think I’ll just stick with the sessions in the natural, healthy, electric beach. It may seem silly, considering where I’m going, but I really don’t want to get to Hawaii, get critically sunburned in a matter of minutes, and spend the rest of my vacation avoiding the sun. I’d much rather be critically sunburned before I arrive.

posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments


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