As the offspring of an L.A. native and a bikini-sporting blonde, one could argue that perhaps I was genetically predisposed to love the sunshine. And so it was that my love affair with the Senor Soleil began early on, when, at the tender age of 8 months, my family headed down to Florida for a little mid-winter escape from Michigan. As my then-2-year-old sister danced along the shoreline reciting the Spanish she had acquired that very morning while watching cartoons, gleefully I sat beside the beach cabana and ate the sand. Decked out in true Boca Ra-toddler style in my sunbonnet, my Petit Bateau beachwear, and my Jackie O meets Captain Fantastic sunglasses a la Fisher Price, while I only remember what pictures and my parents can tell me about this trip, this is most certainly the point where I warmly embraced this sun-sation.
There is something inexplicable about the magical power of sunshine and, in particular, how when combined with ample amounts of accelerator (applied between the hours of noon and four o”clock,) it can alter your outward appearance and make you glow like a goddess from Mount Olympus. So it is natural to see how, just like my suntans, my burning love of the sun only intensified over time. I even put a bedtime boycott on the song “You are My Sunshine,” as I was deeply saddened by the chorus” conclusion threatening to “take my sunshine away.” (Author”s note: To this very day, I despise that song.) From summer tennis lessons and tropical islands, to my deck back home and cruising in convertibles, I became a lemming to natural lighting. However, as the old saying goes, too much of a good thing, is, well, too much. And although I”ve been fortunate not to have ever burned myself to Prairie Dawn-like pigmentation, eventually I began to feel a little overexposed.
A few years ago, I noticed a sudden, yet definite change where my usual tan-dencies were concerned. During my senior year in high school, I began to question my love for luminosity when prep school planning placed prom season right on the heels of the lacrosse season. And horror of horrors, even when encased in the most potent skin artillery known as SPF 45, my short-sleeved jersey and bright gold knee-socks of the team uniform remained unforgiving where tan-lines were concerned. Firm in my refusal to compromise the cut of my prom dress because of two-toned triceps and quadriceps, I did what any respectable and slightly neurotic-perfectionist would do.
Seeking some sort of solar solace, I booked a bi-weekly appointment at the tanning studio the Electric Beach, bidding a fond farewell to my farmer”s tan not to mention the skin elasticity around my eye area. (Or so says my eyebrow architect.) Sun of a! And, with that, my days as a melatonin masochist ended. My “go for the glow” battle cry attitude faded until it eventually burned out.
Despite my more sheltered habits, old habits do die hard. As I look back at pictures of my sunshine days a few years ago, I cannot help finding myself longing to be lost in the scent of coconut oil and aloe vera. The smell of Coppertone still makes me weak in the knees. However, these feelings are quickly nullified by my morning and nighttime routine of gently tapping emulsions and gels around the eye area, which remind me on a daily basis that I was wise to end my days as a golden girl before I actually began to look like Rose, Blanche, Sophia or, even worse, Dorothy. I can honestly say that next to a compilation album of Zamphyr”s Greatest Hits, the last thing I want for my 20th birthday is dermabrasion and an eye lift that could make me look like a frightened feline. But, that”s just me.
So, if you happen to be heading off to warmer weather this week and the beach calls you for a little sun-thin”, sun-thin”, just remember this one simple rule: Like chicken and potatoes, people are the healthiest when they are baked, not fried. Furthermore, going again with the food metaphor, the healthiest option won”t be cooked at all. And when we meet again next week, let”s hope that a few stray UV rays are the only things you”ve caught during spring break.
Contact Meredith Keller at email@example.com