It's Never Too Late to Become a Bronze Goddess. For 10 Days, at Least.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

We don't know whether this is a healthy thing to do, but if we had to guess . . .

A child of the universe like me needs to look the part. I know what you're thinking. You've probably seen me at my worst, sashaying around Silver Spring, searching for the perfect bagel or puzzling over the self-serve lanes at the grocery store, hoping for an elf to help me finish my purchase. You almost certainly thought my image was all wrong.

Perhaps I was wearing an outfit I purchased years ago when Woodies closed, found on the floor near a final-clearance sales rack in the back of the store. Or, my hair could have been in that style made famous by my old science teacher when we were taught about static electricity.

And it certainly is within the realm of possibility that you saw me at the mall with my teenage daughter, who was walking 20 paces ahead of me to ensure that the public did not make an error and assume we were together. Or, worse yet, friends.

Yes, I can see how you would have been puzzled why a free spirit, sprite of the '60s, could be such a drone.

Not too long ago, I decided it was time to go back to the future. I needed to try a couple things I wanted to do 30 years ago. This did not have anything to do with reading Proust or learning Russian or climbing a mountain.

Nope. I wanted to have a movie-star tan.

When I was growing up in Chicago, we basically had two seasons . . . winter and August, so it was hard to spend the time necessary to cultivate one of those golden brown glows seen in beach movies and suntan lotion ads. I remember one July I slathered myself in something called Man Tan and looked radioactive for weeks.

I moved to Oklahoma, where the weather was conducive for long-term tanning, but I didn't have the time. And when I finally arrived in Maryland, the dangers of sitting in the sun for long periods made the news, and I took heed of the warnings. But I still wanted a tan.

I tried a couple of the fake tan creams that are around these days. You really need to know how to put those on just right, and to do that you either have to be blessed with 80-inch arms or an understanding accomplice. Since I wanted my bronzeness to be a surprise, I tried it myself. Think brown camouflage with intermittent stripes.

So that is what got me to the Internet and why I researched spray-on tan salons in Maryland. I read everything I could about the procedure. I learned about exfoliating and removing jewelry and closing your eyes and wearing a shower cap. I went to the nearest discount store and bought a two-piece bathing suit from heaven knows how many seasons ago for $4.48. I had no need for an all-over tan. It's an interesting concept, this spray-tan stuff. I couldn't decide if it was similar to being in a carwash or a paintball challenge. I liked that I got to pick my color, and I really liked that every square inch of available skin was, in fact, bronzed. I remembered that one scene from "Goldfinger," but I didn't care.

So for 10 glorious days, I was tan. I was the babe in every beach movie ever produced. I took pictures and wore light-colored clothing and painted my nails hot pink. And then it faded.

I'm happy, though. For one brief and shining moment, I had that carefree look of a surfer dude. And now it's time for Proust.

-- Cheryl Kravitz, Silver Spring

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