Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Cult of Apollo in the modern day
One of my boy's teachers this year is a tanning addict. Don't get me wrong, she's a great teacher, but every time I see her I can't take my eyes off her sun-scorched face. Nor is this the wide-eyed leer you might give to the beautiful; no, it's more akin to the surreptitious urge to simultaneously look and not-look at the freaks you'd encounter in a carnival sideshow circa 1920. She tans a LOT, is what I'm trying to say.
Tanning is crazy. I’m not saying everyone who tans is certifiable, but there is no doubt that the dedicated effort to darkening one’s own flesh using the sun is lunatic behaviour.
Why do it? Why, why, why? For vitamin D? Balderdash, I say (that’s right, I’m using the bad words now). Ten minutes in the summer sun gets you all the D you need, while staying out all day in the winter isn’t enough anyway if you’re a northern resident (hence vitamin D pills, amazing, simple, and virtually guaranteed not to make your face look like a catcher’s mitt).
You can’t claim it’s because tanners worship the sun since you can actually stay out in the sun longer if you use sunscreen. The only other reason is fetishizing that brown colour, so similar to the shade of chicken skin when it’s been perfectly roasted. And it should look similar because that’s just what is happening to you, with one critical exception: sitting in an oven won’t cause cancer.
Of course trying to scare an addict with cancer is pointless. It doesn’t work with smokers, so why should it work with sun-tanners? Since addiction to tanning has its roots in vanity, we should really use another tactic. Display pictures of that creepy woman from Something About Mary to try and explain just what you’re going to look like in thirty years. To say the flesh of a person becomes “leathery” after decades of systematic sun exposure is understating matters a great deal.
That shouldn’t be surprising. Sure, the sun may be 150 million kilometers away, but that baby burns at 5500 degrees Celsius and puts out more energy every second than a trillion nuclear bombs. It’s a powerful sucker. Don’t mess with it, man!
But wait, you say, I tan using a tanning booth. That’s safe. Pffft to that. Tanning beds primarily emit UVA radiation, which is the one that penetrates our epidermis most deeply and is therefore tied most closely with life-threatening melanomas and cancers. Not that UVB is a picnic, either, since it’s the one that tends to cause that lobster-red shade all the chubby white dudes are wearing during their first week of Florida holiday. Tanning beds increase your lifetime chance to get skin cancer by 75%.
Sorry. I forgot. Cancer isn’t a deterrent. Looking like you’re seventy when you’re only thirty doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone, either. Compare that to all of us pasty-faced nerds with milky white flesh undamaged by something so dangerous as outdoor activity. A lifetime of lurking in basements has preserved our youthful appearance, suckers! Unfortunately, a steady diet of Doritos and Jolt has destroyed our youthful bodies.
You win some, you lose some.