A Tanning Tale

It used to begin in June, my predicament, when I was a teenager in Italy.  The picturedays were longer and brighter, the nights pleasant, the temperature rising enthusiastically, and one could taste the tantalizing flavor of summer (all of this before the weather patterns started to lose control or any sense of season).  Dresses were minimalist, strappy sandals replaced boots, and vacation plans were the talk of the day.  And, while they were talking about anything at all, the ‘others’ started to tan.  Yep, just like that, my Neapolitan friends steadily began to morph into happy, exciting summer people, with lovely bronzed legs and dazzling white teeth.  And they didn’t need to do a thing about it!  Just walking down the street in a t-shirt and their arms would be golden within three days.  And the contrast between my pale skin and theirs was screaming What’s wrong with you!?  Blame my Northern Italian blood from my mother’s side (another non-tanner), or the fact that I wasn’t really (ok, at all) outdoorsy, but as my friends became to look like ‘vacation’ I sulked pathetically ghostly in their presence. You might find this hard to believe, but I somehow never really fit like a piece of a puzzle in the environment I was born in.  I wasn’t really at home, at home.  With my light blue eyes (occhi di ghiaccio, someone once said) and my fair complexion – not too mention my clearly not Neapolitan accent – I often stood out more than I cared to.  Imagine that one day, while I was doing some window shopping on an elegant street downtown Naples, two young men approached me (like it happens every day, no, every minute…) and asked me where I was from!  I was taken aback for sure.  Anyway, hot weather always put me in this uneasy non-tanning situation, so I searched new methods every year to color myself summer.  The spray.  Guaranteed to turn you a golden brown in a few hours.  Yes!  I bought a can, hit the bathroom and started spraying away at my arms and legs.  It worked!  A little while later, I had developed an amber hue on my limbs, though not a particularly even one.  Allora, do you know that some people actually said, Ehi, sei bella abbronzata! (you’re nicely tanned!).  Bingo.  Until the next day.  When I woke up covered in weird orange spots.  And so did my sheets.  No, my mother was not happy, to say the least.  My father warned me that I might be poisoning myself, God only knows what’s in that crap…And I spent hours scrubbing away the orange, and not very successfully.  It was jeans and long-sleeved shirts for a few days.  Then, the beach.  As I mentioned in another blog (Check Archives: August 15, 2010) my father had developed a disciplined routine to allow us to sunbathe without getting burned, which he enforced every year: precisely timed exposure to the sun, to be gradually increased daily.  It worked, really.  None of us ever burned, but, while my father and my siblings attained a healthy color, I (and la mamma), barely acquired a touch of beige.  Damn, was it frustrating!  These days, I’ve embraced my ‘Scandinavian’ complexion, and slather it with sunblock 40 any time that I know I will be exposed to the elements for a long time.  No more fighting nature, I’m okay with myself.  Under every possible aspect.  It’s called maturity, I think.

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