While I was resting for eight minutes naked in the public space of a tanning bed last night, I started to think about my 33-year-old life up until that point. While tanning beds don't seem designed to be places of deep contemplation -- they have a spot to plug in your own iPod or phone and listen to music, you guys! -- I still have found that over the past few weeks, every time I'm nude inside this neon coffin that smells like a daiquiri and feels like a one-way ticket to outer space, all I want to do is think about the bigger picture.
But the bigger picture is definitely part of this tanning-bed equation, because when my boyfriend's family asked me to go to Hawaii with them for Christmas, I immediately started working on ways to make myself the perfect human to impress them. Which is how I ended up in a tanning bed with better air-conditioning than my Subaru.
I'd like to start with a disclaimer directed at my mother, who gave me this copier-paper white skin; my aunt, who has been my beauty consultant for the past twenty years and has me on a strict regimen of daily sunscreen and anti-aging products; and my best friend's mom, who is a skin-cancer researcher for a living: I know tanning is bad for you.
But I was so enticed by the idea of being just a little bit tan before I got to Hawaii on Christmas Eve that I went for it. I started researching tanning places like it was a school project. My first stop was Tan the Moon, which I loved because of the name. But the very sweet high-schooler working the front desk told me that you couldn't get sunburned in a tanning bed. Which is a lie. But as I soon would realize, all tanning places lie to you. That's the biz.
My next stop was At the Beach. Though I find the accents of the cartoon characters in their ads to be kind of racist, they seemed cheap. They were not. But the bronzed and scaly receptionist lady made me too scared to say no to her car-saleswoman-like spiel, and that was that. I am now a member of At the Beach, you pale freak. I got a sunburn on my first visit to the tanning warehouse, and though every time I go in there it feels like I'm buying drugs or doing something I'm not supposed to be doing, I still go. Because I must get my tan on.
The other thing I decided to do when embarking on this journey of pre-tropical vacation perfection was get a personal trainer. I actually took out a loan to get a personal trainer. It sounds insane as I type this, but I know people who take out loans to get hair extensions, cars they can't afford, educations that will never be used beyond a retail job, etc., so what I was doing couldn't be that nuts. I'm an American, this is what I do: spend money on weird stuff.
But the fact that I can now pick up my boyfriend and throw him over my shoulder and carry him tells me that meeting with Roosevelt twice a week for twelve weeks was worth it. For the record, I want to note that I've had two personal trainers in my life -- one named Exel and one named Roosevelt -- so if you're having kids and want them to turn out to be really strong dudes who make other people into buff monsters for a living, give them awesome names.
Now that I am semi-toned and -tanned, am I going to have a better vacation? Probably not. I mean, going to Hawaii for the first time in my life is going to rule -- but it would have ruled regardless of how much time and effort I put into unattainable perfection before the fact. Sometimes I wish my Virgo brain was wired more like my boyfriend's Pisces brain, focused on finding the good in every situation instead of creating stress out of nothing. I mean, who makes a tropical vacation stressful? Virgos do.
Being in my fourth decade of life and still trying to impress people/strangers is a bizarre concept. Maybe 2014 will be the year I officially stop giving a fuck. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for the full-moon ritual party I've been invited to this evening to celebrate the last full moon of the year. Don't forget to charge your crystals, everybody!
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