I am old enough that I can remember when getting a tan was a chore. It was a challenge, especially for those of us who grew up in a climate where staying covered was an important part of survival for at least six months out of the year. That meant that when it was time to come out from under layers of sweatshirts, mittens and other items of tundra-wear, it was important to maximize the rays of sun that we did receive.
First of all, I should point out that I am not genetically predisposed to "tanning." I am prone to turning lobster-red and just as abruptly sloughing off those layers of skin with any pigment at all. That puts me back at the beginning, where my quest for the perfect tan started. There were a couple of guys on my street who had the genes and the patience for engineering the perfect shade of brown by mid-June, and then maintained it right up until the first snow began to fly. They used tanning oil, usually Hawaiian Tropic, and kept themselves basted and turned evenly throughout the hours that the sun's rays did their best work.
I was never able to make this work. The stuff these guys used offered no protection from harmful ultraviolet rays, not that they wanted any, and for me it was like sitting under a magnifying glass. As I mentioned before, I just didn't have the patience to sit in the heat for hours and turn myself into a cinder. I caught endless abuse from these two bronze gods as I showed up to various neighborhood functions with my pale legs and shoulders. Shorts and tank tops were my enemy.
To this day I maintain a respectable "Farmer's Tan," and I take great solace in news reports such as the one I read yesterday about tanning beds: International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category deeming both to be definite causes of cancer. Health experts are now suggesting the use of bronzing or "self-tanning" creams instead. In other words, paint yourself. Had I known this when I was sixteen, I might have selected a more flattering shade of red.